Despite a limited number of submarines and other surveillance assets, naval forces in World War II had to find a way to spot enemy obstructions and defenses at fortified islands and beaches.
Into the gap stepped the frogmen and recon swimmers, brave sailors and Marines who swam into enemy waters and surveyed defenses with just snorkels and fins, often with enemy fire raining around them.
On D-Day, these brave men played a critical role ensuring that landing craft could make it to shore and take part in one of the most daring, important assaults of World War II. Hear what it was like to be in the waters at Normandy on that fateful day from the frogmen who were actually there in the interview below:
But the heroics of Naval Combat Demolition Units didn’t stop at D-Day; they played key roles in many defining operations of World War II:
Beach landings around the world, but especially the frequent landings in the Pacific during World War II, require good intelligence. Enemy mines and underwater obstacles can cripple a landing force when it’s most vulnerable. To ensure the landing works, attackers have to either avoid or clear such obstacles before the landings are affected.
The Navy learned this lesson the hard way when forces landing at Tarawa just hours after their arrival were forced to fight past a reef, beach obstacles and mines, and machine gun positions that had all been underestimated because no one got eyes directly on them before the fight. The invaders had relied on aerial imagery that couldn’t expose all the hazards.
But when the Navy is short on stealthy assets, like submarines, someone else has to get up close and personal and see where the obstructions are.
“Frogmen,” recon swimmers whose efforts would lead to today’s Navy SEALs, filled this role by jumping out of small boats while wearing just shorts, snorkels, swim masks, and fins. From there, they had to swim along enemy beaches and make mental notes of anywhere they saw natural or man-made obstacles that could hinder a landing.
If the obstacles were thick and foreboding enough, they had to destroy them, swimming up to mines and other countermeasures and dismantling them in place or blowing them up. Most frogmen served in units named for this task, the “Underwater Demolition Teams,” or UDTs.
Worse, if there was any question of the shore composition, the frogmen were tasked with swimming up to the beach itself, gathering sand, and swimming back with their samples.
While Iwo Jima was revealed to be largely bare of obstacles, the swimmers had to collect the volcanic ash of the beach as Japanese defenders in pillboxes were laying down a thick blanket of fire on the swimmers and their fire support ships. The hail of bullets was so thick that the ships frequently had to leave the line to put out fires and repair damage.
The swimmers had no such safe space. When they landed at Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, the Utah team suffered 17 casualties and the Omaha team lost 91 killed and wounded. 37 men died on the two beaches to reduce the threat to the follow-on attackers.
They had to sneak up to obstacles and place dozens of pounds of explosives on them to prepare them for destruction, sometimes while close enough to German patrols and sentries to hear them speaking to each other.
The frogmen avoided mortar and small-arms fire by ducking underwater as they swam into the beach. One diver’s account simply stated, “Bullets drifted down like falling leaves.” Amazingly, all but one of the divers returned safely.
Their sacrifices, while great, saved lives. Have a look at the video at the bottom to learn more about the frogmen on D-Day.
A Russian court has ordered several of the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast-guard forces during a confrontation at sea off Crimea to be held in custody for two months.
The Nov. 27, 2018, rulings by the court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-controlled Crimea, signaled the Kremlin’s defiance of calls by Kyiv and the West to release two dozen crew members who were seized along with three Ukrainian Navy vessels following hours of hostility at sea two days earlier.
Raising the stakes after tensions spiked when Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on the Ukrainian boats on Nov. 25, 2018, the court was holding custody hearings for 12 of the crewmen. A Russian official said nine others would face hearings on Nov. 28, 2018.
So far, four have been ordered held in pretrial detention — which usually means custody behind bars in a jail — until Jan. 25, 2019. Under Russian law, detention terms can be extended by courts at the request of prosecutors, and it was not immediately clear when the sailors might face trial.
Officials identified the Ukrainians as Volodymyr Varemez, the captain of a navy tugboat that was rammed by a Russian vessel, and sailors Serhiy Tsybizov, Andriy Oprysko, and Viktor Bespalchenko.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ukrainians were charged with “illegal border crossing by a group of individuals acting in collusion, or by an organized group, or with the use of or the threat to use violence.”
The court hearings came hours after Western leaders, speaking on Nov. 26, 2018, condemned what they called Russia’s “outrageous” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as international maritime treaties, and called on Moscow to immediately release the detainees.
Conflicting reports have put the number of Ukrainians detained at 23 and 24. The court rulings put them in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
In the running confrontation off Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018, a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian tugboat in an initial encounter, and a few hours later the Russian vessels opened fire before special forces stormed the three Ukrainian boats. Six Ukrainians were injured.
The hostilities injected yet more animus into the badly damaged relationship between Kyiv and Moscow, which seized Crimea in March 2014 and backs armed separatists in a simmering war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.
Those Russian actions, a response to the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by the pro-European protest movement known as the Euromaidan, have also severely damaged its ties with the West.
The confrontation came days before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump ion the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea, that is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukraine declared martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — following what it called a Russian “act of aggression.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned “this aggressive Russian action,” and called on Moscow to return the vessels and crews, and abide by Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.”
Pompeo said both sides should “exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments” and said Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, should “engage directly to resolve this situation.”
Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and a “reckless Russian escalation” of its conflict with Ukraine.
Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia “wants to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea and annex the Sea of Azov.”
The international community will not accept this, he said, insisting that Russia “must not be allowed to rewrite history by establishing new realities on the ground.”
Martial law will come into force on Nov. 28, 2018, in 10 Ukrainian regions that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia,” and will be in place for 30 days.
The measure includes a partial mobilization of forces, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and other unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime.”
Putin expressed “serious concern” over the Ukrainian decision in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said on Nov. 27, 2018.
The Russian leader also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” a statement said.
“The imposition of martial law in various regions potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region, in the southeast” of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later told reporters.
Hours before the court hearings, Russian state-run TV channel Rossia-24 showed images of several of the detained Ukrainians that were apparently recorded during interrogations by Russia’s security services.
One of them parroted the version of events put forward by Russian authorities, saying, “The actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character.”
One of the detained appeared to be reading his statement. Russian law enforcement agencies frequently provide state media with footage of suspects being questioned under duress.
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) confirmed that a number of its officers were among those captured.
One of them was seriously wounded after a Russian aircraft fired two missiles at the Ukrainian boats, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement.
Calling Russia’s capture of Ukrainian crews “unacceptable,” the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Russia to “immediately release” those detained and provide them with medical aid.
She also called on both sides to use “utmost restraint” to prevent the only live war in Europe from escalating.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “has to understand that its actions have consequences. We will remain in contact with the Ukrainian government to underline our support.”
Unlike other U.S. officials, who vocally backed Ukraine and criticized Russia, President Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation.
“Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it, too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Russia’s acting UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of “staging an aggressive provocation,” which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in March.
“They have no hope to remain in power otherwise,” he said, while condemning Western leaders for condoning what he called their “puppets” in Kyiv.
“I want to warn you that the policy run by Kyiv in coordination with the EU and the U.S. of provoking conflict with Russia is fraught with most serious consequences,” Polyansky said.
At the outset of the UN Security Council meeting on the incident, Russia suffered a setback after it sought to discuss the clash under an agenda item that described the incident as a violation of Russia’s borders.
This was rejected in a procedural vote, with only China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan siding with Russia. The Security Council then discussed the clash under terms laid out by Ukraine.
The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
“I have to emphasize that, according to the international law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.
“Hence, there are no Russian borders in the area where the incident happened. I repeat — there are no Russian state borders around the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.
It’s hard to let go. If you’re a sports fan, then you’ve probably watched your favorite players age well past their primes. They cling to their identities as athletes, as competitors, and they refuse to hang up their titles even as the competition gets younger, faster, and stronger around them. Well, this same thing can happen to planes, too.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was a technological breakthrough when it first flew in 1932. But, when combat came in 1941, it was hit by a double whammy of being obsolete and badly outnumbered — and the loss rate was abysmal.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane fighter to see service in the United States. It officially entered service in 1934 and remained the fastest fighter in the skies until 1938.
The P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane to enter American service, but within a decade of its first flight, it was greatly outclassed.
Not only that, this plane was also the first to introduce flaps to U.S. aviation — a piece of technology used to make landings easier and safer. The plane needed flaps because it had a then-blistering landing speed of just under 83 miles per hour.
In the skies, it reached a top speed of 227 miles per hour and had a range of 360 miles. The plane’s initial armament included two .30-caliber machine guns — one of which was later upgraded to .50-caliber. Either two 100-pound bombs or five 31-pound bombs could be carried for ground-support missions.
P-26 Peashooters on the flight line at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
The last P-26s to serve defended the Panama Canal until 1942, when they were exported to Guatemala. There, they hung on until 1957, four years after the Korean War saw jets fighting for control of the air.
Watch a classic video of these legendary planes in service below!
Making a military recruitment video is a challenge. In a single television spot, you have to convince someone to make the life-altering choice to enlist in their nation’s military. America, traditionally, has always put out a true and tested message: Your life will be better for joining the team. We put forth an extreme effort to create an excellent, compelling commercials that plant the seeds of patriotism and duty.
And then there are the other nations of the world. Some take direct cues from America’s overly-badass commercials while others take a more grounded, realistic approach. Others rely on comedy to draw in potential recruits. Either way, the following ads are all very well done.
This is just a handful of the standouts. If you know of others that top these, let us know!
Republic of Korea Armed Forces
South Korea didn’t have to make such an over-the-top, badass recruitment video — service is mandatory in the country — but damn, they did anyways.
I honestly can’t tell if this ad is supposed to convince young potential recruits to join up with the rest of those bad mother f*ckers or if it’s planting a flag in the ground for any North Koreans watching. Either way, this ad is just so freakin’ cool.
Royal Marines of the United Kingdom
Marines hold a special place in warfighting as they’re always groomed to perfection and the selection process indiscriminately weeds out the stragglers that can’t keep up. The same goes for our brothers across the pond, the Royal Marines.
Not only does the ad show one of the coolest military obstacle courses in the world — the underwater culvert from their endurance course — but it sends a clear message: If you’re not up to the task, don’t even bother applying. And we’re sure it worked — reverse psychology is awesome like that.
Irish Defense Forces
One of the more annoying misconceptions of enlisting is that you have to be a big, muscular, alpha jock to even be considered. It’s simply not true. Your body will develop in training and you’ll adapt to the military lifestyle; the qualities of a good troop are there from the start.
This video is beautifully made and shows how civilian skills are great in the military and how they can be applied in a time of war.
Russian VDV Paratroopers
You know, I’m honestly not sure if this was an official recruitment ad (or if it were meant to be taken seriously), but damn is it catchy.
A military recruitment video has just one function — to keep the idea of military service in the viewers’ minds. I just wish I could get this song out of my head…
Royal Netherlands Army
No one wants to serve with that boot-ass recruit who claims they “can’t wait to get a knife kill.” And there’s a zero-percent chance that the drill instructors won’t beat the stupid out of them.
That’s why it’s so great to see a country to openly tell these idiots to not even bother wasting everyone’s time.
In case you were wondering, “ongeschikt” translates to “not suitable”
Ukrainian Ground Forces
If there is one piece of military equipment that means more than anything to troops worldwide, it’s their shovel or e-tool (mostly because not every troop gets issued a woobie, and that’s sad).
This video from Ukraine is a masterpiece in terms of filmmaking and storytelling. This video is beyond amazing and, honestly, it was hard to put this one in second place. It only didn’t take top honors because, well… you’ll see.
Swedish Armed Forces
Beautiful. Even though this takes a direct jab at how nearly everyone else in the world recruits troops, I can’t stop laughing.
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”
Whenever soldiers go on leave, it always plays out exactly the same:
“O! You’re in the Army? My friend from work’s brother is in the Navy, so I know allllllll about it…”
This is followed by a in-depth one-sided discussion about what people think they know about the Army, usually followed by some uncomfortable questions.
Here’s a list of assumptions we get that leave us sitting there thinking, “No, dude. Not even close.”
6. “You’re exactly like the other branches of the Armed Forces.”
This one stings.
It’s not that it’s entirely wrong. There is plenty of overlap between soldiers and other branches. But we still have our own mission and they still have theirs. Especially the stupid Navy.
The best analogy you can use is like the relationship between EMT, nurse, and doctor. They all have a very similar purpose in life, but they each have a different part to play in the grander scheme of things.
5. “You’re all hard ass SOBs with who can ‘John Wick’ someone with a pencil.”
No matter what a soldier did while serving, when they get out they probably won’t correct someone if they hear, “You don’t want to upset him man, he was in the Army! He could snap you in half!”
Many soldiers are required to go to Combatives Level 1 and eventually Level 2 (depending on their unit.) And yes, physical training is a thing everyone does in the morning, and many soldiers also enjoy going to the gym after work ends.
While it’s definitely frowned upon, we still have soldiers that look like they should have cheeseburgers slapped out of their hand to make height and weight regulations. Even on the other end of the spectrum, there are also plenty of scrawny soldiers in the Army as well.
4. “You’re all wounded and fragile shells of who you once were.”
War is hell. There’s no denying that. But very rarely are soldiers as truly broken as the civilian world thinks we are.
When civilians think about soldiers and PTSD, the worst-case-scenario comes to mind. While there are veterans who suffer from acute PTSD symptoms, most service members have the tools to treat their service-related conditions, and nearly all are still functional members of society.
3. “You’re free to make decisions like where you want to live.”
Back to the lighter and funnier side of things, it is always hilarious whenever people say things like, “Why can’t you just call in sick?” or “You’ll be able to take this day off, right?”
Sure, you have the occasional “Army of One” jerk who thinks he can get away with skating. But no. We don’t choose whether or not we want to go to work. We don’t choose days off without a long drawn-out process. And even if you reenlist for a new duty station, chances are, you won’t get to decide where you live in the world.
That’s just the way things are and soldiers get used to it.
2. “You’re a master of foreign affairs and know what the military is doing constantly.”
Most soldiers couldn’t even tell you what their Joes are currently doing, let alone what the Special Forces are doing in [Country Redacted]. Even if you were talking with a senior advisor at the Pentagon, they still couldn’t even tell you what every little detail of the Army is up to.
The Army is just way too big and way too diverse, even within itself. When civilians start throwing our opinions into it we’ll either stare blankly or make something smart up.
Also, we don’t like talking about work during leave.
1. “You’re all constantly training.”
Nothing blows a civilian’s mind quite like the fact that there actually is down time in the military and that we do more than just shoot weapons and practice kicking in doors.
Want to hear what 75% of a lower-enlisted’s day looks like?
Wake up to work out with the platoon at the weakest guy’s level. Pretend to check our equipment that hasn’t been touched since the last time we pretended to check on it. Quick hip-pocket training by a sergeant that was just reminded that they’re a sergeant (“How to check that equipment you just checked,” or “Why DUIs are bad”.) Then wait that for same sergeant to get out of a meeting where they’re told that nothing happened but they should watch out for their Joes getting in trouble. Finally go back to the barracks to do all the things their sergeant was warned about.
For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.
Here’s what it looked like this year.
The patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)
Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.
U.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)
Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.
Three villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.
A C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.
Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
“My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in ’77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes,” airman Brandon Phillip recently said. “I get to give back to my dad’s island while serving my country. It just makes it all special.”
Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.
Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
“This is what Christmas is for,” Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. “When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas.”
If thousands of U.S. servicemen went missing in action over 10 years of combat, it would surely be the biggest political issue of our day.
And it was after the end of the Vietnam War.
Well into the 1980s, it was a sore point for politicians and others from all walks of life. A few enterprising Americans took matters into their own hands – once even funded by Dirty Harry himself.
American troops these days might have a hard time imagining 2,494 missing U.S. troops. But for Vietnam-era veterans, the idea is all too real. Years after the war ended and Saigon fell to the Communists, the American public was still divided over the thought – and what to do about it.
As of 1983, the Pentagon was still telling reporters at the Boston Globe that it couldn’t rule out the possibility of Vietnam War POWs left behind in Southeast Asia. After a reported 480 firsthand sightings of POWs after the fall of Saigon in 1975, many POW families and members of the veteran community were convinced the American government was just “sweeping it under the rug.”
That’s when an ex-Green Beret named Bo Gritz gained fame. Gritz is said to have made multiple incursions into Laos to find the alleged missing and prisoners. Gritz was also convinced there were American prisoners in Southeast Asia. If there were, he was determined to take the issue out of the political area and turn Indochina into a new battlefield if necessary – anything to get those troops back home.
According to the Boston Globe, the 44-year-old veteran soldier interviewed ex-POWs who were repatriated at the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He was even given access to American intelligence reports on the issue. His conclusion was to form a team of ex-Green Berets to go to Laos and find these men.
Gritz’ plan was to link up with Laotian anti-Communist resistance fighters under the command of a Laotian general who sided with the Americans during the Vietnam War. He also commanded 40,000 troops as part of a secret CIA Army in Laos. According to the CIA, the effort was funded primarily through actor-director Clint Eastwood, who even informed President Reagan of Gritz’ plan (though the White House disputed the Reagan conversation).
The February 1983 rescue effort failed to return with any firsthand or photographic evidence of POWs or movement of POWs in Laos. By this time the hunt for POWs became a “growth industry” in Thailand. Nothing was found of the 568 missing troops thought to be in Laos. Even worse, Gritz’ other missions became a publicity stunt.
What was supposed to be a two-week incursion was halted after 72 hours when the group was ambushed by guerrillas from another faction. They retreated back into Thailand where they were arrested for possessing advanced radio equipment. Two Lao soldiers were killed and one American was captured.
The end result was one more American captured in Indochina and the movie “Uncommon Valor,” starring Gene Hackman. The film was based on notes taken by Gritz during his “rescue mission” to Laos.
Army Maj. Gen. “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell was at the top of the list for high commands as America entered World War I. A 1904 West Point graduate with lots of intelligence experience in World War I and extensive time in the Pacific, he was expected to take on some of the most important commands and win.
Instead, Stilwell spent most of the war in what was an important backwater, the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. Stilwell was in the middle of preparing Operation Gymnast, the landings of North Africa which would later be conducted as Operation Torch, when he learned that he was on the short list to command U.S. forces in CBI.
Stilwell didn’t want the job. He hoped to invade North Africa. From there, he would have a decent shot at commanding the European theater or at least all troops taking the fight to Italy.
This was a reasonable expectation. Operation Gymnast became Operation Torch and was passed to then-Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s success in North Africa led to an appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A few years later, he used his status as a war hero to run for president.
He was facing a tough job, but Stilwell dove into it. He assumed control of an integrated force in Burma in 1942 and prepared an offensive against the Japanese.
But it was too late for that. Before Stilwell could lay the groundwork, a new Japanese thrust overcame Chinese forces and sent them reeling back. The rest of the Allied forces in the area, mostly Americans under Stilwell, were forced to follow. This caused the loss of Burma and a severing of important logistical corridors.
But Stilwell didn’t want to disrupt the Japanese in Burma, he wanted it back. In 1944, he was able to lead a force that retook the region. One of the most famous units in the effort was Merrill’s Marauders, led by Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill. Merrill was one of the survivors that left Burma with Stilwell. Merrill had survived the evacuation despite suffering a heart attack.
Stilwell was finally removed from CBI in 1944, mainly due to staff and national politics. He was sent to the Ryukyu Islands where he took over the 10th Army on Okinawa. It was in this position that he was tapped to lead the invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall.
Luckily for him and his men, though not for his career and legacy, the invasion was made unnecessary by the Japanese surrendering to MacArthur in 1945.
The first step to becoming a better husband is to, well, try to be a better husband. It’s as simple as that. Marriages thrive when partners play active roles in the relationship, paying mind to everything from the daily maintenance of the marriage to personal care in hopes of understanding yourself better for the other. In other words: It’s all about making an effort. Do the work, and you’ll be rewarded. Want to start? Well, there are a number of small, nice things that all of us can focus on to be happier, more present, and more attentive husbands and partners.
Talk about your feelings honestly. When she asks you how your day is, tell her about something that made you upset or annoyed. Don’t just say your day was “okay,” and leave it at that.
Take over for the evening. Don’t announce it or plan it ahead. Once the kids are bathed, brushed, dressed, read to, and in bed, tell your spouse they’re ready for a good night kiss.
Ask your wife about her day. Have at least one follow-up question. Then, tell her about yours. And answer her questions with more words “fine” and “eh.” Make this a habit.
Make a constructed effort to interrupt her less when she’s talking. If she seems like she’s in between two thoughts, give her five seconds. If she doesn’t say anything, then speak.
Clean that thing you know she hates cleaning. You don’t even need to tell her you did it. She’ll notice.
(Photo by Christian Gonzalez)
Do the dishes when it’s “not your turn.”
Stay in good shape. Part of the gig is trying to remain attractive.
If she seems like she wants to be left alone, don’t take it as a referendum on anything. Just leave her alone.
Listen to and empathize with her problems. Say: “That sucks. I’m sorry.” Don’t try to fix the problems unless she asks for your advice.
Does she like SMPDA — that is, social media public displays of affection? Then post about her earnestly on social media every so often. Even if it’s a photo of her with the heart-eyed emoji, it may not be your thing, but because it’s not it will mean more.
Don’t hold back small seemingly insignificant compliments. If she really impressed you by parallel parking, her lunch order, or how she de-escalated a toddler tantrum, tell her.
Be the keeper of your love story. Get nostalgic about your relationship, from time to time. Reminisce about how you met. Bring it up with friends.
Journal about the things you’re upset about before vocalizing them to your spouse. It might help you see some of the things bothering you are not worth complaining about.
Your wife is not your therapist. If you are struggling, and she’s the only person you lean on, think about going to therapy. Therapy rules.
Leave nice notes. They don’t have to be long or saccharine, they just have to be original.
(Photo by John Jones)
Make a decision when she doesn’t want to. Let her make a decision when she does. Know the difference.
Be kind. The world is mean, your marriage shouldn’t be.
When you introduce her to your friends or coworkers, mention one of her accomplishments.
If you make yourself something — tea, a sandwich, a stiff cocktail — offer to make her one, too.
Take her side in family squabbles whenever possible. If you sense a family squabble might happen, discuss it beforehand to get on the same page. Then, talk about how you’ll mount your defense together.
Keep your promises.
Talk to her about what she likes in bed. Don’t assume that you know. Do that thing.
Give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s allowed to be in bad moods for no reason.
Take some tasteful nudes.
When you become impatient with her, take a few deep breaths. Walk away if you need to. Remember you love her even when you don’t like her.
Get rid of your unreasonable expectations about who you think she should be.
Call just to say hi.
When she asks you to go on a run with her, go, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it. She’ll know you did it just because you love her.
When your wife talks about a sexist thing that happened to her that day, don’t give the man in the story the benefit of the doubt. Talk shit about him with your wife.
Be enthusiastic about her favorite TV shows, even if it’s bad reality TV. Get into it. Make fun of the contestants. Ask her who her favorite person on the show is. Root for someone.
When your wife asks you how she looks in something, and if she doesn’t look great, tell her about another dress you like. Provide an alternative. Tell her you love her in it.
When you get in a fight, use “I” statements. Don’t put your anger on her. Make sure she knows it’s about how you’re feeling.
If you don’t know where something is in your house, actually look for it before you ask. You are not a clueless intern. You are her partner.
Tell her — and demonstrate — that you love her.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It’s always miserable, it’s extremely time consuming, and there’s always a giant rock waiting for you once you’re halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it’s smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.
Defensive postures allow your unit time to “rest” and recover after launching an offensive. Basically, you take some ground from the enemy and then hold it until your unit is ready to continue pushing the enemy back. If you’re not in an urban environment, you’ll have to dig two-person fighting holes in order to hold your ground. The enemy is likely going to return (with reinforcements) to try and retake some real estate — your unit will be entrenched, waiting for them.
Keep in mind that you’ll be in that position for at least 24 hours, so you’ll have lots of time to think about your life from every angle. Here are some of the things that’ll race through your mind during that time:
This is at the top of the list because digging a fighting hole and then sitting in it, deprived of sleep, will make you seriously question why you joined the infantry. You might even think about how much nicer you would’ve had it in the Air Force — or literally anything else that wouldn’t land you in that damned fighting hole.
If digging the hole wasn’t enough, this will definitely bring you back to list item #1.
You’re likely to spend the majority of your time in the middle of the night, which means you’ll likely experience the coldest temperatures that environment has to offer. Joy!
If you don’t it gets cold in the desert or the jungle, you’ll become acquainted real quick. Since God basically hates the infantry, chances are it’s going to rain or, if you’re on a mountain, there will be a blizzard.
If you’re somewhere cold and rainy, you’ll be struggling to remember where you put your warmest layers are and if you can get to it without giving up your security for too long in the process. Chances are, your pack will be too far away and you’re sh*t out of luck.
After this realization, you’ll spend the rest of your watch experiencing every stage of grief.
Since you’ll want to keep your mind off the weather, you’ll spend some time speculating on the fun your friends are having while you suffer. This will lead to thinking about what and who you want to do when you go home next.
Anything is better than what you’re eating out there.
If you didn’t bring snacks, you’ll be hungry on watch. This will lead you to thinking about all the food in the world. You’ll make deals with yourself, promising to eat it all once you get back to civilization.
You’ll figure it out, no problem.
How to get away with smoking
This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but it applies to a lot of us. Even if you don’t smoke when you first join, after you dig a fighting hole, you might start considering it. Those that already smoke will be thinking up ways to get away with it. After all, you run a huge risk of compromising your position.
The Jeep was first introduced on Jul. 15, 1941. It became an icon in World War II and evolutions of the design saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.
The U.S. phased the Jeep out of the arsenal starting in 1984 when it adopted the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as the HMMWV or Humvee. But the Jeep may be headed for a comeback.
One company, Hendrick Dynamics, thinks that sounds a lot like the original Jeep and they’re submitting modified Jeep Wranglers to the competition. From Stars and Stripes:
Hendrick starts with a diesel-equipped Wrangler Rubicon, converts the electrical system to 24 volts, adds additional safety features and military-spec equipment, upgrades the suspension and brakes for higher payload capacities and modifies the vehicle so it can be transported within an aircraft cargo hold.
While Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler, has been out of the defense contracting game for a long time, Hendrick Dynamics has a bit of experience modifying Wranglers for combat duty. They currently offer three versions of their “Commando” vehicle to government agencies and commercial clients.
The Commando 2, Commando 4, and Commando S are clearly aimed at light units like Airborne and Air Assault formations, the same units that are the most likely beneficiaries of the Army’s vehicle proposal.
Commandos are certified for loading on CH-47s and can be slung under UH-60 helicopters. The website advertises that the vehicles are strong enough to tow 105mm howitzers.
All three models run on JP-8, the jet fuel also used in most military vehicles, tanks, and generators. The Commando S model even has a “Mission Pallet System” that allows it to be quickly configured for carrying heavy weapons, combat engineering, route clearance, or other tasks.
If Hendrick Dynamics gets wins the Army contract, vehicles similar to the current Commando and the World War II Jeep could be the preferred ride of future warfighters.
Comprised of more than 100 islands in the East China Sea, Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures with a population of 1.44 million people (as of May 2018).
A year-round warm climate and overall tropical landscape, Okinawa is considered a leading resort destination and home to multiple U.S. military installations. Here are five ways to explore the archipelago.
Eat and drink
There is no shortage of places to enjoy good food in Okinawa and nearly every type of international cuisine is represented.
“You have to try Coco’s Curry House, Arashi, Pizza In The Sky, Yoshi Hachi, Sea Garden, Gen, Thai In The Sky and Little Cactus,” KT Genta, a Navy spouse who was previously stationed in Okinawa shared.
Craving a good cup of coffee? Stop into Patisserie Porushe, and be sure to order a croissant to go with it.
The traditional spirit of Okinawa is Awamori, which dates back to the dynastic era, and is made by combining water, test and rice malt with korokoji mold and steamed rice. Get a free tour and tasting at Chuko Distillery.
Historical sites and landmarks
The history of Okinawa is robust — from dynasties to American rule — and the various historical site and landmarks throughout the prefecture tell the region’s story. Be sure to visit:
Okinawa Peace Memorial Park– Located on Mabuni Hill, Peace Memorial Park was a heated battleground during WWII.
Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters – During WWII, Japanese forces constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels that were used as military headquarters.
Katsuren Castle Ruins – Just a couple in-ruin walls remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Tower of Himeyuri – The emotional monument honors the Himeyuri medical corps of female students who perished in WWII.
Ikema Ohashi Bridge– A 4,675 ft. bridge with panoramic views of the ocean, it connects the islands Miyako-jima to Ikema-jima and was formerly the longest bridge in Okinawa.
Beaches and water sports
Trademarked by cerulean shaded waters, Okinawa’s beaches are world-renowned for enjoying a sun-soaked day on the sand or diving in to admire the marine life. Both public and private beaches pepper the coastline, and with hundreds of beaches to choose from across the main and more remote islands, there is a stretch of sand for everyone to enjoy.
Northern Okinawa Island – Uppama Beach, Kanucha Beach, Ie Beach
Central Okinawa Island – Zanpa Beach, Ikei Beach
Southern Okinawa Island – Aharen Beach, Nishibama Beach
Not only does Okinawa offer residents and visitors pristine beaches, the underwater views are attractive for avid divers and snorkelers. Top spots include Manza Dream Hole, Zamami Island and Kabira Bay.
Okinawa is a destination with deep-rooted cultural history, thus a strong appreciation for traditional and performing arts.
Yachimun – The Okinawan name for pottery is Yachimun and can be traced back to more than 800 years.
Bashofu – Made from the fibers of a Japanese banana-like tree call the Basho, Bashofu is a thin textile that is woven and dyed to make into garments.
Sanshin – The literal translation of Sanshin is “three strings” and is a musical instrument that looks a bit like a banjo.
“There is so much to do,” Genta said. “Head to Cocoks for pedicures, hike Hiji Falls, explore Bise Village, which is a peaceful seaside town with sand roads lined with Fukuhi trees, or just drive and get lost. There are so many hidden gems on the island.”
Other must-see spots include Churmai Aquarium, Pineapple Park, Orion Beer Factory, Urashima Dinner Theater, Kokusai Street and Fukushu-en Garden.
This is just a small sampling of ways to explore Okinawa. It’s important to note that one could live their entire life in Japan’s tropical oasis and not see or do everything, so be sure to make the most of your time and have fun!