The most famous Navy SEALs - We Are The Mighty
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The most famous Navy SEALs

This list contains information about famous Navy SEALS, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Many famous U.S. Navy SEALs became well-known through combat operations, while many others have also gone on to successful careers in politics, entertainment, and even space exploration. Among the most respected and feared warriors on the planet, Navy SEALs are trained for the Sea, Air, and Land. Just to become Navy SEALs, these soldiers must complete what is widely considered the toughest training in any military worldwide.


navy seals

Who is the most famous Navy SEAL? Jesse Ventura tops our list. Following his service on the Underwater Demolition Team, Ventura was a pro wrestler and Governor of Minnesota.  Two people on the list have gone on to become NASA astronauts.

Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, achieved a new level of posthumous fame when his book American Sniper was adapted into 2014’s biggest movie. Marcus Luttrell detailed his combat experience in his book Lone Survivor, which was also adapted into a popular film.

Explore this list of the most famous United States Navy SEALs and just try not to feel bad about yourself in comparison. Do you think you could have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL? Let us know in the comments section!

Famous Navy SEALs

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This article originally appeared at Ranker. Copyright 2015. Like Ranker on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


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The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

The most famous Navy SEALs

The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

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Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

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The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

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The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

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The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

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The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

The most famous Navy SEALs

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

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Southwest Asia Service Medal.

The most famous Navy SEALs

An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

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Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

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The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

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The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 ships sunk at Pearl Harbor fought in World War II

While “salvage operations” aren’t usually stories of perseverance and ingenuity, the actions of brave sailors and officers after the Pearl Harbor attacks formed a miracle that is legitimately surprising. While the battleships Utah, Arizona, and Oklahoma were permanently lost after the Pearl Harbor attacks, seven combat ships that were sunk in the raid went on to fight Japanese and German forces around the world, and at least three non-combat ships saw further service in the war.


In all, 21 ships were labeled damaged or sunk after the attack. Nine of them were still afloat and were either quickly repaired for frontline duty or sent to the U.S. West Coast for repairs and new equipment. But another 12 were sunk, and some of those were even declared lost. Before the war closed, seven of the sunken ships would see combat, and another three served in peacetime roles.

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The USS West Virginia burns on December 7 thanks to Japanese attacks. It would go on to punish the Japanese forces across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS West Virginia was declared lost three years before entering Tokyo Bay

The USS West Virginia was one of the worst hit in the raid. The “Weevie,” as it was called, had been hit by up to seven torpedoes, but no one could be certain exactly how many torpedoes hit it, really, because the damage was so severe. At least two torpedoes flowed through holes in the hull and exploded inside against the lower decks.

Salvage crews were forced to create large patches that were held in place with underwater concrete. As seawater was pumped out, it was expected that the ship’s electric drive would be unusable or would need extensive repairs but, surprisingly, it turned out that seawater hadn’t reached the main propulsion plant. The alternators and motors were repaired, and the ship headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.

The ship received much better anti-aircraft armament and defensive armor and headed back into the fight in the Pacific. At the Battle of the Surigao Strait, Weevie fired ninety-three rounds into the Japanese fleet. It later hit Japanese forces ashore on Leyte, served at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and was the first of the older battleships to sail into Tokyo Bay to witness Japan’s surrender in 1945.

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The USS Shaw explodes at Pearl Harbor on December 7. It later fought across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Shaw attacked Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Philippines

The destroyer USS Shaw was only 6-years old when the Pearl Harbor attack began, but the modern warship was in overhaul on Dec. 7, 1941, and had all of its ammo stored below decks. So it was unable to protect itself as dive bombers struck it, shredding the deck near gun number 1, severing the bow, and rupturing the fuel oil tanks. All this damage led to a massive fire in the forward magazines which then blew up.

The Shaw was declared a total loss, but the Navy found that much of its machinery was still good. Damaged sections were cut off, a false bow was fitted, and the ship steamed to Mare Island in California for permanent repairs just two months after the attack.

The overhauled USS Shaw fired on Japanese forces at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. It served out the war before being decommissioned in October 1945.

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The USS Nevada fires its guns at the Normandy shore during D-Day in June 1944, about 30 months after the ship sunk at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Nevada shelled Normandy

The USS Nevada was one of the few ships in the harbor that was ready to fight on December 7, and its official reports indicated that the crew first opened fire at 8:02, about 60 seconds after the attack started. It was able to down between two and five enemy planes, but still took one torpedo and six bomb hits that doomed the ship. An admiral ordered the ship to beach itself to protect the channel and the ship from further damage.

While Adm. Chester E. Nimitz was pessimistic as to the Nevada’s chances, salvage leaders were quite hopeful. Most of the holes were small enough to patch with wood instead of steel. It took extensive work to get the ship capable of sailing to the West Coast. When it arrived at Puget, it received new anti-aircraft guns and a full overhaul.

The Nevada took part in the Aleutian Islands Campaign just one year after Pearl Harbor before going on to fight at Normandy on D-Day. It headed back to the Pacific and fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

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The battleship USS California sits in drydock in 1942 as crews prepare to begin major repair operations.

(U.S. Navy)

USS California slammed a Japanese Fuso-class battleship with shells

The California crew was able to get into fighting position as Japanese bombers closed in, but that just left officers in perfect position to watch the track of the torpedo that hit the ship in the opening minutes. As damage control got underway, a second torpedo hit the ship followed by a single bomb. All this was made worse when the crew had to abandon ship as the fires from the USS Arizona floated around the California.

But the crew came back and kept the ship afloat for three days before it finally sank into the mud. Salvage operators had to build cofferdams to begin repairs so that crews could access previously flooded areas. As the ship emerged from the water, caustic solutions were used to remove corrosion and seawater. It sailed for the West Coast in October 1942.

By the time the California left the Puget Sound Navy Yard in late 1943, it had nearly all new parts, from the engine to many weapons. It used these to fight at the Marianas, bombard Saipan and Guam, and then slam a Fuso-class battleship at Surigao Strait with over 90,000 pounds of munitions.

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The USS Downes on left and USS Cassin, capsized on right, sit on the partially flooded floor of Drydock No. 1 on Dec. 7, 1941, after suffering multiple bomb hits and internal explosions.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Cassin

The destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes were in drydock on December 7. So they were essentially impossible to damage with torpedoes, but were highly susceptible to bombs. Guess what Japan hit them with? Bombs passed entirely through the Cassin and exploded on the drydock floor, and both ships were set on fire and struck by tons of fragments. Cassin even toppled off its blocks and struck the drydock floor.

The USS Cassin’s keel and hull were warped by the damage, and the hull was filled with holes. The shell plating was wrinkled. Crews disassembled the ship and sent most everything but the hull to Mare Island where they were installed in a new shell. Despite the entirely new hull, the Navy considered the resulting ship to still be the USS Cassin.

The Cassin was sent against Marcus Island, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Palau, and the Philippine Islands. Yeah, it had a pretty busy war for a ship “lost” on December 7.

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The USS Downes sails away from Mare Island to serve against Japan in World War II on Dec. 8, 1943, almost exactly a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Downes

The Downes arguably suffered worst than the Cassin in drydock as the fires caused sympathetic detonations in the Downes‘ torpedoes and other weapons. It was also twisted by damage, and it had massive holes from the explosions. Downes had aluminum plating on its deckhouse that was completely destroyed.

Like the Cassin, the Downes had its hull scrapped and most of its innards installed in another hull in the shipyard on Mare Island.

This new and improved USS Downes fought at Saipan, Marcus Island, and Luzon. Like the Cassin, it had been declared lost after the Pearl Harbor damage.

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The USS Oglala is visible in the foreground, mostly submerged on its side as other ships burned in the background on December 7 at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Oglala

The minelayer Oglala technically didn’t suffer a hit on December 7, but a torpedo passed under it and hit the USS Helena. The blast from that crippled the old Oglala which had been built as a civilian vessel in 1906. The crewmembers took their guns to the Navy Yard Dock and set them up to provide more defenses. They also set up a first aid station that saved the lives of West Virginia crewmembers.

The ship suffered horribly, eventually capsizing and sinking until just a few feet of the ship’s starboard side remained above water. It was declared lost, and the Navy even considered blowing it up with dynamite to clear the dock it had sunk next to. But the decision was made that it could destroy the dock, so the Navy had to refloat it. At that point, it made sense to drydock and repair it.

After repair and refit at Mare Island Navy Yard, the Oglala was re-launched as a repair ship and served across the west Pacific. It actually joined the Maritime Reserve Fleet after the war and wasn’t scrapped until 1965, almost 60 years after its construction as a civilian passenger liner.

(Author’s note: Most of the information for this article came from The Navy Department Library’s online copy of Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin. It can be found online here.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

This ‘M*A*S*H and the Coronavirus’ episode is must-see TV

We knew the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) were well-equipped to handle any situation, but this new hybrid from five episodes of the popular 1970s series is showing us how to handle COVID-19 as well.

While the sun may have set after 11 seasons on the beloved characters stationed in South Korea during the Korean War, their advice on everything from how to wash your hands, hoarding in a time of toilet paper shortage and social distancing seems almost prophetic.


In the M*A*S*H montage put together by Frank Vaccariello, we see unbelievably timely themes: How to wash your hands from the episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” social distancing from the episode,”Cowboy,” don’t touch your face from the episode, “War of Nerves,” working from home from the episode, “Hepatitis,” and yes, even a toilet paper shortage from the episode,”Crisis.”

When asked what prompted his creativity, Vaccariello said that he started comparing the guidance the nation is receiving on protecting ourselves from COVID-19, to scenes from M*A*S*H in his head. “I have been a M*A*S*H fan since the days it originally aired,” he said in an interview with WATM. “I loved the show, the writing and the acting. I can actually be said to be more of a M*A*S*H freak,” he admitted. “I had intended just to make a couple memes, but then last Saturday morning I woke up and decided to create the video.”

MASH and the Coronavirus

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Mash and the Coronavirus

Vaccariello has a soft spot for M*A*S*H and the military community. His dad was an Army veteran and Vaccariello served on the board of directors for a veteran-focused charity.

In his Facebook post where he first published the video, Vaccariello commented, “No matter what question or problem comes up in life, M*A*S*H always has the answer.”

Ain’t that the truth. Bravo, Frank!

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Election anxiety is very real. Here are 7 ways to cope

Election anxiety is real. More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said that the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd is a source of significant stress. This is no surprise, as this election season has, for numerous reasons, been the most polarizing and contentious in recent history. Add this to the COVID-related stress we’re all feeling and it’s a lot to handle.


With Election Day quickly approaching, it’s very understandable to find yourself more anxious, more on edge. It’s also easy for those feelings to manifest as shortness or anger aimed at the people we love. Of course, that is the last thing our families need or that we want to provide them. So how do you keep yourself healthy and present? Take some deep breaths and follow the suggestions laid out below. Because, as with everything in 2020, the election will drag on for a lot longer than we anticipate.

1. Maintain the Foundational Four

In times of high stress and anxiety, the fundamentals are more important than ever. According to Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Care Innovation with the American Psychological Association, it’s critical, then, to focus on the “Foundational Four”: getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and keeping connected socially. Interrogate yourself: Am I sleeping enough hours? Am I reaching out to friends? Is my diet helping me feel energized? Wright adds that, on top of these, you should also add activities and routines that fill you back up when you’re feeling burnt out. You know yourself better than anyone else. Now’s the time to really make sure you’re giving yourself what you need.

2. Identify What’s in Your Control — and What’s Not

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of uncertainties in the world today. But uncertainty is always a constant and we must all learn to focus on only what we can actually control. So ask yourself: What do I have control over? What don’t I? Write them down as you do so. “Make two lists on a piece of paper,” says Wright. “On the left, write down the things that are out of your control. On the right, write out what things you can control — including the things that can distract you from what’s stressing you and can engage you, like listening to music or watching a movie.” This list can form the basis of your self-care toolkit. “In a moment of anxiety, you don’t have to think about what you need to do to feel better,” Wright says. “Pick something from your list.”

3. Do the Things that Are in Your Control — Like Voting

When you made your lists, did you include “Vote” in the right-hand column? “Voting is you exerting your agency and control over something you do have control over — your vote,” says Wright. “After you vote, you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll have permission to take a step back so there won’t be that pressure to be so connected.” You’re not going to ignore what’s happening, of course, but doing your part can help you moderate how much attention you’re giving the election.

4. Understand How You Cope

Do you know how you cope? It’s smart to really think about the things that help you destress and be your best self. Coping skills, per Wright, fall into three buckets: cognitive, physical, and sense-based.

  • Cognitive: Puzzles. Reading. Card and board games “These all require you to use your noggin,” Wright says. “A family activity like a scavenger hunt with clues to figure out combines mental and physical.”
  • Physical: These are activities that get your heart pumping. Yep. General exercise falls into this area. But don’t box yourself in if that’s not your style. “My favorite physical stress-buster is impromptu dance parties in the kitchen when we’re cooking,” Wright says. “Find opportunities to try something new.”
  • Sense-based: These are activities that have you focusing on touch, taste, smell, and sound. Think: taking a hot shower. Lighting a scented candle. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Squeezing a stress ball. “For some people having a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it is a way to distract themselves as they focus on their body,” Wright says.

Understand which category — or combination of categories — helps you the most and carve out time to make them a part of your day.

4. Limit Your Media Consumption

News, news everywhere. But not a moment to think. Doomscrolling, or the act of constantly scrolling through one soul withering news story after another, contributes to anxiety. Now is the time to be very aware of your social media and news viewing habits. Reduce your stress by limiting how much time you’re spending on social media and news sites. “Stay informed, especially at the local level, but be mindful of your time online,” Wright says. “That means being mindful of when, how much, and what type of information you’re consuming.”

For starters, turn off your phone’s push notifications. “Most of us don’t need to know late-breaking news,” Wright says. “You don’t realize how often you’re getting distracted all day long.” Instead, set aside time to get caught up on the news — like lunch.

Another good tactic: Use your phone’s settings to set limits that cut you off when you’ve reached your fill of social media or news sites.

And, while this is easier said than done, avoid what you know stresses you out. “If pundits on TV get your blood boiling, try reading your news online instead of watching it,” Wright says. “With the 24-hour news cycle, you’re exposed to negative images and hear the same things over and over — most of it conjecture. Go with what works best for you.”

Remember the Foundational Four? That’s why it’s smart to avoid scrolling before bed. “You need at least an hour away from your phone before going to sleep,” Wright says.

5. Step Away From Your Phone

Disabling push notifications is one thing. But it’s crucial to schedule phone-free. As hard as it may be to go offline, you’ll feel better if you do so. Do what it takes to disconnect for stretches of time. “Don’t rely on willpower,” Wright says. “Leave your phone in another room.”

“If you prioritize quality time for you and your family, being on the phone is not quality time,” Wright says. “Set some rules for device use as a family. And if you don’t let your kids use theirs at dinnertime, you shouldn’t use yours, either.”

6. Set Your Expectations for Election Night

With this particular election, we might not have results for days or even weeks after November 3rd. Your mindset should account for this likelihood.

“Go in with the expectation of not knowing who the president will be the day after the election,” Wright says. “With that established, it’ll be easier to weather the period of time when we’re waiting and things are uncertain.”

“It comes back to focusing on the basics: taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, using your coping skills, and focusing on the things that are in your control,’ Wright says. “There’s not much we can do about it if it goes to the courts. Maintain your stability.”

7. Model Self-Care for Your Kids

Kids are intuitive — they’ll notice if you’re stressed — so when you are taking measures for your own self care, tell your kids what you’re doing and why. “Explain why you’re turning off the news, why you’re sitting down to do a puzzle together, how taking care of yourself is important,” Wright says. “You’re going to get stressed in life. If you’re overwhelmed, tag out and have your partner take over. Demonstrate emotional well-being and ask for help when you need it.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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One of America’s legendary small arms was designed by a convict

One of the most decorated soldiers in American history had his big day on Jan. 26, 1945. For three hours, he fought off dozens of advancing Nazi troops, coming at him from three sides. He did it with a field phone, an M2 Browning .50-cal, and his trusty M1 Carbine. General MacArthur called the M1 carbine, “One of the strongest contribution factors in our victory in the Pacific.”

That carbine was a weapon designed just for Army paratroopers in World War II. It had its shortcomings, but its reliability would ensure it would see action in three American wars — and was even a preferred weapon of the enemy. But not many people know the steadfast weapon was designed by a self-taught gunsmith, one-time moonshiner, and convicted felon.


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David Williams started making moonshine in North Carolina’s backcountry in 1919. The only problem was the Cumberland County native was good at it — really good. Soon, word spread about the quality of the young man’s whiskey. With the rise of Prohibition in 1920, his elevated status soon became unwanted attention. The very next year, his still was raided by local law enforcement, and a shootout ensued. Williams shot and killed a deputy sheriff.

He was captured, convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

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Audie Murphy with an M1 carbine in ‘To Hell And Back,’ the film about his Medal of Honor experience in World War II. (Universal International Pictures)

The man who would later earn the nickname “carbine” spent a lot of time in both the prison blacksmith shop, as well as solitary confinement. An inventive tinkerer with no formal training, he spent his time in the box thinking of new ways to improve existing machines — including firearms. He began to make spare parts from scrap metal and wood, which, in turn, earned him more time in the shop. The more time he spent in the shop, the more good he did for himself and society.

It turns out the uneducated tinkerer was exceptionally adept with machine parts. He invented the floating chamber, a mechanism that allowed a larger caliber rifle to fire smaller .22 ammo. While other prisoners were known for building homemade knives, Williams was able to construct rifles from scraps.

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David Marshall “Carbine” Williams with his contribution to World War II. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

He earned an early release in 1929 and returned to his farm, where he constructed a large workshop and began to refine his inventions. Eventually, he was employed by the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company. Just before World War II broke out for the United States, he was able to develop a carbine version of the M1 Garand Rifle.

A carbine is essentially a shorter version of an existing rifle. It’s often lighter in weight and uses a shorter barrel but doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of consistency or accuracy. The M1 carbine, however, was not just a carbine version of the M1 Garand. The two firearms used different ammunition, and the only features they shared were the buttplate and screw. But there was a need for lighter weapons among paratroopers and support crew.

M1 Carbines were present at the first Iwo Jima flag raising. (USMC photo by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery)

 

Williams self-designed and built a short-stroke gas piston while in prison and incorporated it into his design for a lighter-weight infantry rifle. In trials, “Carbine” WIlliams’ design proved much more effective and consistent than other gun manufacturers, especially in sandy conditions — an environment that would prove very important to the Marine Corps.

By the end of World War II, the U.S. Military produced more than six million M1 Carbine rifles to use against the Nazis and the Japanese, making it America’s most-produced small arm of the war, edging out the iconic M1 Garand by more than a million units.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 books you need to read to understand World War I

November 2018 marks 100 years since Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close. Yet in many ways “the war to end all wars” has never really ceased. From the outbreak of a second world war just twenty years later to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the current perilous state of Turkish Democracy, the smoldering ashes of WWI have ignited time and time again. These nine books — arranged by genre and covering the hostilities from the home front, the trenches, and the hospitals where soldiers were treated for a new injury known as “shell shock” — are essential to understanding how a century-old feud shaped the world we live in today.


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(Random House Publishing Group)

1. The Guns of August

By Barbara Tuchman

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the Modern Library’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time, this is the definitive history of the first 30 days of the war—a month that set the course of the entire conflict. Tuchman brings a novelist’s flair to her subject, from the spectacle of King Edward VII’s funeral procession—”The sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again”—to the dust and sweat and terror of the German advance across Belgium. She captures the war’s key figures with flair and precision and enlivens her analysis with a dry-martini wit: “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” Most astonishingly of all, she creates genuine suspense out of the inevitable march of history, convincing her readers to forget what they already know and turn the pages with bated breath.

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(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

2. The First World War

By John Keegan

Twenty years after its original release, this gripping chronicle remains the best single-volume account of the war. Keegan, an acclaimed British military historian, brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to some of the 20th century’s most confounding questions: Why couldn’t Europe’s greatest empires avoid such a tragic and unnecessary conflict? And why did so many millions of people have to die? By foregoing radio and telephone to communicate by letter, Keegan explains, world leaders effectively rendered themselves deaf and blind. The problem was grotesquely amplified on the battlefield, where weapons technology had advanced to the point that entire regiments could be wiped out in a matter of hours. No other history brings the war’s mind-boggling magnitude — 70,000 British soldiers killed and 170,000 wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele alone — into sharper focus.

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(Aurum Press)

3. Gallipoli

By Alan Moorehead

As an acclaimed correspondent for London’s Daily Express, Moorehead covered WWII from North Africa to Normandy. But the Australian once swore he’d never write about the most famous military engagement in his nation’s history: the Battle of Gallipoli. He’d heard more than enough stories from ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) veterans back home and had grown bored with the subject. Thankfully, he changed his mind — and his eloquent, elegiac account is a modern day masterpiece. From Winston Churchill’s plan to “launch the greatest amphibious operation mankind had known up till then” to the costly, avoidable blunders that doomed 50,000 Allied troops (11,000 of them from Australia and New Zealand), Moorehead vividly captures the grand ambition and tragic folly of the campaign. His sketch of army officer Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the seeds of modern-day Turkey’s independence were sown at Gallipoli.

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(Random House Publishing Group)

4. Paris 1919

By Margaret MacMillan

WWI brought about the fall of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires and displaced millions of people across Europe. Faced with the monumental task of reshaping the world, Allied leaders convened the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Over the next six months, delegates from 27 nations redrew international borders, hashed out the terms of Germany’s surrender, and laid the groundwork for the League of Nations. Above all, they aimed to prevent another world war. They failed, of course — Hitler invaded Poland just 20 years later—but this engrossing, comprehensive history debunks the harshest judgments of the Treaty of Versailles and provides essential context for understanding its myriad repercussions. MacMillan covers impressive ground, from the Balkans to Baku to Baghdad, without losing focus on the colorful personalities and twists of fate that make for a great story

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(Orion Publishing Group, Limited)

5. Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

The daughter of a well-to-do paper manufacturer, Vera Brittain left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to join England’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in London, Malta, and France. Like so many others of her generation, she felt called to be a part of something larger than herself. By the war’s end — and before she turned 25 — she had lost her fiancé, her brother, and two of her closest friends. Her chronicle of the war years, her return to Oxford, and her attempts to forge a career as a journalist is both an elegy for a lost generation and a landmark of early 20th-century feminism. Upon the book’s original publication in 1933, the New York Times declared that no other WWI memoir was “more honest, more revealing within its field, or more heartbreakingly beautiful”. Eighty-five years later, that assessment still rings true.

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(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. Goodbye to All That

By Robert Graves

This spellbinding autobiography is by turns poignant, angry, satirical, and lewd. It’s also, according to literary critic Paul Fussell, “the best memoir of the First World War.” A lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (where he fought alongside his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon), Graves was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme and reported killed in action. His family had to print a notice in the newspaper that he was still alive. As befitting a man returned from the dead, Graves breaks all conventions, mixing fact and fiction to get to the poetic truth of trench warfare. Sassoon, for one, objected to the inaccuracies, but Good-bye to All That touched a nerve with war-weary readers and made Graves famous. It has gone on to influence much of the 20th-century’s finest war literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

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(Penguin Publishing Group)

7. Storm of Steel

By Ernst Jünger

An international bestseller when it was originally published in 1920, this fiercely lyrical memoir is the definitive account of the German experience during WWI. Jünger, a born warrior who ran away from home at the age of 18 to join the French Foreign Legion, fought with the German infantry in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Cambrai. He was wounded seven times during the war, most severely during the 1918 Spring Offensive, when he was shot through the chest and nearly died. He received the German Empire’s highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite, for his service. Taken from Jünger’s war diary, Storm of Steel has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that separates it from other WWI autobiographies. Some have criticized it as a glorification of war, while others, including Matterhorn author and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, think it’s one of the truest depictions of the combat experience ever written.

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(Random House Publishing Group)

8. All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque

This iconic German novel was first serialized in 1928, 10 years after the armistice. The book version sold millions of copies and was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. By then, the Nazi Party was the second largest political party in Germany; Joseph Goebbels led violent protests at the film’s Berlin screenings. Three years later, he banned and publicly burned Remarque’s books in one of his first orders of business as Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. Why the intense hatred for the story of a young man who volunteers to fight in WWI? Because it is one of the most powerful anti-war novels in Western literature. In Remarque’s downbeat tale, one nameless battle is indistinguishable from the next and the lucky survivors are doomed to lifetimes of disillusionment and alienation. No other book, fiction or nonfiction, conveys the existential horror of trench warfare so clearly.

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(Penguin Publishing Group)

9. Regeneration

By Pat Barker

This audaciously intelligent, powerfully moving historical novel, the first in a trilogy, opens with the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s letter refusing to return to active duty after receiving treatment for gastric fever. The declaration, which was read in the House of Commons, earned him a mandatory stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was treated for shell shock by the noted neurologist Dr. William Rivers and became friends with fellow poet Wilfred Owen. From these facts, Barker fashions one of the most original works of WWI literature, intertwining fact and fiction to explore Freudian psychology, the doctor-patient relationship, nationalism, masculinity, and the British class system, among other fascinating topics. Foregoing battlefields and trenches to explore the terrain of the human mind, Barker gets to the essential truth of WWI: No one who lived through it — man or woman, soldier or civilian — saw the world the same way again.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why finding war allegories in Tolkien’s work is complicated

There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.

This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.

The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”


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If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.

(United States Department of Energy)

The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.

His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:

As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.

Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.

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Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.

(Warner Bros.)

In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.

When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.

The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.

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To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.

(Warner Bros.)

As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.

Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.

But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.

There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)

Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.

This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Army paratroopers jump from a perfectly good Chinook

Helicopters have long been valuable to the military for a bevy of reasons — perhaps most importantly because they expand where you can put troops down. For these versatile aircraft, landing zones can be just about any clearing that a helicopter can fit.

Sometimes, however, the best option may not be to land the helicopter at all. Why? For one thing, when a helicopter is touching down to drop off troops, it’s vulnerable. As it hovers in place, it is, for all intents and purposes, a sitting duck. So, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, a bird is sometimes better off delivering paratroopers.


The CH-47 Chinook is a very good fit for that mission. Boeing notes that this helicopter has a mission radius of 200 nautical miles, far enough to get some Rangers or Green Berets well behind enemy lines. A single helicopter can hold up to 55 troops (or 12 tons of cargo). And, to top it all off, its rear ramp is similar to those on the C-130 and C-17, both planes used by paratroopers

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U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with British, French, Spanish and Italian Paratroopers, board a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an airborne operation at Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Aviano, Italy.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

One reason this is so valuable is that America has a lot of Chinooks. Between CH-47D/F and MH-47G helicopters, the United States Army has 483 Chinooks on hand with another 40 on order, making for a grand total of 523 airframes. By comparison, the United States Air Force has a total of 204 C-130H and 115 C-130J airframes on hand, with another 62 C-130Js on order. These accompany 60 MC-130H/Js on hand with another 43 on order. That’s a total of 484 C-130s.

For those unfamiliar with the whole “math” thing, 523 is greater than 484.

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From a C-130? No, these paratroopers came from a Chinook.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

But how does one make a successful jump from a Chinook? Well, it’s actually not much different than jumping from a fixed-wing plane. Normal paratroopers will hook up a static line that will automatically open their parachutes. Free-fall parachutists can just run out the back ramp (again, just as you would from a fixed-wing plane).

Watch the video to below to see troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade carry out some practice jumps from a Chinook!

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos show how the military is rescuing Florence victims

As Hurricane Florence, now weakened to a tropical depression, continues to wreak havoc along the East Coast, where it has claimed at least two dozen lives, more than 10,000 US service members are providing emergency assistance to those in need.

The Department of Defense, as of Sept. 15, 2018, had deployed a total of 13,470 personnel, 5,400 active-duty service members and 7,857 National Guard to support hurricane relief efforts. Additionally, 1,286 military assets, such as rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, high-water vehicles, and swift boats have been dispatched to assist with ongoing response operations.


“The collaboration between the Department of Defense, FEMA, and state and local partners is absolutely critical to our National Response Framework,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander USNORTHCOM said in a statement, adding, “We remain well informed of the emergency response requirements and are ready to respond when military assistance is requested.”

The following photos show the US military in action, lending a much needed hand to rescue people and even animals affected by the storm.

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U.S. Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) drive through the rain to a local fire station in order to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele)

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

The most famous Navy SEALs

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

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(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

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(U. S. Army photo by Spc. Andrea Salgado Rivera)

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kelly)

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The most famous Navy SEALs

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez)

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

The most famous Navy SEALs

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

US Marines with Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training conduct post hurricane cleanup at the Marine Corps Exchange on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remembering Marine Veteran Dan Manrique

Former Marine Sergeant Dan Manrique left the Marine Corps in 2007 after a deployment to the Middle East and returned home to Thousand Oaks, in the northwest part of greater Los Angeles, ready to start a new chapter in his life. Like many Marines, Dan loved physical fitness, serving his country, and beer. He struggled to find a community that could offer the same camaraderie and esprit de corps that he felt on a daily basis while in the Corps. That was, until Dan joined a local chapter of Team Red, White & Blue, who affectionately refer to themselves as “Eagles.”


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Genevieve Urquidi (Center) Dan Manrique (Right) with fellow Eagles at a Team RWB event.

Dan found his passion within Team RWB’s mission, “to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.” Team RWB brings civilians and veterans together by organizing both volunteer and social events within local communities.

Dan, a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, quickly bonded with his fellow Eagles while watching his favorite team. One of Dan’s close friends and fellow Team RWB Eagle Genevieve Urquidi recalled to We Are The Mighty about first meeting Dan in 2013,

“My first impression of him was that he was super nice but quiet. Over the next few years, the dynamic of our relationship changed from being teammates to being friends.”
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Dan Manrique (Bottom Left) enjoys a beer with his fellow Eagles.

As a member of Team RWB, Dan thrived in a group that allowed him to both serve his community with volunteer work and also build lasting friendships. Dan soon took his desire to serve one step farther by helping other veterans find the same renewed sense of purpose that he discovered as an Eagle. Dan worked passionately with homeless and other veterans in need within the Los Angeles area. Members of Team RWB often volunteer on weekends and after a long day of community service Dan loved to come together with his friends for his other passion, craft beer.

Soon Dan’s fellow Eagles encouraged and inspired him to follow his own dream of starting a business that would echo the things Dan loved in life, service and beer. In 2015, Dan launched a craft beer company with his close friend, Tim O’Brien, creatively named the O’Brique Brewing Company, with the goal of “making great beer that follows and builds upon the lessons of the military…service, camaraderie, and causes greater than ourselves.”

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Fellow Eagles carry their favorite pictures of Dan Manrique during the honor run.

(Photo courtesy of on_the_move_photography)

While he continued to build his business, Dan, the epitome of a Marine NCO, soon worked his way up from volunteer to full-time staff member with Team RWB. As a Pacific Region Program Manager, Dan dedicated himself to building up the Team RWB community in Southern California by planning group activities, such as, volunteer work, attending Dodger games, outdoor events, and, of course, beer tastings.

Laura Werber, a member of the Team RWB board of directors and Los Angeles Eagle told We Are the Mighty about her friend Dan,

“One of my favorite memories of Dan is his leading a “squat challenge” on the summit of Mt Baldy. On those hikes, we chatted about our mutual love of craft beer and his aspirations to run his own brewery. I took pride in Dan’s progress on his business, as I sampled the fruits of his labor, admired the website he had produced, and listened to his plans to launch his business.”

Sadly, last week, Dan and 11 others, including a Sheriff’s officer, were killed in the Thousand Oaks shooting at the Borderline bar. In the wake of this tragedy, members of the Los Angeles veterans community and Team RWB came together to honor their fallen friend.

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Friends and fellow Eagles gather in honor of Dan Manrique

(Photo courtesy of on_the_move_photography)

On Saturday night, also the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps, members of Team RWB gathered together and raised their glasses to Dan Manrique. Friends and fellow veterans shared stories about the positive impact Dan had on their lives. Then, in the early morning of this Veterans Day, over 100 members of the community organizedan Honor Run along the Santa Monica beaches in Dan’s memory.

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Messages left in memory of Dan Manrique

(Photo courtesy of on_the_move_photography)

Fellow Marine veteran and close friend Rudy Andrade, who participated in both events, told We Are The Mighty, about the feeling of community Dan inspired in others,

“I felt the loss but I also felt the support of everyone who came to honor Dan. He is gone but the love he shared with us continues.”

As Dan’s fellow Eagles said their goodbyes, many of his friends and fellow veterans reflected on how he would have enjoyed their final salute. Tim O’Brien, Dan’s business partner, has renewed his commitment to keep the brewery running,

“It will be part of Dan’s legacy. He wanted a beer that serves. A brewery that contributes to causes and the community veteran-owned, so we’re going to keep it going.”

Dan’s funeral service will be held later this week with many of his fellow Eagles coming from across the country to pay respects to their fallen friend. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Team RWB in Dan’s memory.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Britain’s Ministry of Defence plays for time (and money) in a dangerous world

In December 2018, just before policymakers and pundits escaped their besieged bunkers for Christmas, the UK government published the long-awaited final report on its Modernising Defence Programme. This programme was meant to update the military commitments made in the last full-blown Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015.

How far it has succeeded in that task is debatable, however. The report’s brevity and lack of detail left many lamenting a missed opportunity.

Revising 2015’s review became necessary thanks to a marked change in circumstances. Partly, those changes are strategic. Relations with Russia have deteriorated even further since 2015, Islamic State (IS) is much diminished, and new military technologies and tactics are advancing.


Mainly, however, those changes are economic. The lower growth trajectory induced by Brexit has reduced the resources available to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). (The UK Defence Budget is set at 2% of GDP, which means that if GDP is smaller than it might have been, so too is the budget available to the military.)

The pound’s depreciation since the Brexit vote in 2016 has also raised the real costs of buying defence equipment from abroad, such as the US-sourced F-35 combat jet. A broader rise in inflation has further added to cost pressures on a 2015 review that was already seen as financially optimistic.

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F-35B Lightning II.

Taken together, these pressures have stretched the disconnect between intended military expenditures and available resources beyond the point that could reasonably be ignored. A political consequence of this has been the MOD —currently led by Gavin Williamson MP, a Defence Secretary unusually willing to provoke budgetary confrontations within Whitehall —demanding more government money to ensure that neither current nor planned military capabilities receive further cuts.

The Treasury, for its part, recognizes that Britain’s security environment has deteriorated to a worse condition than at any point since the Cold War. Yet it is still attempting to avoid major new spending commitments until the full fiscal shock of Brexit becomes clear. It has also long been skeptical of the MOD’s budgetary requests, viewing the department as a perennial financial black hole.

Political turmoil, strategic change

With a full cross-government spending review now scheduled for post-Brexit 2019, this Modernising Defence Programme report represents multiple levels of compromise. It has provided the government with a “good news” item, in the form of modest amounts of new funding to important areas such as high-technology research and “net assessment” of threats.

It also recognizes growing pressures in defence, such as the need to increase the usability of existing equipment if Britain is to pose a credible conventional deterrent against Russia (for example, by ensuring adequate numbers and varieties of munitions for ships and aircraft).

But the report has also dodged some of the hardest choices. For if more money is not eventually forthcoming from the Treasury to pay for equipment — and the people and infrastructure who turn such equipment from mere “stuff” into effective fighting capability — how will it be paid for or what will need to be cut?

These “micro” politics are all occurring against a backdrop of “macro” change in Britain’s strategic environment. The post-Cold War era of unrivaled American (and therefore Western) power is arguably coming to an end, with the rise of China and partial resurgence of Russia.

All of Britain’s closest alliances are simultaneously in flux. With the major European powers, this is due to Brexit. With the US, it is thanks to a combination of President Trump’s mercurial temperament and a longer standing requirement to pivot towards containment of China.

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United States President Donald Trump.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)

Yet even as Washington wants to focus on Beijing, European states face a hostile power in their own region, in the form of a Russia that sees good reasons to weaken and ideally break NATO.

Besides the Russia situation, political demands for UK military commitments in other regions also still remain — in the Middle East, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, and increasingly in East Asia too. This difficulty of juggling pressing regional defence needs with a desire for expansive global involvement reflects two competing sets of long-standing pressures in British strategy: the aspiration to play an influential role in the world versus the need to safeguard national security.

A combination of strained alliances and ever-expanding political demands explains the MOD’s determination to secure funds to rebuild UK military capability. After 20 years of preoccupation with counter-terrorism and humanitarian intervention, the current Defence Equipment Programme is now more focused on the heavier “state-on-state” capabilities required to deter a hostile major power in the North Atlantic region (warships, combat aircraft, mechanized ground forces, and so forth). And all of this must take place while still having enough left over to do a bit of all the other things that are asked of the armed forces.

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The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), HMS Sutherland (F81), and HMS Iron Duke (F234).

(UK Ministry of Defence photo)

Without the budget to fulfill recent ambitions, the MOD will not be confident that it can meet Britain’s defence needs. So rather than accept cuts today, this latest report plays for time. The hope is that the tougher security environment of tomorrow will ultimately persuade the Treasury to release more resources for defence, especially once Brexit has been and gone.

To that extent, December 2018’s report achieved its aims. A bit more funding for advanced technology research and net assessment is no bad thing. A recognition that Britain needs more robust stockpiles of fuel, spares, munitions, and expertise was long overdue. And the MOD has managed to delay its day of reckoning with the Treasury until after the initial fiscal shock of Brexit.

A delay is not a victory, however. There is no sign yet of the substantial uplift in funding or the cuts to planned capabilities necessary to place the armed forces on a sound budgetary footing. That hard day of financial reckoning could therefore still be to come.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

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The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

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US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

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A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

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