Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you'd think - We Are The Mighty
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Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

News about the civil unrest in Nicaragua has been under-reported in recent days as one of the last true Marxist-Leninist dictators is at the center of the killings of student protesters and journalists. And it could spark another Central American civil war.


The leader and chairman of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista Party, Daniel Ortega, announced a tax increase on Apr. 18. Along with the tax increase, pension benefits are to be greatly reduced. What started as a peaceful demonstration against these changes turned deadly when authorities and pro-Sandinista groups used live ammunition on the protesting crowds.

Ortega first rose to power as a Communist revolutionary in 1978. His Soviet backing and strong anti-American views grabbed the attention of the Reagan Administration in 1985 which lead to America backing the Contras, an anti-communist counter-revolutionary group. After the details of the Iran-Contra Affair were made public, however, the U.S. backed out of the region — but the Nicaraguan Revolution had already claimed 30,000 lives.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, so, too, did Ortega’s control over Nicaragua. Still, he vowed that he would lead from the shadows. He ran for president in every election that followed. Herty Lewites, the more popular candidate in the 2006 election, was threatened, told that he “could end up hanged” if he continued to run. Lewites died of a sudden heart attack shortly before the election. Ortega became president again when he won with 36% of the vote that year.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
A totally legitimate election…
(Courtesy Photo)

He then abolished Nicaragua’s presidential term limits to remain in power indefinitely.

However, since Ortega became president, Nicaragua has actually been relatively stable. The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua even lists the country as the safest in Central America for U.S. tourists.

Ortega seemed to have changed his stripes and had relabeled himself as a Democratic Socialist who was very eco-friendly (despite highly advocating a new canal to rival the Panama Canal that would devastate the countryside). He claimed that he was embracing his Catholic faith (despite ignoring Pope Francis’ recent denouncements against the violence in Nicaragua). He also claimed to be anti-Capitalist and insisted that was there for the people (despite being the country’s fourth richest person and slowly making a fairly obvious power grab).

The current death toll of protesters and journalists at the time of this writing is 63. Protesters who have been arrested allege the use of torture and report having their heads shaven and being left barefoot in the outskirts of Managua. There are calls for the United Nations Human Rights Office to investigate human rights abuses.

The country is dependent on outside trade and tourism and the people are still reeling from the effects of the last civil war almost 50 years ago, so nobody wants a violent answer to this problem. Currently, the tumult is contained within Managua, but there’s no denying that Nicaragua is at a turning point. Either Ortega will be removed from power peacefully or this will spark a bloody revolution. It’s a situation that echoes the economic unrest and political dissatisfaction that characterized the Arab Spring of 2011.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘the Rock of the Marne’ changed World War I in Europe

America’s entry into World War I began with a year-long buildup beginning in April 1917. By late spring and early summer of 1918, that buildup was nearly complete.

In response, the Germans launched a series of offensives, desperate to defeat the French, British and other allies. But ultimately, they would be overwhelmed with the addition of fresh American troops and firepower, according to Brian F. Neumann, a historian at the Center of Military History who compiled the pamphlet: “The U.S. Army in the World War I Era.”


One of the final German pushes occurred in the early morning hours of July 15, 1918, in the Champagne-Marne area of northern France, where German assault troops and artillery pounded the U.S. 3rd Division lines.

The weight of the attack came against Col. Edmund Butts’ 30th Infantry and Col. Ulysses Grant McAlexander’s 38th Infantry. After heavy fighting in the morning, when the 30th Infantry “inflicted horrendous casualties” on the Germans, Butts’ men were forced back to a line along the hills where they stopped the Germans.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

U.S. Soldiers engage the Germans in the trenches during the Champagne-Marne campaign in northern France, July 15, 1918.

(U.S. Army artwork by Travis Burcham)

Elsewhere, five miles beyond the Marne River, McAlexander faced a more precarious position when the adjacent French division hastily retreated, leaving the 38th Infantry’s right flank exposed, Neumann said.

Turning some of the regiment to defend that flank, McAlexander also had to deal with a penetration of his main line. Although fighting on three sides, the riflemen and machine gunners of the 38th Infantry held their ground, earning the sobriquet “Rock of the Marne.”

The 3rd Infantry Division is still known by that moniker, and its soldiers are proud of the heritage that inspired it.

By the end of that July 15th day, the 3rd Division had stopped the German attack.

Together, the 30th Infantry and 38th Infantry had defeated six regiments from two German divisions. One German 1,700-man regiment was so badly cut up that the German leaders could only find 150 survivors by nightfall, Neumann noted.

Bad news also mixed with good that day. Four rifle companies of the 28th Division from the Pennsylvania National Guard had been attached to a French division to the east of the 38th Infantry. When the French retreated, they neglected to inform the Pennsylvanians, and the riflemen became surrounded. Most of them were killed or captured; only a few fought their way to the south to rejoin their parent division.

Heavy fighting involving U.S. forces occurred near Paris in mid-to-late July, in what became known as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.

By the first week of August, the U.S. Army’s I Corps and III Corps had successfully wrapped up that campaign, removing the threat against the French capital and liberating several important railroads for allied use. That effort also eliminated the German high command’s plans for another offensive against the British in Flanders.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

French infantrymen and “Doughboys” of the Army’s 3d Division.

(Illustration by George Matthews Harding)

“More important, the campaign effectively seized the initiative from the Germans and gave it to [French supreme allied commander, Gen. Ferdinand] Foch and his national commanders. The chance had passed for Germany to defeat Britain and France before the United States could intervene in force,” Neumann said.

The leader of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John Pershing, finally got his chance to command a large American-led campaign that included many French soldiers. The campaign in northern France, known as the St. Mihiel Offensive, lasted Sept. 12 to 16. Up until that time, U.S. units were used mainly in a piecemeal fashion.

Firepower included over 3,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 planes and 267 tanks, mostly supplied by the French and British, but manned to a large extent by Americans, Neumann said.

Pershing, at the suggestion of Gen. Henri-Philippe Pétain, commander of French forces, developed an elaborate scheme to deceive the Germans into thinking that the first blow would come to the south near Belfort on Sept. 12.

French and U.S. forces under Pershing’s leadership executed a four-hour long artillery bombardment against the German lines, an action commonly considered a prelude to attack by infantry and cavalry forces, Neumann noted.

The scheme worked well enough to get the Germans to move three divisions into that sector, while allied forces, led by both I Corps and IV Corps infantrymen and tankers, began their attack in other more vulnerable areas.

“The Germans put up a determined defense long enough to retreat in good order,” Neumann noted.

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, Pershing learned that columns of Germans were retreating on roads from Vigneulles. The general urged both the 1st and 26th Divisions to continue their attacks through the night to press their advantage. The 1st Division was under IV Corps and the 26th Division came under V Corps.

The 26th Division moved quickly throughout the night, capturing the strategic town of Vigneulles by 2:30 a.m., Sept. 13. The 1st Division then linked up with them, securing nearly all of their objectives, he said.

In two days the U.S. soldiers suffered some 7,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000 on the German defenders.

By Sept. 15, the St. Mihiel Offensive was successfully concluded. This operation paved the way for further offensives that would doom the German army in the coming months, Neumann said.

Neumann added that the offensive gave Pershing and his staff “experience in directing a battle of several corps, supported by tanks and aircraft.”

Such an operation today is referred to as combined arms maneuver. But back then, it was a new approach to fighting.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

David Robinson’s meteoric rise from the Naval Academy to the NBA

If you had told David Robinson when he entered the Naval Academy that he would become one of the all-time greats in professional basketball, he probably would have rolled his eyes at you and laughed. But, by the time Robinson’s NBA career was over, that’s exactly what happened. With his dominant 7’1 stature and unprecedented agility for a center, Robinson earned a sure-fire ticket to the Hall of Fame.


Robinson became a two-time NBA champion, NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, and led the league in scoring, rebounds and blocks several times. He also was a three-time Olympian, winning the gold medal twice, most famously as a member of the 1992 USA Basketball team. The team would go down as the best basketball team of all time, forever remembered as the Dream Team.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

live.staticflickr.com

But the future NBA legend didn’t start playing basketball until his senior year of high school. Born to a career Navy man, Robinson spent his childhood moving around until his father’s retirement. Finally, the family settled in Virginia. By this time, Robinson was a great athlete and pretty tall for his age. He excelled at many sports, but when he tried basketball in junior high, it didn’t go well despite his 5’9 frame at such a young age. By the time he was a senior in high school, he had blossomed to 6’6 and decided to try again.

It turned out he was pretty decent. He was the star player on the team and was named an all-district player. But that wasn’t enough to get much attention from college scouts, so while he was a late bloomer in basketball, it looked like it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

Robinson likely didn’t mind and had his sights set on a better prize. He had worked really hard on his academics and wanted to fulfill his dream of being a Naval Officer. He applied and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy in 1983 with hopes he would become a career officer. Robinson was recruited to play basketball there by Coach Paul Evans. Evans had seen Robinson and figured he would be a great back up to the team he had steadily built over the years.

After his acceptance, however, Robinson had a small growth spurt. He grew to 6’7 and that put him over the maximum height for the Academy. But the Navy quickly granted a waiver as he wasn’t even the biggest player on the team and figured he wouldn’t grow anymore.

They were wrong.

His freshman year, Robinson played as a backup but then had the mother of all growth spurts between his first and second year, taking him from 6’7 to 7’0. While growing, he kept his lithe athleticism, which turned him from a backup winger to a very versatile center. His sophomore year, he became one of the most dominant centers in college basketball and a true national star.

At the same time, he was drawing attention from the media and NBA scouts, and questions started to arise as to whether or not an NBA team would draft him in two years. He was a Midshipman and had a five-year commitment to the Navy after graduating. Robinson wanted to honor that commitment and had said he had no problem serving out his commitment as that is what he knowingly signed up for.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

But it turned out that awesome growth spurt that gave birth to his basketball superstardom also was about to limit his Naval Career.

Robinson already had a waiver to get into the Navy at 6’7, but now being a seven-footer, he was not allowed to be an unrestricted line officer. He would never command a ship and would be relegated to shore duty because of his height.

In the meantime, the Academy was getting significant media attention and scouts were trying to get as much information about Robinson as possible. He would be eligible for the draft in two years, but would a team have to wait five more years to see him play? Would any team want to draft a player in 1987 and have the only uniform he would wear until 1992 be a military uniform?

The Navy itself looked at Robinson’s situation as well and realized the predicament. Yes, he signed up for a five-year commitment, but at the time, he was still eligible to be an unrestricted line officer. But now that that plan was scrapped, they also realized that Robinson could have another growth spurt and be disqualified from the Navy in general. Could they really benefit by having a Naval Academy Midshipman not be a first-round draft pick?

At the time this was happening, the Navy had some great PR. They had another graduate, Napoleon McCallum, who was drafted by a USFL team and would spend his weekend playing for the Raiders and then the Rams. They were also about to benefit from a movie that was about to come out about Naval Aviators that featured a young star named Tom Cruise, awesome action sequences and an amazing soundtrack.

Being in his sophomore year, Robinson could have selected to leave the Academy, transfer to another school, sit out a year and play a final year putting him in the league in 1988. Would he really wait until 1992? Would he want to pursue the Navy that would restrict him from advancing in rank while missing out on millions of dollars?

The Navy didn’t want to lose Robinson and decided to take steps to keep him at the Academy and have him serve while still protecting his future basketball career.

The discussion went all the way up to Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who figured in the best interest of the Navy, Robinson would serve as a Naval Reserve Officer. After graduating, he would serve two years on active duty and then be allowed to go play basketball. During those two years, however, Robinson would be allowed to play in international competitions. (The Navy wanted Robinson on the 1988 Olympic team.)

Robinson agreed and played the next two years at the Academy, taking the Midshipmen to the Elite 8 one year. He became the dominant center in basketball his senior year and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson spent two years stationed at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, in Georgia. He worked as an engineering officer, worked out relentlessly to keep his basketball skills honed and ended up making that Olympic team. (In an ironic twist, that U.S. team lost which partly spurned officials to create an Olympic team with NBA stars in 1992. This would become the legendary Dream Team Robinson was a part of). Robinson was also the de facto poster boy for Navy recruitment as they took the opportunity to plaster his image on every promotional asset they could.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

Robinson joined the Spurs in 1989 and never looked back. He was a legend at center, won gold in Barcelona with the Dream Team and won two NBA titles. He also was a devoted philanthropist and man of faith; so much so that in 2003 the NBA gave recipients of its Community Assist award the David Robinson plaque.

Robinson started the Carver Academy in 2001, which helps inner-city kids reach new heights in education. In 2012, it became a public charter school with Robinson doing the lion share of donating and fundraising while taking an active day-to-day role in the school’s operations.

It’s amazing to think how a growth spurt could change someone’s life so much and impact millions of others as well.

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That time pirates mistook a Navy warship for a target

Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.


Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
An armed suspected pirate looks over the edge of a skiff, in international waters off the coast of Somalia. (U.S. Navy photo.)

 

According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.

 

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
Confiscated weapons lay on the deck of guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) following an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. (U.S. Navy photo.)

 

A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
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The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.

 

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
Evidence of small arms fire impact is visible on USS Cape St. George’s (CG 71) hull after suspected pirates opened fire on USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and Cape St. George. (U.S. Navy photo.)

The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
A suspected pirate vessel ignites in flames before burning to the waterline. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think
Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and other armaments lay on the deck of USS Cape St. George (CG 71) after being confiscated during an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After capturing Ukrainian sailors, Russia threatens more missiles

Martial law came into force across a large swath of Ukraine on Nov. 28, following a clash at sea that Kyiv called an “act of aggression” by Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed was ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March.

Ukraine introduced martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — after Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Nov. 25 before seizing the boats and detaining 24 crew members, six of whom were wounded.


Ukraine imposes martial law as tensions with Russia escalate

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In two days of hearings, courts in Russian-controlled Crimea ordered all 24 to be held in custody for two months pending possible trial, defying calls from Kyiv and the West for their immediate release and also signaling that the Kremlin wants to cast the incident as a routine border violation rather than warfare at sea.

The detention period can be extended, and the Ukranians face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal border crossing.

https://twitter.com/NeilMacFarquhar/statuses/1067711905572229120
Seems #Russia will try to barrel through aftermath of the #KerchStrait confrontation by treating it as a court case. 15 of 24 #Ukraine sailors already sentenced to 2 months pretrial detention, including three in Kerch who must be the wounded. Other 9 expected today.

twitter.com

In his first public comments on the incident that increased already high tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and sparked concerns of a widening of the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Russia’a accusation that the Ukrainian boats trespassed in Russian waters — a claim Kyiv has denied.

“It was without doubt a provocation,” Putin told a financial forum in Moscow.

He claimed that the confrontation was orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who opinion polls indicate faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in an election now officially scheduled for March 31.

“It was organized by the president ahead of the elections,” Putin said, adding that Poroshenko “is in fifth place, ratings-wise, and therefore had to do something. It was used as a pretext to introduce martial law.”

Putin claimed that the Ukrainian “military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer” the Russian coast guard. “What were they supposed to do?”

“They would do the same in your country. This is absolutely obvious,” he said, responding to a question from a foreign investor at the forum.

While laying the blame squarely on Ukraine, Putin — whose country could face fresh Western sanctions over the clash — also sought to play it down, saying it was nothing more than a border incident and calling martial law an exaggerated response.

Opinion polls in Ukraine suggest that Poroshenko faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in a presidential election scheduled for March 31.

Some Kremlin critics suspect that it was Putin who orchestrated the clash, in an attempt to bolster his own approval rating amid anger in Russia over plans to raise the retirement age.

In earlier comments at the same conference, Putin said he hopes he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this week in Argentina, as planned.

Trump cast doubt on the meeting on November 27, telling The Washington Post that he might not meet with Putin as a result of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, adding: “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Ukraine Imposes Martial Law for 30 Days

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The Ukrainian parliament late on November 26 voted to impose martial law for 30 days in the provinces that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

The 10 provinces all border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Among other things, martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to order a partial mobilization, strengthen air defenses, and take steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

It is the first time Ukraine has imposed martial law since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 and backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in a war that erupted in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk the following month.

Those moves, which prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia, followed the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by a pro-European protest movement known as the Maidan.

While Russian forces occupied Crimea before the takeover and are heavily involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, according to Kyiv and NATO, the clash in the Black Sea near Crimea was the first case in which Russia has acknowledged its military or law enforcement forces have fired on Ukrainians.

Vox Pop: What Ukrainians Think About Martial Law

www.rferl.org

Before Putin made his comments, the Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a “reckless” act that “potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast” of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Russian military said it will bolster the defenses of Russian-controlled Crimea by add one S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the three already deployed there.”

The new air-defense missile system will soon be put on combat duty to guard Russian airspace,” Colonel Vadim Astafyev said. State-run news agency RIA Novosti said the system will be operational by the end of the year.

Moscow claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the overwhelming majority of countries reject that and still consider it to be part of Ukraine.

Poroshenko said that Russia’s actions threatened to lead to a “full-scale war” and accused Moscow of mounting a major buildup of forces near Ukraine.

“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” Poroshenko said in a television interview late on November 27, adding that the number of Russian tanks has tripled. Russia has not commented.

The clash in waters near Crimea was by far the biggest confrontation at sea after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 civilians and combatants have been killed.

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait, where Russia opened a bridge leading to Crimea in May.

The strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports.

In comments to The Washington Post published on November 27, Trump said he was considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1.

Trump told The Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” from his national-security team about the incident.

“That will be very determinative,” Trump told The Washington Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting…I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 28 that “preparations are continuing, the meeting was agreed.”

“We don’t have any other information from [U.S. officials],” he said when asked about Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged European states to do more to support Ukraine and said Washington wants to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.

European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian crew members.

On November 27, Russian courts in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Kerch ordered 15 of the Ukrainians to be held in custody for two months. Hearings for the other nine on November 28 produced the same result.

The mother of detained sailor Andriy Eyder, Viktoria Eyder, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the Black Sea port city of Odesa that her son was “wounded and is hospitalized in Kerch.”

The court rulings put the sailors 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.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, Interfax, and RIA

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can shooting plastic explosives really set them off?

James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?

Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.

Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.


Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.

Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.

Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.

While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.

Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that when consumed in anything other than extremely tiny quantities, C-4 can cause a host of health problems, as noted in a case study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2002 where a soldier decided to swallow about a cubic centimeter of the substance… Potential resulting complications of mimicking this moronic act include “generalized seizures, lethargy, coma, muscular twitching, hyperreflexia, myalgias, headaches, vomiting, mild renal injury, and haematuria (blood in your pee).”

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.

Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.

There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.

This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.

So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Hospitals desperate: If you can sew, we need you!

With the influx of COVID-19 patients, hospitals across the country are critically short of personal protective equipment. Doctors have equated the dire situation to being at war with no ammo; walking into rooms knowing their skillsets are necessary and yet completely vulnerable.

A nurse who asked not to be named shared the horror story of wearing the same disposable mask all day, soaked with condensation from her own breath, knowing that it very well was likely rendered useless after only a short time on her overnight shift. “It’s borderline criminal,” she said. “We are being asked to walk into the fire without basic PPE. You see full hazmat suits on the news overseas, and we can’t even get the basics. This is the United States of America and our supply rooms look like that of a third world country.”

Now, they’re begging for your help.



In World War II, citizens were asked to pitch in for the war effort. Women became Rosies, children collected scrap metal and held tin drives, families grew Victory Gardens.

Our current war on COVID-19 is certainly different. The enemy wears no uniform, takes no sides and is invisible to the eye. But the collective efforts needed from our country to step up remains the same. First, stay home. We’ve heard it over and over again but the importance of physical and social distancing in order to flatten the curve will protect these medical workers and facilities from being overwhelmed with patients at the same time.

Second, hospitals are asking that if you can sew, to make masks. While homemade masks are nowhere near the standards and protections offered by medical grade masks, something is certainly better than nothing. This document put together by UC Berkeley School of Public Health lists hospitals that are currently accepting masks, standards that they’re using and how to drop off. This list is ever-growing, but not exhaustive. If you don’t see your local hospital on the list, reach out to them via social media or call them to see if they’re accepting masks.

How to Sew a Surgical Face Mask for Hospitals

www.youtube.com

Don’t have fabric? JOANN fabrics launched a program last week that provides free fabric, elastic and other essential materials so that customers can make masks at home to donate.

This is our time to come together as a nation, pitch in where we can and help our soldiers on the front lines: our medical community.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think


MIGHTY CULTURE

The Marine Corps is moving all of its raiders to the East Coast

Nearly 15 years after the Marine Corps created its own special operations command, the service is now consolidating the command by moving all its operators to North Carolina.


About 900 Marines, sailors and civilians with the California-based 1st Marine Raider Battalion and its support unit will relocate to Camp Lejeune by the end of 2022. The move, which was announced on Wednesday, will help Marine Corps Special Operations Command become more efficient, officials said in a statement.

The consolidation “will allow MARSOC to gain back almost 2,000 man-days per year,” according to the statement. Those days are otherwise spent on permanent change of station moves and temporary assignment duty requirements.

The move will also allow MARSOC to reform as it shifts its efforts and funding toward preparation for fighting a great-power competition, as laid out in the National Defense Strategy and commandant’s planning guidance, Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, MARSOC’s commander, said on Wednesday.

“MARSOC has been pursuing numerous lines of effort to increase performance, efficiencies, and capabilities … to build a more lethal force and reform the department for greater performance and affordability,” he said in a statement. “One line of effort is the consolidation of all Marine Special Operations Forces to the East Coast.”

Marine Corps Times reported on Wednesday that Marine officials estimate the move will save the command million over a five-year period.

Officials said having all its Raiders on one coast will also improve readiness and deployment-to-dwell time.

“MARSOC will be better positioned to [provide] greater stability and increased quality of life to Marine Raiders and their families,” the statement says.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

Members of 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion have been based at Camp Pendleton since MARSOC was activated in 2006. Moving the units’ personnel and equipment to Camp Lejeune will occur in three phases.

The phases will be timed to minimize disruptions to Marines and their families, MARSOC officials said in the statement announcing the plan. Personnel and families will begin the cross-country moves during the traditional PCS cycle beginning in the summer of 2021.

Those moves are timed to allow families to complete PCS orders between academic school years.

The command is working with community plans and school liaison officers on the East Coast to determine the effects the relocations will have on school districts and the local community in and around Camp Lejeune. Base leaders will work with schools in the area “to anticipate and plan for increases in student population and to ensure that all students will be accommodated effetely and receive a quality education,” officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just tried to claim they took on US fighter jets

Russian media on Jan. 28, 2019, sparked a social-media frenzy after the release of photos that seem to show a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet locked in the crosshairs of a Russian fighter jet.

Online, a source claiming to represent a Russian fighter-jet pilot surfaced with the picture and said two Su-35s tailed and “humiliated” the US jets until a Japanese F-15 surfaced to support the F/A-18s, which the Russians also said were out-maneuvered and embarrassed.


Russian commenters rushed to brand the incident as proof of the “total superiority of the Russian and the total humiliation of the Americans.”

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

A U.S. Navy F/A-18C in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The same source previously said they beat a US F-22 stealth fighter in a mock dogfight — a fighting scenario that involves close-range turning and maneuvering — in the skies above Syria, but this incident supposedly took place over Russia’s far-east region.

The source recently became the first to feature images of Russia’s new stealth combat drone, suggesting some degree of official linkage or access to the Russian military. Russian media, for its part, accepts the source’s claims.

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz, a US European Command spokesman, told Business Insider that US “aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in international airspace and seas, and most interactions are safe and professional.”

“Unless an interaction is unsafe, we will not discuss specific details,” Hontz added.

This suggests that either the encounter happened and was deemed totally safe, or that the encounter did not happen.

The US did have an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Regan, in Russia’s far-east region and in Japan in late January 2019. Japanese fighter jets regularly train with the US.

Russia’s Su-35 holds several advantages over US F/A-18s in dogfights. But, as Business Insider has extensively reported, dogfighting — the focus of World War II air-to-air combat — has taken on a drastically reduced importance in real combat.

The F-15’s dogfighting abilities more closely match up with the Su-35, but, again, these jets now mainly seek to fight and win medium-range standoffs with guided missiles, rather than participate in dogfights.

Additionally, Russian media has a history of running with tales of military or moral victories in their armed forces that usually end with something for Russians to cheer about at the expense of US, which is usually exposed as incompetent.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military dad writes children’s book to explain PTSD to his kids

After sixteen years spent deployed to Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Army Reserve First Sgt. Seth Kastle retired and returned home to Wakeeney, Kansas. And while he was happy to be back with his wife Julia and daughters Raegan and Kennedy, Kastle struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“When I returned home and began the reintegration process, it was difficult, but I didn’t understand why,” Kastle told Babble. To deal with his feelings and hopefully help his kids understand his PTSD, Kastle sat down at the kitchen table and started writing a story he’d been mulling over for a long time. Half an hour later, the first draft of Why Is Dad So Mad? was complete.


Kastle’s effort is a children’s book is about a family of lions, modeled after Kastle’s own, in which the father is struggling with PTSD. The disorder is represented in the book’s illustrations by a fire raging inside his chest.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

(Amazon)

Kastle hopes that his book, which met its initial Kickstarter goal in a matter of hours, helps other veterans and their families, not just his own.

The VA estimates that 11 to 20 percent of veterans of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have experienced PTSD, but it remains a difficult subject to discuss.

“Reading this book to my daughters was a pretty powerful experience,” Kastle said. “After I read it to my oldest daughter, she told me she was sorry I had a fire inside my chest.

“That is something that will stick with me.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the weapon US intelligence thinks North Korea actually tested

North Korea announced April 17, 2019, that it had tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” leading to a lot of speculation about what North Korea, a volatile nation known for its nuclear and missile tests, may have actually fired off.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would only go so far as to say that the weapon “is not a ballistic missile” in his discussions with the press April 18, 2019. He added that there has been “no change to our posture or to our operations.”

The South Korean military, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency, concluded that North Korea was experimenting with a “guided weapon for the purpose of ground battles.”


US intelligence, CNN reported, has assessed that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, not a new, fully-operational weapon. The US determined that the weapon was, as CNN worded it, “inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.”

Satellites and aircraft operating nearby did not detect any evidence that the North launched a short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile. US officials told reporters that had North Korea fired an operational weapon, US sensors would have detected it.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on May 5, 2017.

(KCNA

Meaningful or not, the test, which was reportedly “supervised” by Chairman Kim Jong Un and comes just a few months after the failed summit in Hanoi. Some North Korea watchers believe it was intended to send a message to the Trump administration, as the announcement was accompanied by a call from the North Korean foreign ministry to remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from all future nuclear negotiations.

“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, when it tested what analysts suspect was a thermonuclear bomb, and the country’s last ballistic missile test was the successful launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November that year.

Amid negotiations with Washington, Pyongyang has maintained a strict moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. North Korea has, however, engaged in lower-level weapons testing to signal frustration during these talks.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

Following an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart in November 2018, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The country apparently tested an artillery piece, most likely a multiple rocket launcher. Nonetheless, that test was the first clear sign that North Korea is willing to restart weapons testing if necessary.

The North Korean leader suggested as much in his New Year’s address. “If the U.S. does not keep the promises it made in front of the world, misjudges the patience of our people, forces a unilateral demand on us, and firmly continues with sanctions and pressures on our republic, we might be compelled to explore new ways to protect our autonomy and interests,” Kim explained.

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

Articles

This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

The F-15 is an amazing aircraft that was designed to go head-to-head with the Soviet’s MiG-25 and was the top dog for years, most notably during Desert Storm where American and Saudi Eagles took it to the Iraqis in a big way.


The F-15 has endured because its design was years ahead of its time, and a great data point behind that fact is the time Israeli pilot Zivi Nedivi landed his jet with only one wing. Nedivi had one of his wings sheared off in a midair collision with an A-4 Skyhawk during a training event. Nedivi’s Eagle went into a rapid roll by the crash and he told his navigator to prepare the eject.

Nedivi turned on his afterburners in an attempt to stabilize the jet. The move worked. After his aircraft stabilized, he decided to attempt to land at a base 10 miles away. Because of the fuel coming from the damaged fuselage, neither he nor his wingman knew that the F-15 was missing a wing.

Hear the rest of this amazing story from Nedivi himself in this video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Korean War forced the U.S. Coast Guard to change

The U.S. Coast Guard has served in every American war since the Revolution, but there was a major shift between World War II and Korea, thanks in part to the critical peacetime role the Coast Guard had assumed in 1946: training and preparing the South Korean Navy and Coast Guard before the war.


Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

Commander William Achurch discusses the value of training aids with a Korean naval officer and another U.S. adviser.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

See, in Korea, the Coast Guard ceased to fight as a subordinate of the Navy and started to fight as its own branch, even during war.

During World War II, and nearly every war before that, the Coast Guard was shifted under the Navy during conflict and fought within the Navy ranks. Coast Guardsmen piloted most landing craft in World War II, from Normandy to Guadalcanal, but they did so under Navy command.

Even where Coast Guard officers were holding senior ranks over other Coast Guardsmen, the senior officers were still folded in with their Navy brethren. So, you could be an enlisted Coast Guardsman who was receiving orders from Coast Guard officers and Coast Guard admirals, but that admiral still fell under the fleet admirals and you were all tasked to the Navy Department.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

The destruction at the South Korean capital of Seoul was extensive. The last Coast Guard officers left the city as it fell to the North Korean communists.

(U.S. Army Capt. C.W. Huff)

But in 1947, just after the Army asked the Coast Guard to come to the Korean peninsula and help the democratic forces build a naval arm, the U.S. Navy proposed that the Coast Guard should focus on an expansion of its peacetime duties during times of war instead of trying to assume Navy duties.

So, in 1950, the Communist forces in North Korea invaded South Korea. The initial invasion was wildly successful, and democratic forces were forced to consolidate and withdraw, giving up most of the country before finally holding a tiny toehold on the southern coast.

By 1950, the active duty Coast Guard had been withdrawn from Korea and a few retired officers remained, drawing paychecks from the Army. After the invasion, even these men were withdrawn. One escaped Seoul as the city was destroyed, barely passing one of the key bridges before it blew up.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

A Coast Guard Martin PBM-5G commonly used in search and rescue operations.

(U.S. Coast Guard Bill Larkins)

So, as the war drug on, the Coast Guard was forced to build its own infrastructure to perform its new wartime duties. Two of the most important tasks were to provide weather observations and to conduct search and rescue missions. Both of these tasks required extensive deployment across the Pacific Ocean.

Weather operations rely on observations from a wide area, especially before the advent of satellites. And while search and rescue is typically restricted to a limited area, the Navy and Army needed search and rescue capabilities across their logistics routes from the American west coast to Korea.

So, the Coast Guard was forced to establish stations on islands across the Pacific, placing as many cutters along the routes as they could to act as radio relays and to augment search and rescue stations.

Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

A Navy P2V-5 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare plane like the one that was downed while spying on China in January 1953.

(U.S. Navy)

And one of those search and rescue missions went horribly for those involved. On January 18, 1953, a Navy P-2V Neptune was shot down while spying on Communist forces. The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue seaplane into the rough, cold seas.

The Coast Guard crew managed to land in the seas and pull the seven Navy survivors aboard, but they still needed to get back out of the sea. The Coast Guardsmen placed jet-assisted take-off devices onto the plane and the pilot attempted to get airborne.

Unfortunately, the rough waves doomed the takeoff attempt, and the plane broke up as it slammed into an oncoming wave.

Five Coast Guardsmen were lost before the remaining survivors of the dual wrecks were rescued. All five were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.

Of course, the Coast Guard also had duties back home, guarding ports and conducting investigations to ensure that the people working at docks were loyal to the country to prevent sabotage.

The lifesaving service’s Korea performance would help lead to their role supporting Air Force combat search and rescue in Vietnam. But all of this was a massive departure from World War II where they saw extensive combat but worked almost solely as an entity folded into the U.S. Navy.

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