It’s been over 75 years since the launch of Operation Market Garden – the World War II mission to secure key bridges across Belgium and the Netherlands while pushing an Allied advance over the Rhine into Germany and ending the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Unfortunately, many of Market Garden’s main aims failed, and the Christmas victory was not secured.
That doesn’t mean this brainchild of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery was a total failure, it was just slightly more ambitious than the Allies were prepared for. Here’s why.
It was actually two operations.
Market Garden was divided into two sub-operations. The first was “Market,” an airborne assault that would capture the key bridges Allied forces needed to advance on German positions and cross into Germany. The second was “Garden,” where ground forces actually crossed those bridges and formed on the other side. In the north, the push would circumvent the Siegfried Line, creating the top part of a greater pincer movement of tanks inside Germany’s industrial heartland, as well as a 64-mile bulge in the front line.
Getting there would be slow going.
It was the largest airborne operation ever.
The British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were dropped around Oosterbeek to take bridges near Arnhem and Grave. The U.S. 101st Airborne was dropped near Eindhoven, and the 82nd was dropped near Nijmegen with the aim of taking bridges near there and Grave. In all, some 34,000 men would be airlifted into combat on the first day, with their equipment and support coming in by glider the next day. In the days that followed, they would be relieved by Allied troops zooming North to cross the river.
The Allies thought the Nazis weren’t going to fight.
Isn’t that always what happens in a “surprise” defeat? Underestimating the enemy is always a mistake, no matter what the reason. In this case, the Allies thought German resistance to the invaders would be minimal because the Nazis were in full retreat mode after the Allies liberated much of occupied France. They were wrong. Hitler saw the retreat as a collapse on the Western Front and recalled one of his best Field Marshals from retirement, Gerd von Rundstedt. Von Rundstedt quickly reorganized the German forces in the West and moved reinforcements to the areas near key bridges and major cities.
Even though Dutch resistance fighters and their own communications intercepts told the Allies there would be more fighting than planned, they went ahead with the operation anyway.
Speed was essential and the Allies didn’t have it.
The surprise of using 34,000-plus paratroopers definitely worked on the German defenders. But still, some attacks did not proceed as planned, and though most bridges were taken, some were not, and some were demolished by their defenders. The British were forced to engage their targets with half the men required. What’s worse is that the paratrooper’s relief was moving much slower than expected, moving about half of its planned advance on the first day. To make matters worse, British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks halted his advance on the second day to regroup after assisting in the assault on Nijmegen Bridge.
It was the halt that would keep British troops at Arnhem from getting the forces they needed to be successful and spell the ultimate failure of Market Garden.
The British took the brunt of the casualties.
Overall, Market Garden cost the Allies between 15,000 and 17,000 killed, captured, or wounded. The British 1st Airborne Division was the hardest hit, starting the battle with 10,600 men and suffering 1,485 killed and some 6,414 captured. They failed to take and hold the bridge at Arnhem, encountering stiff resistance and reinforcement from the Nazi troops there. Because of that bridge, the invasion of Nazi Germany over the lower Rhine could not proceed.
“Monty” still saw Market Garden as a success.
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a steadfast supporter of the operation, even after considering all its operational successes and failures. Despite the lack of intelligence and overly optimistic planning in terms of the defenders, Montgomery still considered the operation a “90 percent” success.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has outlined draft legislation that would allow Russian forces to shoot down civilian passenger planes within the country’s airspace.
The draft document placed on the government’s list of proposed legislation says passenger planes that cross into Russian airspace without authorization and do not answer warning signals or respond to warning shots can be shot down if they are deemed to pose a threat of mass deaths, ecological catastrophe, or an assault on strategic targets.
The Cold War was a great time for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It seemed like they were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted in the interest of just seeing if they could do it. But the X-15 was much more than just a power play. Even though the Air Force already had the perfect spy plane, capable of flying across the planet at Mach 3, they still decided to up the game just a little further and came away with some important discoveries, discoveries that led to the creation of the Space Shuttle.
Not to mention the world’s speed record for manned, powered flight – Mach 6.7.
The craft had to be drop launched from the wing of a specially modified B-52 Stratofortress but could reach the very edge of space, setting altitude records for winged aircraft. Once dropped from the wing of the “mother ship” the X-15 launched its XLR-99 rocket engine to propel the craft at hypersonic speeds. It was a unique plane because it was designed to operate in an environment where there was less air than other aircraft.
It was the world’s first spaceplane, thus it used rocket thrusters to control its altitude at times. It could switch back and forth between conventional flight controls as needed for exoatmospheric flight as well as landing the craft.
There were three different X-15 airframes. One suffered from a landing accident in 1962 that injured pilot John McKay. As a result of this flight and the damage suffered to the airframe, the fuselage was lengthened, it was given extra drop tanks for fuel beneath the wings and was given an ablative coating to protect its pilot from the heat of hypersonic flight.
A second one was lost in 1967, just minutes after its launch. The craft had taken a video of the horizon at the edge of space and began its descent to the world below. As the craft descended, it entered a hypersonic spin. Even though its pilot, Michael J. Adams, was able to recover the plane at 36,000 feet, it then went into an inverted dive at Mach 4.7. The plane broke up under the stress and Adams was killed.
Pilots who flew the X-15 to its highest altitudes were eventually given astronaut wings by the U.S. Air Force, considering the craft broke the USAF threshold for the edge of space at 50 miles above the surface of the earth. The craft would also make faster and faster hypersonic flights until Oct.3, 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight took the craft to its maximum speed of 4,520 miles per hour.
Aside from these two achievements, the X-15 also had a number of notable firsts, including being the first restartable, throttle-controlled and man-rated rocket engine. It also tested the first spaceflight stellar navigation system and advanced pressure suits. The X-15 program was a direct ancestor of the modern Space Shuttle program, and without it, many notable achievements would not have happened.
Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.
Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:
In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.
Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:
It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.
Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.
After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.
The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.
This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.
In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.
The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.
To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.
As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.
Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.
After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…
As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.
Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.
Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”
As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.
After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.
In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.
Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.
The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.
How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).
On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)
Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.
Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.
The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line. After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)
All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.
(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)
In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.
Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.
The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
At the time, the treaty was landmark, deemed a new cornerstone of strategic stability.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement for the first time eliminated an entire class of missiles and set up an unprecedented system of arms control inspections — all hailed as stabilizing the rivalry between the keepers of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.
Now, that treaty between Washington and Moscow, known as the INF, is on the rocks, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing plans to abandon the accord, and national-security adviser John Bolton saying in Moscow on Oct. 23, 2018, that the United States will be filing a formal notification of its withdrawal.
What’s next may be the demise of an even bigger, more comprehensive bilateral arms treaty called New START. And experts suggest that if that deal were to become obsolete, it would all but guarantee a new arms race.
“If the [INF] treaty collapses, then the first new START treaty (signed in 2010) and the follow-on New START treaty will probably follow it into the dustbin of history,” Aleksei Arbatov, a negotiator of the 1994 START I treaty, said in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Signed in 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, New START built on the original START I by effectively halving the number of strategic nuclear warheads and launchers the two countries could possess. In February, each country announced it was in compliance.
U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, sign the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.
Though the treaty is due to expire in 2021, the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.
From Moscow’s side, there is interest. During their meeting in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin suggested to Trump that they extend the pact. From Washington’s side, it’s unclear if there is any interest in doing so.
“If the INF treaty goes under, as appears likely, and New START is allowed to expire with nothing to replace it, there will no verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s,” says Kingston Reif, a nuclear analyst at the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank. “The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.”
After simmering quietly in classified intelligence discussions, the INF dispute moved to the front burner in 2014 when the U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that exceeded treaty limits.
Russia denied the accusations, even as Washington officials stepped up their accusations in 2017, accusing Moscow of deploying the missile.
In November of that year, Christopher Ford, then a top White House arms control official, for the first time publicly identified the Russian missile in question as the 9M729.
Trump has pushed the line that, if Russia is not adhering to the INF, then the U.S. won’t either.
Ahead of Bolton’s meeting with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had violated the INF, saying that “Russia was and remains committed to this treaty’s provisions.”
Following Bolton’s meeting with the Russian president amid two days of talks with Russian officials, the U.S. national-security adviser downplayed suggestions that the demise of the INF treaty would undermine global stability. He pointed to the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from another important arms control agreement: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.
As a top arms control official in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton was a vocal advocate for pulling out of the ABM treaty.
National-security adviser John Bolton.
“The reality is that the treaty is outmoded, outdated, and being ignored by other countries,” Bolton said, referring to the INF agreement. “And that means exactly one country was constrained by the treaty” — the United States.
“I’m a veteran arms control negotiator myself, and I can tell you that many, many of the key decisions are made late in the negotiations anyway, so I don’t feel that we’re pressed for time,” Bolton said.
“One of the points we thought was important was to resolve the INF issue first, so we knew what the lay of the land was on the strategic-weapon side. So, we’re talking about it internally…. We’re trying to be open about different aspects of looking at New START and other arms control issues as well,” he said.
All indications to date are that the Trump administration is lukewarm at best on the need to extend New START. When the administration in February2018 released its Nuclear Posture Review—- a policy-planning document laying out the circumstances under which the United States would use its nuclear arsenal — there was no mention of extending the treaty until 2026.
In testimony September 2018 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Trachtenberg, the deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration’s review of whether to extend New START was ongoing.
Matthew Bunn, who oversees the Project On Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, suggests that instead of pulling out of the INF, the Trump administration should push for a bigger deal that includes not only dismantling the Russian missile in question but also extending New START and ensuring it covers the new generation of Russian weaponry under development.
“Letting the whole structure of nuclear arms control collapse would bring the world closer to the nuclear brink, roil U.S. alliances, and undermine the global effort to stem the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said.
“Both sides are now complying with New START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and the predictability — all the more so while the viability of INF is in question,” Ernest Moniz, U.S. energy secretary under Obama, and Sam Nunn, a former Republican senator and arms control advocate, wrote in an op-ed article. “Losing either one of these agreements would be highly detrimental; without both, there will be no arms control constraints on nuclear forces, which will exacerbate today’s already high risks.”
Ford and other U.S. officials had already signaled that the United States was moving more aggressively to push back on the alleged Russian missile deployment.
Asked whether Washington planned to develop and deploy its own intermediate-range missiles — similar to what happened in the 1980s before the INF treaty was signed — Bolton said the Trump administration “was a long way” from that point.
Still, the prospect prompted the European Union’s foreign office to release a statement that criticized both Washington and Moscow.
“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” it said.
Creating a realistic battle scene — whether it’s from World War II or the Napoleonic Wars — demands technical know-how and precise attention to detail.
Paul Biddiss, the military technical adviser on the upcoming World War I movie “1917,” taught the actors everything they needed to know, from proper foot care to how to hold a weapon, “which allows the actor to concentrate on his primary task. Acting!” Biddis told Insider.
Biddiss has worked on projects from a variety of time periods — “large Napoleonic battles through to World War I, World War II, right up to modern-day battles with Special Forces,” Biddiss said.
Read on to learn about how Biddiss prepared “1917” performers for the gruesome, grueling warfare of World War I.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)
Biddiss spent 24 years in the British military before finding a career in film.
Biddiss, a former paratrooper, started his film career as an extra on the movie “Monuments Men.”
Since then, he has worked on projects like “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” and “The Crown.”
“I always tell people military film advising is 60% research and 40% of my own military experience added in to the mix,” Biddiss told Insider by email.
To prepare for a shoot, Biddiss obtains authentic training manuals appropriate to the conflict.
“I like to first understand the recruitment and training process, the rank structure and attitude between the ordinary ranks and officers,” he said. “This helps me better understand the battles and tactics used by the men and what must have been going through their heads at the time.”
That helps him structure a training program appropriate to the conflict, and safe for the performers — even when he’s short on prep time.
“When tasked to train 500 supporting artists for [the BBC’s] ‘War and Peace,’ I only had three days to research Napoleonic warfare and prepare a safe structured training program before flying out to Lithuania to train the men before a large battle sequence.”
Director Sam Mendes with actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay on the set of “1917.”
Training on “1917” started from the ground up — literally.
“Foot care was one of the first lessons I taught George [MacKay] and Dean [Charles Chapman], the importance of looking after their feet daily,” Biddiss said, referring to two stars of “1917.” “Basic recruits are taught this still even today.”
Trench foot, a common condition in World War I, is caused by wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. It can be avoided by keeping the feet dry and clean, but left untreated it can lead to gangrene and amputation.
“The boys were wearing authentic period boots, walking and running in the wet mud all day and if not addressed early would have cause them major problems on set,” Biddiss said. “I taught them how to identify hot spots on the feet where the boots rubbed, taping up those hotspots to prevent blisters and applying talc and clean socks at every opportunity.”
A battle scene in “1917.”
Battle scenes require a lot from performers, but Biddiss said he “would never dream of asking an actor to do something I was not physically able to do myself.”
“I naturally train most days to keep myself in shape” and to instill confidence in his abilities, Biddiss told Insider.
“It’s not a good look if you’re a military adviser and you’re carrying around excess weight” and get winded after a short walk, he said.
Shooting a scene from “1917.”
(Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)
With hundreds of extras, making sure all the performers were right for the movie was a massive task in itself, Biddiss said.
“We first ran local auditions,” Biddiss said. “I then ran assessments before boot camps to make sure we had the right people who not only looked right, but were coordinated and physically robust to take on the task.”
After the performers were selected, “I started with basic arms drill to test coordination, fitness to test stamina,” he said. “Then to weapon handling, historical lessons, and tactics.”
“There so much attention to detail, like I’ve never seen before on set,” Biddiss said.
Mendes with Chapman and MacKay on the set of “1917.”
Biddiss has to teach the performers how to look and feel both natural and accurate when using their weapons.
Weapons handling is one of the main hurdles in preparing an actor for battle.
“There could [be] over 500 supporting artists on set with bayonets fixed and firing blank rounds,” Biddiss said. “The blanks used are very powerful and can still do permanent damage, so if time is not invested in training it could all go horribly wrong.”
It’s also one of the things he notices other productions often don’t get right. Biddiss said he notices performers never reloading their weapons or always having their fingers on a gun’s trigger.
MacKay in a scene from “1917.”
Throughout the production, the mindset of the performers has to be just like that of a soldier, Biddiss said.
“I like to impress on one aspect,” Biddiss said. “Fear and anger.”
“I tell actors and supporting artists that they need to show both feelings on their faces when about to act a battle sequence,” he said. “Fear of dying, but anger towards the people who have brought them to this situation.”
“There is nothing ninja about soldiering,” Biddiss tells the performers he trains. “You have one job. Close in and kill the enemy.”
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Going to any bartender that knows their craft and ordering a “torpedo juice,” means you’ll get a cocktail that’s two parts alcohol (any alcohol) and three parts pineapple juice. It’s not a bad drink, but it’s not exactly refined.
Neither were the World War II sailors who created the concoction. These guys had to do something to mask the harsh kick of the liquor by any means necessary. It just so happened that juice was the most readily available.
In Mike Ostlund’s 2011 book, “Find ‘Em, Chase ‘Em, Sink ‘Em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine USS Gudgeon,” he details how sailors were able to drink the grain alcohol carried by submarines, even after the Navy tainted the supply.
Even during the best days of World War II, a good stiff drink was hard to find. For U.S. Navy submarine crews, it was next to impossible – to find one. So they would make their own, using the fuel that fed the submarine’s deadly torpedoes.
One might think Americans would be used to either having to distill their own booze or to go completely without. The United States had only emerged from Prohibition less than a decade before the start of the Second World War. But no, Americans enjoyed their drinks and sailors were already known for their love of the hard stuff.
Since there were no bars, pubs or stills aboard the submarines – and there wasn’t room for anything of the sort anyhow – they made the best of their situation. They converted to fuel used to drive their torpedoes into 180-proof alcohol.
At first, the sailors could just pop open the fuel and start drinking, but it wasn’t always that way. Torpedo fuel was made from pure grain alcohol back then and the Navy brass knew it. They also knew that once the sailors aboard ship realized it, there would soon be a significant lack of fuel for torpedoes.
Soon, Ostlund writed, Navy leadership began to add croton oil to the fuel stores. Drinking the alcohol with the oil additive gave sailors extreme stomach pains and diarrhea. Unlike the wood alcohol used by the government to poison industrial ethyl alcohol during Prohibition, the croton oil wouldn’t kill or blind sailors. They were still needed to fight the war, after all. The pain and suffering would soon pass.
The Navy thought its fuel troubles were over and its fuel stores safe from thirsty sailors. They were wrong. There’s nothing more resourceful than a sailor in need of a drink on long haul sea voyages.
Aboard the USS Gudgeon, sailors figured out how to separate the croton oil from the alcohol. The fuel was stored in five gallon cans and poured into a 50 gallon vat for use in the torpedoes. The sailors smuggled the fuel in their original five gallon containers back to anywhere they could set up a still, usually a hotel in a port city.
They then simply distilled the oil from the alcohol, using the same method used to make grain alcohol in the first place. The stuff was then mixed with any kind of juice the sailors could find.
Operating a still in a random hotel wasn’t entirely without risk. The makeshift still setups can – and did – explode, setting fire to the hotel, buildings, and whatever happened to be nearby. A small price to pay for a bit of relaxation away from one of the world’s deadliest jobs.
Before the Civil War, the major holiday that came at the end of November wasn’t Thanksgiving. It has nothing to do with turkey, pilgrims or pumpkin pie. Instead, it had everything to do with kicking the British out of the Eastern seaboard.
The big holiday before the Christmas season some 150 years or so ago was Evacuation Day, and every November 25, groups of Americans tacked on sharp, specially-made cleats and climbed a greased-up flag pole.
All because the British Army thought they were hilarious, but were actually just sore losers.
In September 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed between representatives of King George III of the British Empire and representatives of the newly-formed United States of America. That treaty not only recognized the new country’s independence, but also set the boundaries between the two dominions in North America, as well as settling a lot of other issues.
The British were so salty about losing the war for American independence that they refused to pose for the official treaty-signing portrait, and the painting was just left unfinished. Today, the 1783 painting “Treaty of Paris” by Benjamin West is a monument to the massive British butthurt that was so strong in the days following the war’s end.
In New York City, Gen. George Washington was set to enter the city on November 25, 1783, but was delayed until the last remaining British flags were taken down. Before departing, British regulars went out to Manhattan’s Battery Park and nailed the Union Jack to the top of a flagpole.
Then, they greased up the flagpole in an effort to ensure the flag would still be flying by the time they departed and the city was lost over the horizon. It didn’t work. Quick-thinking Americans crafted some heavy-duty cleats and ascended to the top of the pole to remove the old British flag and replace it with the new Old Glory.
In fact, it was Continental Army veteran John Van Arsdale who climbed to the top and removed it – while the British troops were still in the harbor. Ever the salty sore losers, the British fired a single cannonball towards people gathered on Staten Island. Luckily, it didn’t hit anyone.
Van Arsdale’s epic ascent up to the top of the lubricated flagpole was so inspirational that it sparked a repeat annual performance, complete with a celebration that included food, booze and everything else that comprised a good old-fashioned 1700s ruckus.
Every November 25 for the next 80 or so years was “Evacuation Day,” centered around a re-enactment of Van Arsdale’s ascent, sometimes featuring a competition of multiple poles for who could rip down the Union Jack the fastest.
After the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the official holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has been celebrated for decades before Lincoln’s recognition, dating back to George Washington’s call for a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer. Washington’s day of Thanksgiving wasn’t a regular annual holiday.
Lincoln wanted to bring the country together in the spirit of national unity and called for the fourth Thursday of every November to be an official Thanksgiving holiday to thank God and the Union Army for its victory at Gettysburg.
As time went on, the British butthurt subsided and relations between the United States and its erstwhile mother country warmed up considerably. People soon forgot about Evacuation Day and focused more on the Thanksgiving holiday.
Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.
The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.
“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a reportpublished on its website.
Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.
It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.
British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.
“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.
Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.
The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.
The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.
The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.
The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.
The new Strykers’ vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a serious issue against top adversaries.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOTE) said in a January 2019 report, according to The War Zone.
Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.
It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.
The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.
The development of the new Strykers began in 2015.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha)
It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.
These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.
US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.
“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said April 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)
He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”
NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.
The recent DOTE report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The thing veterans miss most about deployment life is the camaraderie. Your brothers- and sisters-in-arms become as much a family as those related by blood. While every troops’ mission is different, ranging from the operator-AF SpecOps guy to the admin clerk who’s doing their part, there will always be beautiful moments of shared downtime where everyone just chats.
These idle hangouts happen most often in the smoke pit — even if a troop doesn’t smoke — because it’s where everyone relaxes.
There’s only so much you can talk about with your buddies. Quickly, you’ll learn where they’re from, what they’re like, and if they prefer blondes, brunettes, or redheads. Basic questions like this might sound lame, but they can actually tell you a lot about a person — and take your mind off war.
These are the ones that always seem to be brought up in the smoke pit (we apologize to our mothers):
5. What are your plans after you get out?
The answers vary depending on how far along you are in your deployment. They start out reasonable: “Oh, I’m thinking about going to work at my dad’s butcher shop.” Eventually, however, they turn into: “I’m going to start a band that will rival Five Finger Death Punch!”
The bands never work out. And for some reason, it’s never the guy who brings a guitar (and knows how to play it) who comes up with the idea.
4. Who’s your favorite pop star to sing along to?
Even the most macho gym rat gets in on this conversation — and you get some weird results. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or Amy Winehouse are the usual go-to choices, but every now and then a Justin Bieber gets thrown in there by a brave soul.
Funny enough, you can actually find out more about your comrade if they’re cornered into picking just one. If they deny having one, they’re lying. If they complain, “Why just one?” you really get to mock them.
3. Marry, f*ck, kill.
For this game, you pick three celebrities and decide which one you would wed, bed, and want dead.
For some reason, troops will never pick challenging choices, like “Emma Watson, Emma Stone, or Emma Roberts” or “Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Evans.” It’ll always be obvious choices that kill the game immediately.
2. Would you rather ___ or ___?
This one also takes a turn for the weird the further into the deployment you are. Someone comes up with an unrealistic scenario and you pick between two unpleasant things (or two awesome things).
They usually start out as basic as “no internet or no sex” and eventually become, “would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?”
I mean, the duck-sized horses seem like the easy option because you could just kick them aside, but they can definitely over-run you. (Image via Digital Trends)
1. “Not even for $1M?”
In this hypothetical situation, a troop is offered an absurd amount of money to perform certain “acts.” This can get very inventive and it is always deranged, but people will really commit some emotions to their answers.
It’s completely hypothetical, of course — the logistics alone wouldn’t make much sense, but it’s entertaining to make your friend squirm.