That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat - We Are The Mighty
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That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

The idea of having a force designed for a special purpose dates far back into history and has been used in many wars. However, it is rare, if ever, that these forces meet in combat. Their targets are usually those too difficult to tackle by conventional forces. Or they’re used to exploit weaknesses in conventional forces. In a unique confluence of events though, British SAS and Royal Marine Commandos faced off against Argentine Special Forces during the Falklands War of 1982.


The fighting (neither side actually declared war) started on Apr. 2, 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falkland, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands. Argentina took this bold move due to a longer simmering dispute over the sovereignty of the islands.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
British Soldiers in the Falkland Islands War.

The British response was swift and soon a naval task force was steaming towards the Falklands.

They landed in force on May 21, 1982, to retake the islands. The operation, codenamed Operation Corporate, was spearheaded by 3 Commando Brigade with paratroopers from 2 Para and 3 Para attached.

The elite 3 Commando Brigade consisted of 40, 42, and 45 Commando, the equivalent of three infantry battalions, along with Royal Marine artillery and engineer support. The British Special Forces contingent consisted of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment as well as cadre from the Mountain and Arctic Warfare school.

Argentina had little in the way of Special Forces – just two companies: 601st National Genderarmie Special Forces Company and the 602nd Commando Company.

The first meeting of Special Operators from both sides occurred on the night of May 29 as both sides sought to stake claim to Mount Kent.

A patrol from 16 Air Troop, D Squadron, 22nd SAS encountered about 40 Argentine Commandos from the Third Assault Section of the 602nd. In a sharp clash, the British finally gained the upper hand and, despite being outnumbered, and drove off the Argentines at the expense of two wounded.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
22 SAS in the Falklands.

The next day, the 2nd Assault Section, 602nd Commandos, stumbled into Argentina’s 17 Boat Troop’s encampment while attempting to seize Bluff Cove Peak. The surprised Argentine Commandos were quickly overwhelmed. Soon after the battle started, they radioed for help, stating simply: “We are in trouble.” Less than an hour later they sent a second message, “There are English all around us, you better hurry up.” Two Argentine Commandos were killed before the section was able to withdraw.

On May 31, Argentina’s 1st Assault Section had been patrolling the area all day and decided to seek shelter in Top Malo House, an abandoned sheep herder’s house, as temperatures dropped to below freezing. Unbeknownst to the Argentines, they were spotted by an SAS observation post who called up Royal Marines from the Mountain and Arctic Warfare school to attack the house.

Nineteen Royal Marines, led by Capt. Rod Boswell, embarked by helicopter to the area and moved into position to assault the house. Boswell broke his group up into two sections. A fire support section took up positions on nearby high ground while a 12-man assault section prepared to attack the house.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
Argentinian commandos in the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine commandos, hearing the helicopters, made preparations to leave the house. But the British attack came before they could vacate the area. Boswell’s fire support section hit the house with two 66mm LAW rockets as the assault section stormed forward. When they came under fire from the trapped Argentines, the British assault section unleashed two of their own rockets.

This barrage of rockets killed Argentine Commando Lt. Espinosa who was covering the withdrawal from the second-floor window of the house. A second Argentine commando, Sgt. Mateo Sbert, was shot dead by the British while also attempting to cover the retreat of his comrades.

The LAW rockets set the house on fire and the smoke from the blaze ironically provided effective concealment for the men of the Argentines as the moved to a stream bed 200 meters away and set up a defense.

One Argentine, Lt. Horatio Losito, attempted to charge the British to drive them off. He was hit multiple times but continued fighting until he lost consciousness from blood loss.Eventually, the remaining members of the patrol, many of whom were wounded, ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender. The British suffered two wounded in the attack.

The Argentine and British Commandos continued to clash as the war progressed.

On June 5, Argentina’s 3rd Assault Section, 602nd Commandos attacked the British 10 Troop, 42 Commando on Mount Wall. After a sharp fight the British were forced to withdraw. The next day the 601st got in the action and drove off two patrols of British paratroopers, capturing much of their equipment as they discarded it as they escaped.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
An Argentine commando takes Royal Marines prisoner in the Falkland Islands.

The last engagement between the two sides Special Forces occurred on June 10.

A patrol from the British 19 Mountain Troop, D Squadron, 22nd SAS was ambushed by elements of the 601st Commando Company. The four man group split up and as the commander, Capt. Gavin Hamilton, and his signaler, Cpl. Charlie Fonseca, provided covering fire, the other two men escaped. In their attempt to cover the retreat, Capt. Hamilton was killed and Fonseca was captured.

The war ended just four days later after the Battle of Two Sisters. British Royal Marines of 45 Commando stormed the peaks and drove off the remnants of the Argentine forces, including men from 602nd Commando.

In the end, the Argentine and British Special Forces went toe-to-toe on numerous occasions and the result was often very close and hotly contested.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The creator of ‘Amazing Grace’ was a sailor with a foul mouth

John Newton was not what you’d call a lucky man. One day, he went off to visit some friends in London and was caught up along the way by a press gang – Royal Navy troops sent just to force people into serving aboard the king’s ships. He found himself a midshipman on the HMS Harwich, a position he of course tried to desert immediately. But he was found out, flogged in front of the ship’s company and even attempted suicide.

But the hard luck doesn’t end there. The man who penned the hymn “Amazing Grace” sure lived a life that would inspire such work.


That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

If you ever have a bad day, remember John Newton through his autobiographical writing.

John Newton’s luck was bad even before his impressment. He was practically an orphan; his mother died of tuberculosis when he was six and he was forced to live with a cold, unfeeling relative. After joining the Navy, Newton renounced his faith and plotted to kill his shipmates. He was so difficult to work with, the crew of the Harwich decided to transfer him to the HMS Pegasus en route to India. The Pegasus was a slave trader, but the change in ships did not suit Newton’s temper. The Pegasus decided to leave him in West Africa during one of its slaving missions.

Not quite marooned but not far from it, Newton connected with an actual slaver. He joined the crew of a slave ship and openly challenged the captain by creating catchy songs about him filled with curses and language unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Sailors were known for their foul mouths, but Newton’s was so bad the slaver’s captain almost starved him to death for it.

That’s when a large storm hit their ship.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Life aboard a British slaver in the mid-1700s.

The storm nearly sunk the ship, but Newton and another crewman tied themselves to the ship’s pumps and began to work for 11 hours to keep it from capsizing. After their miraculous escape, Newton saw the storm as a message from God. He began to work harder, eventually commanding his own slaving ship and sailing between ports in Africa and North America. Eventually, the man collapsed from overwork. He returned to England and never sailed again.

It was in his adopted home of Olney where he wrote a series of autobiographical hymnals, including the well-known “Amazing Grace” as we call it today. In this work, Newton learned how he was a “wretch” due to his participation in the North Atlantic Slave Trade. In life, he set out to help abolish it in England. Newton new connected with William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian who led the charge against slavery in Britain and ended it in the Empire in 1807.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sporting events are always going to be a central part of the American experience. In the fall, Americans tune in to watch their favorite sports, be it the NFL, MLB, NHL, and even the NBA. Every two years, we come together as a nation to support Team USA in the Winter or Summer Olympics. We even sometimes come together to see the USA compete in World Cup play.


That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
It happens. I promise.
(FIFA)

American sports bleed into American life — and vice-versa. From the yellow ribbon tied around the Superdome during Super Bowl XV to remember hostages taken in Iran to chants of “USA” when a crowd in Philadelphia learned about the death of Osama bin Laden, American sports fans and players wear their American hearts on their sleeves.

10. Team USA carries the WTC flag to the Olympics

Rarely does a flag presentation at the Olympic Games happen to a quiet crowd. But as eight members of Team USA, flanked by members of the NYPD and New York Fire Department, marched the flag of the host country into the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, you could hear a pin drop.

The flag they carried was found in the rubble of ground zero and had flown atop the World Trade Center in New York when the buildings were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. It was under the debris for three days before being found and given to the National Guard.

9. Rulon Gardner defeats the undefeated

For a decade, Aleksandr Karelin was the world’s dominant super heavyweight wrestler. By the time the 2000 Olympics rolled around, Karelin (aka The Russian Bear, aka Aleksandr the Great) hadn’t been defeated in a match since Russia was still called the Soviet Union – even then, that was his only loss. Then, he faced off with a dairy farmer from Wyoming.

In six years, Karelin hadn’t even given up a single point to an opponent. His American opponent, Rulon Gardner, hadn’t placed higher than fifth in the world up until this point and even lost to Karelin, 5-0, before. But Karelin lost his grip — and a point — to Gardner in the second period.

8.  Mary Lou Retton wins a gymnastic first

A little girl from West Virginia dealt a stunning blow to the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Before Retton, Team USA was never able to wrest Olympic Gold from Eastern Europe in the Individual, All-Around Gymnastics event. She came into the event trailing Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo.

In Retton’s own words, she believes her performance showed that American-born and trained athletes can do anything – no matter what the odds are.

7. 1999 Women’s World Cup Final

The 1999 Women’s World Cup came down to a shootout tie-breaker against the Chinese. With the score tied 0-0 in extra time, the US team would end up winning based on penalties. It wasn’t so much the game play that mattered, it was the draw. With 90,000 spectators, it was the largest turnout for a women’s sporting event ever.

The lasting image of the US win would be Brandi Chastain’s post-penalty kick celebration of the victory, where she fell to her knees and took off her jersey, revealing the “sports bra seen ’round the world.” The image became one of Sport Illustrated most iconic covers ever.

6. Joe Louis knocks out a Nazi

In 1938, Hitler was still touting the Germans as a “master race,” as German athletes competed the world over for top honors. On June 22, Max Schmeling met American champion, the “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis. The first time the two met in 1936, Schmeling took advantage of Louis’ dropping his left hand after a jab and gave Louis his first loss in the 12th round of that fight. That would not happen again.

With the world listening via radio and more than 70,000 watching in Yankee Stadium, Louis unloaded on Schmeling, knocking him down three times in two minutes. Schmeling was only able to throw two punches in the whole one-round match.

5. The Champ lights the Olympic Torch

Lighting the Olympic Flame at the end of the torch relay is an honor reserved for a legendary Olympic athlete from the host country. Does it get more legendary than “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali? Except in 1996, the one who would light the flame itself was a close-kept secret. Even swimmer Janet Evans, who was handing the torch off, didn’t know to whom she was handing it.

Ali was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and had long since retired by this point. When Ali emerged to take the Olympic Torch and light the flame, the sound in Atlanta was less a roar of applause and more of the collective gasp of elated surprise as the once-great boxer, shaking, lit the torch.

4. Rick Monday saves the flag

Remember MLB outfielder Rick Monday? He might be before most of our readers’ time, but Monday was with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1981 World Series-winning team. Before that, he was the top prospect in the 1965 MLB draft. Somewhere in between, he saved Old Glory from public humiliation.

In 1976, Monday was with the Chicago Cubs, visiting the Dodgers. With Monday in center field during the fourth inning, two protestors jumped the outfield fence and tried to burn a flag on live TV. Monday, seeing what was about to transpire, ran over and snatched the lighter-fluid-soaked flag. The protestors were arrested and Monday was able to keep the flag.

Ever since that day, Monday used the actual flag to raise money for military families.

3. The President’s Post-9/11 opening pitch 

It’s hard to imagine the Leader of the Free World facing a new Global War on Terrorism being psyched out by throwing the first pitch in Yankee Stadium. But in his own words, he absolutely was. Thousands of New Yorkers came to the stadium to watch the President throw the pitch to open game 3 of the 2001 World Series. It was also just weeks after 9/11.

He didn’t want Americans to think the President was incapable of finding the plate. But as he practiced, Yankee Derek Jeter told him that he needed to both throw from the mound (not in front as originally planned) and not bounce it. “They’ll boo you,” he told the President.

Bush, shaken but loose, walked onto the field and threw a strike to an eruption of applause.

2. ‘The Buckeye Bullet’ burns Hitler

Before he ever arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympic Games, Jesse Owens had already set three world records and tied another. At Ohio State, he won eight individual NCAA championships, which was a record in its own right. When he arrived in Berlin, he knew Nazi Germany was using the games as a showcase for its racial policies, but competed anyway.

Owens went on to win four gold medals in 1936, an unrivaled achievement until some 50 years later when Carl Lewis did the same in 1984. When Owens won gold in the long jump, the Olympic Committee told Hitler he had to greet all the winners or none at all. Hitler opted for none. As Owens won other events, Hitler would leave early. Nazi minister Albert Speer would later write that Hitler “was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens.”

1. The Miracle On Ice

Would you bet money on a bunch of college amateurs taking on the world’s greatest hockey team in a competition for Olympic Gold? Not many would – and not many did, as it turns out. That was the situation Team USA faced in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was a tough time for the United States, with hostages in Iran, an energy crisis, and runaway inflation, it looked like the American Dream was coming to an end.

But no words echoed through the ages like Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles!” as Team USA topped the Soviet Union 4-3 in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.


That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

A German Army Soldier directs military vehicles onto land during one of the largest combined exercises in Lithuania, the Suwalki Gap River Crossing, as media observe the event, June 20, 2017.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If Russian tanks and other forces quickly span the gap and dig in, they could cut Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia off from the rest of Europe and NATO for easy digestion, leaving the rest of NATO to decide whether its worth it to risk their own troops re-securing them.

These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.

But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Battle Group Poland U.S. Soldiers locate their sector of fire for their weapons as part of the Bull Run training exercise near Suwalki, Poland, July 16, 2017.

(U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Wang)

On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.

But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.

Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

The Iskander-M is likely a violation of the INF Treaty, and it gives Russia the ability to cover the entire Suwalki Gap and most of Eastern Europe with a few missile launchers

(Boevaya mashina, CC BY-SA4.0)

Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.

An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.

The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Battle Group Poland tested its readiness and interoperability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence during Bull Run, a simulated training exercise, July 16, 2017, near Suwalki, Poland.

(U.S. Army)

For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.

Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.

While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the F-86 was so deadly over Korea

During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.


That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
F-86 Sabres on patrol over Korea. Sabres shot down at least 792 MiGs. (USAF photo)

First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.

Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)

Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.

In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.

Articles

This is what happened when the Navy banned alcohol on its ships

On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99:


“The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.”

Daniels was a supporter of the Temperance Movement, a turn-of-the-century social movement which supported a nationwide alcohol ban and actively worked to pass legislation against the beverage. Some of those laws are still in effect.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
Hampering Sunday Funday for a century.

The U.S. Navy used to honor the grand tradition of giving their sailors a daily portion of grog, which started out as a half-pint of rum and then later, good ol’ American whiskey. If a sailor didn’t drink, they earned an extra per diem for it, the 2016 equivalent of around $1.44. The ration was reduced to a gill (quarter-pint) in 1842 and then eliminated during the Civil War (but the Confederate Navy kept the tradition in an effort to recruit sailors from other countries).

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
Coffee is almost the same… right?

American sailors were allowed to keep their own stores of liquor and beer on board until 1899 when their sale was restricted. The new rules barred “enlisted men, either on board ship, or within the limits of navy yards, naval stations, or Marine barracks, except in the medical department.” When Daniels issued General Order No. 99, the only alcohol aboard U.S. ships was reserved for the officers of the wardroom and the Captain’s Mess.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
You think Ray Mabus is persona non grata? Sailors used to boo this guy on the street.

A creative reader can probably imagine what happened when the sailors learned about the ban. Daniels was not a popular guy but commanders rushed to sell what they had left – and they had a lot left. The Navy decided each ship should hold one last blowout to say fair winds and following seas to their beloved drink.

U.S. ships the world over moved to comply with the order. Many ships held banquets with food, others had theme parties, and some held funeral processions for their departing friend. A few ships just poured whatever they had left into a giant bowl. Pictures of these parties are hard to find– not only because cameras were rare in 1914. Presumably, the sailors didn’t want to make every American party for the next 60 years seem lame by comparison.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
And Cher wouldn’t board the Battleship Missouri for another 75 years.

The Navy banned alcohol entirely for a total of six years. Selling booze on shore and in clubs was reinstated after Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition. President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo (himself a WWII-era Navy veteran) changed the rules to allow the sailors two beers a day to sailors at sea for 45 days or more.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat
If there’s a direct opposite of a Blue Falcon, this shipmate is it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How German beer kept Afghanistan out of World War I

The First World War brought a level of destruction that the world had never seen before. At the start of the war, only the French, Russians, English, and Italians stood against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottomans with their respective territories/colonies/provinces each filing in under their protectorate states. Every corner of the world was forced to take sides, officially or otherwise.

Neutral nations would be asked politically at first, but were quickly strong-armed into supporting one side or the other. This same fate could have befallen Afghans — who were distrusting of British India to the East and the Allied Russians to the north — if the negotiations hadn’t gone spectacularly wrong.


That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Too easy, right? This is only the “Graveyard of Empires” we’re talking about here.

In September, 1915, the Germans saw in opportunity in exploiting the Afghan tribes’ strategic advantage against the Allied troops that had left British India to fight in Europe. Persia had been officially neutral, but swung sides depending on who was more in control (Note: This was before the Turkish Invasion of Persia, which would eventually solidify their anti-Ottoman stance). If Afghanistan would join the Ottomans, the Persians would certainly follow. After all, the Afghan people hated the British and most of the ruling parties. All that stood in the way of a Central Powers-controlled Middle East and a wide-open causeway through India was a hesitant Amir Habibullah Khan, then the leader of Afghanistan.

The Ottomans leveraged much religious control over their fellow Muslim nations. Grassroots protests ran rampant in British-controlled India. Things were at a tipping point and all it would take was some sweet talking by a Bavarian officer, Oscar Niedermayer, on official orders from the Kaiser to go win them over. On paper, the plan was flawless.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Don’t worry. Niedermayer maybe won’t screw things up just yet.

Mahendra Pratap, centre, with (left to right) Maulavi Barkatullah, Werner Otto von Hentig, Kazim Bey, and Walter Röhr. Kabul, 1916

Niedermayer and his team traveled to Constantinople to meet up with their Turkish counterparts. Despite being in friendly territory, the mission was to be highly covert — one that, if compromised, could end in death for everyone involved. Yet, when the Turks showed up to the Pera Palace Hotel, they found the Germans sh*tfaced drunk, openly telling everyone that they’re going on an Afghanistan Expedition. Understandably, the Turks said, “f*ck it” and left, unwilling to be part of a botched mission that would have them executed if gone poorly due to the actions of some drunken idiots.

After the disaster in Constantinople, Berlin sent in Prussian diplomat, Werner-Otto von Hentig, to join in. Von Hentig was a consummate professional and had brought with him Raja Mahendra Pratap, an Indian royal who wanted to take control back from the British, to aid in negotiations. Niedermayer took great offense to this and constantly butted heads with von Hentig.

The combined teams finally reached Kabul to start negotiations anew.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

And celebrate they did. In only the truest of German manners.

(U.S. Navy)

Von Hentig and Pratap made friends with the Afghan ruler. Meanwhile, Afghan print media started stirring up anti-British sentiment. Months went by and negotiations continued. The war had started to cripple the Allies and Russia was on the verge of collapse after the “Great Retreat.”

In December, Amir Habibullah Khan ordered the drafting of treaty of friendship to establish an agreement between Afghanistan and Germany. By April 1916, things were looking good for the Central Powers. The enemy was getting weaker and they were inches away from gaining a strategic ally. They would, of course, celebrate.

The details of the event are still hazy, but it’s widely assumed that they got sh*tfaced once again — this time, in a Muslim country that strictly forbade alcohol. This turned into strong condemnation from Afghan leadership — even those who once supported their cause.

The Niedermayer–von Hentig Expedition was sent packing. Soon after, Persia was invaded by the Turks, which gave rise to a hard-line hatred of the Central Powers. As history shows, the Central Powers lost WWI. Amir Habibullah Khan was assassinated after the war’s conclusion by an anti-British coup that lead into the Third Anglo-Afghan War — which was lost in spectacular fashion.

All of history as we know it may have been rewritten were it not for one fateful night.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out the footage from the Thunderbirds’ flyover in support of ‘Captain Marvel’

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” [flew] over Hollywood in celebration of the upcoming film Captain Marvel during the afternoon of March 4, 2019.

The formation featured six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft, soaring over Hollywood from 12:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Marvel Studio’s newest film, Captain Marvel, will release in theaters nationwide on March 8, 2019. The film follows the story of Captain Carol Danvers, an Air Force fighter pilot who goes on to become the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


“This flyover is a unique moment to honor the men and women serving in the Armed Forces who are represented in Captain Marvel,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, the Thunderbirds Commander/Leader. “Being part of this event is a tremendous opportunity, and we look forward to demonstrating the pride, precision and professionalism of the 660,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force over the city of Los Angeles.”

The Thunderbirds have close ties to the film’s production. In January 2019, in preparation for the film, lead actress Brie Larson and director Anna Boden visited the team during an Air Force immersion and F-16 flight at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

During production, the team provided two Thunderbird pilots to advise cast and crew on fighter pilot traditions and culture. One of the advisors was Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who passed away in a mishap during a routine Thunderbird training flight in Nevada only a week after consulting on-set.

“Executing this flyover is a fitting tribute to Cajun,” said Maj. Matt Kimmel, the Thunderbirds Lead Solo pilot who advised the Captain Marvel team with Maj. Del Bagno. “He lived to share his passion for aviation with everyone he met and always left you with a smile. We carry his legacy each day and can’t wait to make him proud by showing off his U.S. Air Force and his team in his backyard.”

Residents along the flight path can expect a few seconds of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead, along with the sight of six high-performance fighter aircraft flying less than three feet from each other in precise formation.

The Thunderbirds welcome and encourage viewers to tag the team on social media in photos and videos of their formation with the hashtags #AFThunderbirds, #CaptainMarvel, #SuperHeroAirman and #AirForce.

For more on the team, go to afthunderbirds.com or follow @afthunderbirds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on USAF Thunderbirds. Follow @afthunderbirds on Twitter.

Articles

This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Tony Nadal fought with Hal Moore (of We Were Soldiers fame) at the Battle of Ia Drang in the Vietnam War. In a stunning new documentary short from the team at AARP, Nadal recalls the first heliborne assault against North Vietnamese Army, the battle he’ll never forget.


“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal says. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”

Over the course of three days, 3,500 U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. Then-Captain Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before an Air Force bombardment could be launched.

“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal recalls. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”

The soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have gathered for the last 22 years at an annual reunion. It’s a way for them all to come together, get to know one another, and heal each other’s invisible wounds.

The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.” The advocacy group AARP went to the National Archives of the United States and pulled 16mm and 35mm film reels. The ran the reels through a 4K scanner and cleaned up the footage to produce this amazing piece (though it is presented in HD here).

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.


Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)

youtu.be

America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.

But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.

Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)

These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.

Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.

The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.

They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.

The little boats would distinguish themselves over and over again, even though there were only 29 in the Navy at the start of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur slipped out of the Philippines on a two-day trip through the enemy fleet with Lt. John D. Bulkeley on a PT boat. Bulkeley would earn a Medal of Honor for his actions.

The boats launched constant attacks against Japanese ships, hitting them with Mk. 8 torpedoes. The Coast Guard used 83-foot designs for their submarine hunters and patrol boats, many of which saw service at D-Day where they served as the “Matchstick Fleet” that rescued drowning soldiers.

Also at D-Day, similar landing craft made by Higgins were modified to fire rockets at the shore to suppress shore positions.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy on PT-109.

(U.S. Navy)

But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”

Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.

The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.

MIGHTY FIT

Why certain workouts can stop you from losing weight

When service members hit the gym, they burn calories, build muscle, and slim down. Pair that exercise with a healthy diet and we quickly shed unwanted pounds.

After a while, our bodies begin to adapt to these workouts and, suddenly, those pounds of fat aren’t disappearing as quickly as they once were — but why?

The answer is pretty interesting. Our bodies are well-engineered pieces of equipment, designed to protect us — even from ourselves. Service members are known for running mile after mile in a tight formation a few times per week. Running is a great, high-impact exercise that burns a sh*t-ton of calories, but, after a while, our bodies adjust.

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We reach what many call a “physical plateau.” Those incredible results you saw in the first few months of working out slowly start to taper off. This is because your metabolism automatically adjusts itself to protect the body from losing mass.

It’s a fantastic defense mechanism, but it’s also a pain in the ass.

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When it comes to dropping weight, many runners out there are making yet another mistake: failing to intake enough calories. When your body is running low on energy, its defenses will kick in yet again, slowing metabolism to maintain weight.

So, in short, to stop your metabolism from lowering, it’s important to listen to your body and eat enough. It may sound strange, but you need to take in calories to burn them. If you’re into intermittent fasting, make sure to take in all the necessary calories within the structured six-to-eight hour eating window.

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If you’re doing mostly cardio to lose weight, it’s also highly recommended that you introduce a bit of weight training. Maintain a dynamic exercise routine and keep your body guessing — you’ll plateau much less often and see results more constantly.

Like they say, “lift heavy and lift often.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Philippines draw red line in already tense South China Sea

Amid a simmering trade war, the US and Chinese militaries have exchanged tit-for-tat measures with each other in and above the South China Sea.

In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.

During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”


“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.

The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.

The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.

Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.

Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.

That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.

Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.

Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.

While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.

“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.

Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

‘What is our red line?’

After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)

Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.

Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.

The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.

More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.

“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.

Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.

In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.

“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.

The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.

It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”

“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”

That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.

While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”

That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.

“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gunmen assault Afghan spy facility in Kabul

Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.

Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.

He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.


Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.

He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.

That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.

There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

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