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The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

In 1964, country music star Johnny Cash released an unconventional album. It was calledBitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian,” and it was a radical departure from Cash’s previous release five months prior,I Walk the Line. The album was a concept album and was entirely dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Native Americans.


The lead single of the album was called “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Most Americans at the point had either forgotten who he was or had no idea who he was to begin with. But everyone in the United States and most people around the world had definitely seen his picture. He was in one of the most famous photographs in world history.

Ira Hayes
Ira Hayes
Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Ira Hayes was one of six Marines that were photographed by Joe Rosenthal on the summit of Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was part of a group that was ordered to take down the first flag raised and replace it with a bigger flag so that it would be seen better. As the flag went up, Rosenthal took a couple of snaps (he almost missed the flag raising looking for rocks to use as a stand) and had the pictures flown out to Guam. When the film was developed, the photo editor of the AP claimed it was “one for all ages” and had it sent to New York. It was immediately sent around the world 17 hours after it was taken. It won the Pulitzer Prize that year and became one of the most iconic photographs ever taken. And it was about to push into the limelight a young man who had always tried to avoid it.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
U.S. Navy

 

Gather ’round me people
There’s a story I would tell
‘Bout a brave young Indian
You should remember well
From the land of the Pima Indian
A proud and noble band
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley
In Arizona land
Down the ditches a thousand years
The waters grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
‘Til the white man stole their water rights
And the sparkling water stopped
Now, Ira’s folks were hungry
And their land grew crops of weeds
When war came, Ira volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed

Ira Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Community, a reservation in Arizona. He was the son of a World War I vet and was the eldest of six children, of which two died in infancy, and two died in their 20s. Life on the reservation was hard. His father was a farmer but farmed on land that was almost unsuitable for farming big crops. He was only able to grow enough to sustain the family. Hayes was a Pima Indian, who were traditionally famers. However, the U.S. government moved the Pima to an area around the Gila River where the land was not too agreeable with an agricultural lifestyle. An effort to build a dam that would send water to the community instead flowed toward a nearby white community, which led many Pima to think the government was trying to kill them off. Hayes grew up as one of the few kids that could speak English and learned to read and write. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was one of the millions of kids that went to join the military.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

There they battled up Iwo Jima hill
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived
To walk back down again
And when the fight was over
And Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes

Hayes graduated from boot camp in San Diego and was designated a Paramarine (this was a shortlived MOS that was essentially an airborne Marine). He earned his wings and went off to fight in Bouganville in the South Pacific. He then was assigned to 5th Marine Division and started training for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima.

Hayes landed with his unit at the base of Mt Suribachi 75 years ago. On February 23, the was to accompany his Sergeant, Mike Strank up Mt Suribachi to replace the smaller American flag that had just been raised with a bigger one. One of the Marines that joined him was his friend, Harlan Block. After they raised the flag, they continued on to fight for another five weeks. The battle was much more ferocious than expected with the Japanese fighting to the last man while trying to inflict as many casualites. The Marines fought bravely but endured a terrible toll in taking the island. Hayes himself watched his friend, Block die as well as Sergeant Strank.

At the end of the battle, Hayes emerged physically unscathed, but the mental and emotional toll was heavy. In his platoon of 45 men, only 5 were left when the battle was over.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

 

Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated through the land
He was wined and speeched and honored
Everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian
No water, no home, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when did the Indians dance

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Hayes meets with Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron in 1947 over discrimination against Native Americans (Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Within two weeks of leaving Iwo, Hayes and the two other living flag raisers, Rene Gagnon and James Bradley were put on a plane and flown to Washington, D.C. Before he died, Franklin Roosevelt wanted them to be paraded around the country to raise money for war bonds. The war in Japan still needed to be won, and the loss of American life so far had not sat well with the public that wanted their boys home. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman knew the flag raisers would be instrumental in raising money for the war. Raising the Iwo Jima flag over the U.S. Capitol, they then went to New York and around the country. For Hayes, there were a few things bothering him. First, he knew that his friend Harlan Block was one of the flag raisers and somehow was misidentified as someone else. He told officers at Headquarters Marine Corps what happened, and they told him the names were released, and it was too late. He was ordered to keep quiet. The second was he was suffering from what we now know as survivors guilt and PTSD. He just wanted to head back to his unit and be with his friends. He was able to leave the tour early and headed back and was part of the occupation force of Japan.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Then Ira started drinking hard
Jail was often his home
They let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone
He died drunk early one morning
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water and a lonely ditch
Was a grave for Ira Hayes

After the war, Ira Hayes had a few years as a minor celebrity. People would stop by the reservation to say hi, he recreated his role in a John Wayne movie, and attended ceremonies honoring his role in the flag raising. He tried to make things right and hitchhiked 1,300 miles to see the family of Harlan Block. He told them their son was one of the flag raisers and wrote a letter they could present in which he gave details on how to prove it (the boots Block and Hayes wore were Paratrooper boots and different than the other Marines). But the guilt and trauma that Hayes endured were too much. He also dealt with the racism Native Americans faced when he traveled. Once he went to visit a war buddy and wasn’t allowed on the property because he was Indian. He had to wait on the road until his friend arrived home. He couldn’t hold a job and became an alcoholic. When he was back in Arizona, things got worse. Farming was impossible, there were few resources, and there was nothing to do but drink. He was arrested over 50 times for public intoxication. When asked about his drinking he said, “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.”

Hayes died on Jan. 24, 1955. He was found next to an abandoned hut on the reservation, dead of exposure and alcohol poisoning. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Hayes’ headstone at Arlington National Cemetary (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died

A decade later, Johnny Cash decided he would create an album about how Native Americans were treated in the USA. Cash at the time, believed he was part Cherokee and took up a cause that few cared or even knew about. For his Bitter Tears album, he used several songs from his friend, songwriter and Korean veteran Peter LaFarge. One of the songs was a song, LaFarge had written about Hayes.

In the lead up to its release the album proved controversial. Radio stations and fans balked at the political nature of the song, and stations refused to play it. Cash was so angered he took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine in which he called out those who were boycotting the song and album seen here.

The song would end up being a hit, rising up to #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles.

For Ira Hayes, his heroism and tragic life would be immortalized forever not, just by a photograph but also a song.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s a rundown of the main weapons at the Battle of the Coral Sea

The Battle of the Coral Sea was a game-changer in terms of naval battles. Not only did it mark the first time the Allies turned the Japanese back during World War II, it was the first time ships fought without sighting each other. That means the primary weapons weren’t guns, as they had been for centuries — they were planes.


At that point in World War II, the air groups on fleet carriers usually consisted of three types of planes: fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes. We’ll look at the aircraft that did most of the fighting.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Captain Joseph J. Foss peers from the cockpit of a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, the fighter type in which he scored all 26 of his victories. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

F4F Wildcat

The Grumman F4F Wildcat walked a long road in becoming one of the most successful naval fighters of all time. At first, the US Navy didn’t even want the plane, opting instead to field the Brewster F2A Buffalo. By the time the war started, however, the Wildcat won out. The F4F-3 that fought at the Coral Sea packed four .50-caliber machine guns. 20 F4F-3 s were on USS Yorktown (CV 5), and 22 were on USS Lexington (CV 2).

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A Mitsubishi A6M Zero takes off from the Zuikaku.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Mitsubishi A6M Zero – “Zeke”

This was Japan’s best fighter in World War II. In China, it racked up a huge kill count and went on to dominate against British, Dutch, and even American fighters over the first six months of World War II. It packed a pair of 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannons. The Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 Zekes on board, and the light carrier Shoho added 12 more.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A Douglas SBD Dauntless assigned to VS-2 on USS Lexington in flight. “Lady Lex” had 36 of these planes at the Coral Sea.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Douglas SBD Dauntless

This plane became America’s most lethal ship-killer in World War II —and it did so using 1,000-pound bombs. The plane also packed two .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and a twin .30-caliber machine gun mount used by the radioman. That combination proved lethal to a number of Zekes. USS Yorktown had 38 on board, USS Lexington had 36.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
An Aichi D3A Val during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had 41 of these planes on Shokaku and Zuikaku.
(U.S. Navy)

Aichi D3A – “Val”

Japan’s primary dive bomber was only capable of carrying a 550-pound bomb, which left it unable to land a killing blow. Even after suffering repeated strikes, a target could still float, lingering. Still, it was capable of doing damage. Shokaku had 20 Vals on board, Zuikaku had 21 at the start of the battle.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A Douglas TBD Devastator drops a Mk 13 aerial torpedo just prior to World War II. The two American carriers at the Coral Sea had 25 of these planes.
(U.S. Navy)
 

Douglas TBD Devastator

The Douglas TBD Devastator is best known as the plane that was decimated at Midway. It could carry a single Mk 13 torpedo, but also was able to be used as a level bomber. It had a single .30-caliber machine gun in the nose, and was built for a single .30-caliber machine gun to be used by a rear gunner, who doubled as the radioman. USS Lexington had 12 planes on board, USS Yorktown had 13.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A Nakajima B5N “Kate” on Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese carriers brought 51 of these planes to the Coral Sea.
(Imperial Japanese Navy)

 

Nakajima B5N – “Kate”

This was the plane that a Japanese carrier used as its ship killer. It carried a crew of three and could carry a torpedo or be used as a level bomber. Unlike the Devastator, the Kate’s mark in history can be listed in the ships it sank: USS Arizona (with a level bomb), USS Oklahoma (with torpedoes), and USS Lexington (torpedoes) were three of the most notable prior to the Battle of Midway. It had a single 7.7mm machine gun used by the radioman and some additional guns in the wings. Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 of these planes on board, and Shoho added nine more.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 things you can’t do to your enemies

All is fair in love and war? Not so. A war crime is a violation of international humanitarian law committed during armed conflict, in which the perpetrator can be held responsible for their actions. Until World War II, war crimes were not considered incidents worthy of prosecution. Historically, they were seen as inevitable consequences, resulting in wars that were unnecessarily gruesome and destructive. Spurred on by the horrors of the Holocaust, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 established that war criminals can and must be held accountable. So what does someone have to do to commit a war crime? According to the UN, these eight crimes are as bad as it gets.


Willful killing

You can’t just kill for the hell of it. While death is an unfortunate reality of war, lives should never be taken without good cause. “Black Christmas” was a horrifying example of this. On December 25th, 1941, when the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese. Japanese soldiers blatantly disregarded the rules of peaceful surrender by looting, terrorizing, and murdering residents, and raping an estimated 10,000 women.

Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments

It’s terrifying that this needs to be said, but history has proven that it does. During WWII, many German concentration camps conducted biological experiments on its prisoners in the pursuit of developing different treatments or testing different medical theories. Nazi doctors performed as many as 30 different types of nonconsensual experiments on inmates.

Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health

One might find this confusing since shooting down an enemy plane would by definition cause them serious injury or death. The difference lies in the intent of the attack- which should never be to cause more pain or suffering than necessary, particularly when the battle is over. The Bataan Death March of 1942 demonstrated the horrendous mistreatment of prisoners of war when approximately 75,000 Filipino and US soldiers surrendered to Japanese troops under General Masaharu Homma. The surrendering forces outnumbered their Japanese captors and were already emaciated and malnourished. The day after surrendering, POWs were forced to march 62 miles to the prison, Camp O’Donnell. Many prisoners were randomly beaten and starved. Those who could no longer bear the trek were shot, bayoneted, or beheaded.

Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly

When is pillaging towns and destroying civilian homes and shops ever necessary for military purposes? The Rape of Belgium defied the 1907 Hague Convention of Land Warfare. During World War I, in an effort to flush out Belgian resistance fighters, German occupiers committed a plethora of war crimes against civilians in Belgium, including mass looting and destruction of public and private property.

Compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power.

In other words, if you’re taken captive, you can’t be forced to fight against your own country. If you’re a child, you also can’t legally be forced into battle. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Iran used child soldiers under the age of 15 (which in itself is a war crime) as forces. Children fought in highly dangerous situations and did so with limited training.

Willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial

Say you captured some really terrible people. I mean, they tried to kill you, and they would have done it had they got the chance. Now, however, they’re your prisoners. You can’t just kill them. Like all humans, they deserve a fair trial. “The Bleiburg Massacre” of 1945 occurred when Yugoslav Nazi-backed troops, compiled of ethnic Serbs, Slovenians, and Croats were executed without trial. It was done in vengeance for the pro-Axis genocide that had occurred during the war. Although this event remains controversial, victims were still held and executed without trial.

Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement

You can’t kick people out of their country because it’s convenient for you, and you can’t capture people without good cause. In both 1941 and 1949, The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD, committed mass deportation of Baltic intelligentsia, landholders, and their families during the invasion of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Additionally, another example includes the enslavement of thousands of Korean and Chinese women during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Imperial Japanese troops pillaged villages within China and Korea, murdering civilians and capturing up to 200,000 women. They were forced to work in military brothels, where they became known as “comfort women.”

Taking of hostages

During both World War I and World War II, Germany repeatedly took hostages of those they suspected of conspiring against them. In World War II, the Nazi SS ruthlessly took civilians hostage in an effort to end the resistance. Most of these hostages were executed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photos of snipers on high-angle shoots

Military snipers from several NATO countries recently practiced high-angle shooting in the Austrian Alps.

Snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, the United States, and other NATO countries practiced the shooting from Sept. 9-14 at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area.

“High-angle shooting is when you shoot further than 300 meters at angles greater than 15 degrees,” Lt. Alexander Rishovd, a sniper instructor assigned to the Norwegian Army Land Warfare Centre, said.

“Imagine the whole shooting process being a triangle and the sniper is on top, the line of sight to the target at the other end is greater than the distance the bullet travels in a flat line,” Rishovd said. “With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.”

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Austrian packhorses haul equipment up to a high-angle range on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Multinational snipers hike to the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

And the training taught the soldiers how to pack lightly.

“With a sniper rifle and sometimes two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, spotting scope and night optics, mountaineering gear, sleep system, and water and food, your pack easily gets over 40 kilos,” one Belgian special forces soldier said.

“It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A US Army sniper team from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment engages targets uphill of their position on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After ascending to the range, they started the high-angle shooting.

“Each degree of angle will have an associated number value called its cosine,” Rishovd said.

“For snipers shooting at high-angles they need to measure the range to the target in line of sight and multiply it by the cosine [to] get the actual range the bullet is going to fly. Then the sniper will set his bullet drop compensation from that distance.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Dutch sniper engages targets below in a valley on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Italian snipers from the 4th Alpini Regiment engage targets uphill of their position on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Slovakian special operations sniper engages targets uphill of his position as smoke in the foreground is used to indicate wind speed and direction on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Belgian special operations sniper takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

“The calculations are not very difficult,” one Belgian Special Forces soldier said. “The challenge is the shooting positions.”

“To aim at targets that are at odd angle requires getting into difficult and sometimes unstable and uncomfortable positions,” he continued. “It is also difficult for the spotter to get a good line of sight. The further out you shoot the more the angle and other factors effects your shot. Operationally it is one of the most commonly used skills, so it is good to refine them here.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper and a US Army sniper run back to their rifles during a stress shoot competition on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

They even practiced “stress shoots,” which test a soldier’s physical fitness and firearms training together to replicate a combat situation.

You can read more about stress shoots here.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper engages a target using a night vision optics while a US Army sniper from 2nd Cavalry Regiment acts as a spotter Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Snipers from different countries were paired together too.

“Each country has its own tactics, techniques and procedures,” an unnamed US Army Special Forces sniper instructor said. “When we pair snipers from different countries together, or have them compete against each other, they are able to compare and see what works best.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Multinational snipers begin their descent down from the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After the training sessions, the snipers hiked back down from the high-angle range.

“It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles,” US Army Staff Sgt. Ryen Funk said. “We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coast Guard ship was a Venus fly trap for Nazi subs

During World War II, The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard were tasked with ruining the days of any and every Nazi submarine they could find, but those underwater dongs of death were notorious for staying hidden until they spied a convoy of merchant ships and oil tankers moving on their own.


The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

The USS Big Horn fires Hedgehog depth charges, an anti-submarine warfare system.

(Navsource.org courtesy Coast Guard Cmdr. Douglas L. Jordan)

How were the big, bad naval services supposed to counter the insidious “wolf packs?” By dressing up as sheep until the wolves got close, and then revealing themselves to be sheepdog AF.

The Navy purchased used merchant vessels, mostly oil tankers, and converted them for wartime service. Anti-submarine weapons were cleverly hidden across the deck while the holds were filled with additional ammunition as well as watertight barrels to provide additional buoyancy after a torpedo strike. The resulting vessels were known as “Q-ships.”

These were derivative of a World War I and World War II practice pioneered by the British, who built decoy “Queen Ships” for the same purpose.

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The USS Big Horn exposes its 4-inch gun at sea.

(Navsource.org courtesy Coast Guard Cmdr. Douglas L. Jordan)

One Q-ship, the USS Horn, carried five large guns on the deck of which only one was typically visible. There was a 5-inch gun visible, four 4-inch guns concealed behind false bulkheads, and “hedgehogs,” depth charge systems that would quickly fire a series explosives into the ocean.

The ship commissioned into Navy hands in 1942 and served in the Caribbean before being sent more broadly across the Atlantic. During this time, it encountered numerous submarines and damaged at least one with its depth charges. The damaged sub was likely sunk.

In 1944, the ship was transferred to Coast Guard control and assigned to weather patrols, still heavily armed to challenge any U-boat that exposed itself. The new Coast Guard crew sailed across the Atlantic, looking for targets and relaying weather information until March 1945, when they were sent to actually move oil across the Pacific, supporting operations like the capture of Okinawa.

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U.S. Navy sailors conduct gunnery drills on the USS Big Horn.

(U.S. Navy)

Unfortunately, the Coast Guard crew never got to go on a true submarine hunting mission like their U.S. Navy brethren, but they were able to contribute to victory in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters by safeguarding convoys and moving oil to where it was needed.

All Q-ships were released from the fleets in the years following World War II. While the modern Coast Guard has some anti-surface capability, it lacks any weapons effective against long-endurance diesel-electric or a nuclear submarines. Either type could dive well outside of the cutters’ ranges, fire torpedoes, and sail away without ever exposing themselves.

Basically, if it’s more dangerous than a narco submarine, the Coast Guard has to be careful about attacking it.

There have been some calls for re-arming the Coast Guard for a true anti-submarine mission, but with the Coast Guard failing to maintain the budget for its current ships, it’s unlikely they’ll get the funds and crews for sub hunters in the near future.

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The 6 craziest military myths

While the military keeps trying to debunk Jade Helm 15 rumors, there are plenty of other military myths that have gotten ridiculous. WATM has covered Army and Marine Corps specific myths before. Here are 6 more urban legends from around the Department of Defense.


1. The Army has more aircraft than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy.

 

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Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

This is something that gets passed around Army circles with pride and is occasionally mentioned by other services with embarrassment. Well, buck up little sailors and airmen, the top rankings actually do go to their respective services.

The Army has 5,117 aircraft which is surprisingly high, but the Air Force still wins with 5,199 according to the 2015 Aviation Plan from the Department of Defense. Sometimes, the myth says the Navy has the most aircraft, but even when counting the Marine Corps helicopters and planes, the Department of the Navy comes in third with 3,847.

As for watercraft, the Army had the largest seagoing fleet in World War II, but now has only 118 watercraft in total. While the Navy certainly has more vessels than this, some semantic bastards will insist that most Navy vessels are “ships,” and so the Army could still have more “boats.” Well, the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command has 354 craft (page 6). The smallest are its Zodiac inflatable boats and the largest are its 85′ MK VI patrol boats. Also, there are the 700 craft of Naval Special Warfare, mostly 81-foot boats and smaller. So, yeah, the Navy seems to have this in the bag.

See also: These are the boats you didn’t know the Army had

2. Military recruits are people who couldn’t hack it in the real world.

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Photo: US Navy Communication Specialist 3rd Class K. Ashley Lawrence

While this claim offends service members for a few reasons, the crux of the idea is that the average recruit joins the military because no one else will take them. Different recruits sign for different reasons, but military recruits are more likely to have a high school diploma than civilians. One of the Department of Defense’s biggest challenges now is finding recruits that are smart, fit, and disciplined enough to join the military. The mental and physical rigors of military service are actually so great, organizations of retired military leaders are worried there won’t be enough eligible recruits to fill military ranks in the future.

3. There is no gold at Fort Knox.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cliff

This is one of the claims we can’t outright debunk, but it’s still ridiculous. The story goes that at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, there is actually just an empty vault. A former head of the mint claims the gold is all there and points out that a full audit in 1953 found that all of the gold was present, a visit by Congressional leaders and the news media in 1974 found nothing suspicious, and annual inspections by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint always report that the gold is in place.

Conspiracy claims that the vault in Fort Knox is empty generally fail to explain how the gold was smuggled out of the vaults and through the active Army base that surrounds the mint. It took an armed train and a cavalry brigade to get the gold into the vault.

4. At base flagpoles, there are items to destroy the flag with honor in case the base is overrun.

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Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven L. Shepard

The story goes that military installation flags are supposed to be destroyed if a base is overrun, and there is a kit with each flagpole to accomplish the task. The items stored at the flagpole change depending on who’s telling the story. Generally, there is a razor or match for destroying the flag, a set of printed instructions, and a pistol round. Either these items are in the truck, the ball at the top of the flagpole, or they are buried in a footlocker nearby. There is supposedly also a pistol, almost always in a buried footlocker, that the service member uses with the pistol round to kill themselves when they’re done destroying the flag.

This is insane for a few reasons. First, if a base is being overrun, the military has bigger problems than the flag. Flags are important symbols, but the tanks, ships, classified documents, and personnel on military bases are typically more important. The military Code of Conduct orders service members to resist the enemy as long as they can, so they should use the pistol round to kill the enemy rather than themselves. Finally, as a military historian pointed out to Stars and Stripes, few service members would actually be able to climb the flagpole which can be as high as 75 feet tall.

5. There are self-destruct buttons on bases and ships.

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Photo: Youtube.com

The idea that military bases, ships, or manned vehicles have self-destruct buttons likely comes from Hollywood, which uses the trope a ridiculous amount. Some foreign military vehicles have had self-destruct charges in rare instances, but the U.S. military typically guards its secrets in other ways.

Navy ships can be scuttled and the Air Force can bomb any downed airplanes or damaged vehicles. Modern computers can be “zeroized” to get rid of sensitive information. Any infrastructure on a military post that might need to be quickly destroyed could be destroyed with incendiary grenades nearly as quickly as with a built-in self-destruct mechanism.

But, some U.S. weapons and unmanned vehicles do have remote self-destruct mechanisms. DARPA is working on electronics that will automatically self-destruct after a certain time or when exposed to certain conditions.

6. Extraterrestrial life at Area 51

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Photo: Flickr/Steve Jurvetson

Like the gold at Fort Knox, this one can’t be firmly disproven. Those who want to believe that aliens landed in the desert in Nevada will continue to believe while the rest of us make jokes.

But, government agents have confessed to creating UFO hoaxes in the desert in order to keep classified aviation projects secret. Area 51 and other U.S. bases in the deserts were selected for secret projects during the Cold War due to their geographic isolation.

NOW: 5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

OR: Long-hidden photos from Roswell show aliens (or not)

MIGHTY GAMING

Soldiers sign up by thousands for Army eSports team

Recruiting officials are screening more than 4,000 applications from soldiers who hope to be chosen to play video games full time for the Army.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command may select up to 30 of the service’s top gamers to be on the new Army Esports Team and compete in local, regional and national gaming tournaments.

The Army Esports Team — which will become part of the new Marketing and Engagement Brigade based at Fort Knox, Kentucky — is a component of the new recruiting strategy the service launched after it missed its annual recruiting goal in 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.


Recruiting officials hope that soldiers who compete in these gaming tournaments will help the service connect with this specific, but growing, segment of the American youth population.

Roughly 35 percent of American males ages 21 to 35 participate in this market, which is estimated to be worth id=”listicle-2625430237″.9 billion, recruiting officials say. They often play multiplayer, first-person shooter games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty on systems ranging from personal computers to PlayStations, both on their own and in tournaments sponsored by civilian gaming leagues.

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Capt. Ryan Lewis talks to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones and @twitch.tv shout caster James “jchensor” Chen during the Army Entertainment Esports Street Fighter V tournament 11 August 2018, at the Alternate Escapes Café at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

(U.S. Army 2nd Recruiting Brigade)

Young soldiers are part of this subculture, according to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Esports Team.

“Soldiers are showing a want and desire to not only play gaming … but also be in competitive gaming, and we understand that is a really good connection to our target market,” he said. “These soldiers will actually be hand-selected, so what we are doing is grouping them together and — based upon the title and platform that they wish to compete in — having them scrimmage within those groups to find out who are the best we have.”

Jones has been gaming since he was five years old and has a “custom-built PC, a Nintendo Switch, PS4 Pro and an Xbox One X. So if there is a game, I normally play it,” he said.

Part of the screening process will include ensuring that candidates also meet Army physical fitness, height and weight standards.

“Those soldiers will be screened from there to make sure that not only can they compete, but [they] are the top-quality soldier that we are looking for in order to move here to Knox to compete,” Jones said. “We want those soldiers, when they go to these events, to be able to articulate to the public.”

Team members will serve 36 months at Fort Knox and travel to tournaments, supporting the Army’s recruiting efforts at high schools and colleges, he said.

Many applicants who aren’t selected for the team could still be involved in the effort, Jones said.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

“There are a lot of soldiers that just want to be a part of the community and want to help out even outside of competitive play,” he said. “We do have soldiers who have applied to the program and said, ‘I know I’m not competitive; however, I wish to help grow this.’ “

These soldiers can still participate on their off time, doing exactly what they already have been doing, Jones said.

“The difference is we are giving them a platform to play together … whether it be participating in online tournaments or just playing together and showcasing that to the American public,” he said.

“Essentially, soldiers are already playing video games,” Jones said. “We are just bringing to the light what is already in existence.”

The eSports world is widely shared on “Twist TV and all of these streaming services,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.

“We know that there is a large [portion] of the population out there that is watching these video game tournaments and watching people game, and this is allowing our soldiers who are already doing this and competing in these tournaments to get out there and connect with that large population,” Dodge said.

“So with this, we can touch a huge number of people and tell our Army story and help get them potentially interested in wanting to serve,” he added.

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

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4 tips for surviving a nasty snake bite

Swelling, redness around the wound, and nausea are just a few of the symptoms of getting bit by a freakin’ snake. There are two types of venom that affect humans in different, deadly ways.

The first is called hemotoxic venom, which is common among vipers. This type of toxin is incredibly painful and destroys human tissue quickly. The second type is called neurotoxic venom, which is found in both cobras and coral snakes. This agent paralyzes muscles and slows down breathing rates.

There are a lot of dumb urban myths out there about how to treat a snake bite, like sucking out the poison or applying a tourniquet to the affected limb. If you want to make a full recovery, take some tips from the experts.


Don’t freak out

We know getting bit by a snake can be quite traumatizing, but the challenge is to not allow your heart rate to increase. The faster your heart beats, the quicker the potentially dangerous venom can spread throughout your body. So keep as calm as possible.

This also means you don’t want to rush to get as the hyperactivity will only elevate your heart rate.

Wash the area with soap and water

Washing the area right afterward will help kill off the majority of the bacteria and other organisms that were in the snake’s mouth before the bite occurred. Let’s face it, snakes don’t go to the dentist too often.

However, don’t submerge the wound in water or apply ice. Hand washing will cleanse the wound enough, and ice won’t tissue swelling caused by the venom.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

The mighty King Cobra snake.

(Photo by Dr. Anand Titus and Geeta N Pereira)

Take a photo of the snake

Don’t ever try catching the snake for identification purposes. Since we live in the modern world where technology is basically everywhere, pull out your camera phone and snap a photo. This will help the medical professionals understand what type of anti-venom you’ll need if that situation takes a negative turn.

Many snakes run-ins are harmless as most species aren’t venomous, but have anticoagulant properties within the snake’s saliva which can cause further bleeding.

Seek medical attention

Although seeking medical quickly is vital, we don’t run to find the help you need that will just increase your heart rate. However, some bite victims have wanted days before getting the care they needed and suffer nasty tissue damage as a result.

Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to find out what to do after suffering a snake bite.

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This epic Slip ‘N Slide went from a C-130 to the ground

A team of skydivers funded by Canon experienced the world’s ultimate Slip ‘N Slide: One that goes out of a C-130 in flight and then picks up on the ground, with both ends covered in hilarious pool toys, like rainbow unicorns. The gap is the middle is a fall of at least a couple of thousand feet — yes, with parachutes.


 

World's Longest Slip and Slide From a C-130 Aircraft! – Filmed on Canon EOS R!

Warning: This video is amazing! Our latest project takes jumping out of a plane to the next level. Check out how we teamed up with talented videographer Devin Super Tramp and Canon to create the world's longest slip & slide out of our C-130 Hercules aircraft. For more details, please visit us at https://internationalairresponse.com/

Posted by International Air Response on Thursday, September 6, 2018

 

The C-130 was supposed to be a stopgap during the Korean War, a rushed design to give the Army the capability to put paratroopers and other soldiers on a plane, fly it a medium distance, and land it on the short airstrips available in the mountains and jungle.

But the thing defied every expectation and proved itself capable of operating everywhere from the Himalayas to aircraft carriers. The U.S. uses it for jobs from firefighting to airborne command and control to bombing (yeah, the C-130 can drop bombs). Lockheed Martin has made over 2,500 of them in 70 variants for militaries across the globe.

But it’s still most often used for moving cargo and troops. Turns out, however, that it’s also pretty good for allowing skydivers to do some sweet tricks. Canon wanted to advertise their new line of mirrorless cameras and, apparently, they decided the best way to do so was to teach the C-130 new tricks.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A C-130 Hercules taxis on the runway in Wisconsin in 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)

 

Since C-130s have already been used as flying radio stations to support ground commanders in combat and disaster relief in Haiti, finding a new angle was a tall order.

The resulting video is pretty great, and will almost certainly make a bunch of jumpmasters start wondering what they could get away with in flight. (Hint: There’s probably a reason the skydivers didn’t use a military C-130. The Air Force probably won’t like this idea.)

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6 Army Chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice

Chaplains have long held a special place in many troops’ hearts. In fact, at times, they become legends. In the Army, the first chaplains were authorized on July 29, 1775. They’ve been with the troops on the front lines ever since.


Some chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most famous instance was that of the “Four Chaplains” who were on board the transport SS Dorchester when it was torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55AM on Feb. 3, 1943.

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Painting of the rescue of USAT Dorchester survivors by USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77) on Feb. 3, 1943, in the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard image)

According to HomeofHeroes.com, when the transport was hit, the four chaplains, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington promptly began to aid the troops who were on the stricken vessel.

One sailor was heading back to his bunk for gloves, but Rabbi Goode instead handed his over. Despite a loss of power, they got some of the troops to the deck. Then, they began handing out life jackets, even as the Dorchester was rapidly headed to a watery grave.

Finally, when the life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They were among the 668 who went down with the Dorchester, but many of the 230 men who were saved owed their lives to the Four Chaplains, each of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Army Capt. (Chaplain) Emil Kapaun performs Mass in the field, Oct. 7, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Col. Raymond Skeehan)

In the Korean War, two other chaplains notably made the ultimate sacrifice. Chaplain Emil Kapuan, a Catholic priest, was captured during the Chinese offensive of 1950 — and shortly after his capture, he shoved a Chinese soldier who was trying to execute an America.

Then, while held as a POW, he would steal drugs and smuggle them to a doctor. He continued to steal supplies and bolster the morale of his fellow prisoners. He would die in captivity on May 25, 1951. In 2013, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Chaplain Herman Gilbert Felhoelter. (U.S. Army photo)

Then there was the case of Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, also a Catholic priest, who, during the initial salvos of the Korean War, offered to stay behind with a medic to help the wounded. As he was providing comfort, North Korean troops attacked and wounded the medic, who escaped.

The North Koreans then proceeded to carry out what became known as the Chaplain-Medic massacre, killing the wounded Americans and the chaplain. Felhoelter received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his actions.

These cases only begin to scratch the surface of why the troops love their chaplains.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia probably can’t actually build its doomsday weapons

Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, have made a lot of waves and headlines in recent days with their claims of magnificent weapons that can fly faster than the speed of sound, hit targets with untold destructive capability, and deliver a stunning Bolshoi suplex that just knocks the Guile right out of opponents.


The last example was actually from Street Fighter, but Putin’s plans for the promised miracle weapons are just as real as Zangief.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

This is the real Cold War.

The prime case in point is a recent, incredibly deadly nuclear explosion near a weapons site in Severodvinsk, Russia on Aug. 8, 2019. It killed two people, and emergency responders had to get to the site in hazmat suits. This was no rocket engine test, unless that engine is nuclear-powered. Which it was.

The United States has tested a missile like the one Russia was testing in August. NATO has dubbed the Russian nuclear-powered missile the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. When the U.S. put a nuclear reactor on a missile, we called it Project Pluto. Whatever you want to dub it, know that it’s basically a nuclear missile with a nuclear reactor, spreading nuclear material from its engines wherever it goes.

American scientists scrapped it because it would be an environmental disaster. Putin seems to have no such reservations. But that doesn’t matter.

Whatever the test was, there are nuclear weapons experts who cast doubt on the idea that Russia has the finances or technical ability to create such superweapons. One of these experts believes the Russians are just throwing weapons ideas at a wall like spaghetti to see what sticks.

“I don’t think it can all stick,” Ian Williams, the deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Foreign Policy. “It’s just the novelty of it. No other country is even considering this kind of thing. It’s the most technologically unproven, probably the most expensive in the long run.”

More likely, Putin is trying to sell the idea of Russian superweapons, hearkening back to the good old days of the Soviet Union, where Russians had pride, dammit, even if they couldn’t always buy cucumbers. Putin is promising as much in recent days, introducing the superweapons in a March 2018 address to the nation. It’s only been a couple of years since Russia emerged from a financial crisis caused by the devaluation of the Russian Ruble – but with more and more economic sanctions imposed on it, the country is hardly out of the woods.

When Putin introduced the weapons last year, he challenged Russia’s top brass to name the weapons. I’m sure we could do better – how about the Pipe Dream torpedo or the Fukushima Missile?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines create their own bridge in Norway

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.


A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.

During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”

Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”

Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.

“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”

The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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