Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s mansion was part of a Virginia estate on the Potomac River, across from the nation’s capital. It was land his wife inherited from her father. At 1,100 acres, it was an idyllic area to raise George Washington’s adopted great-grandchildren (his father-in-law, was George Washington Park Custis, the adopted son of the first Commander-in-Chief and our nation’s first First Lady).
They must have been really upset when the Union Army came by in May of 1861 and seized it from them.
The previous month, South Carolinian contingents of the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. President Lincoln called up the U.S. Army, who came to the capital and took control of the Arlington side of the Potomac. The area was a prime position for Union Artillery.
In April 1861, Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. Though the state had not yet seceded, it was widely expected to do so. When Virginia left the Union, Lee was appointed to a Brigadier General’s rank in the Confederate Army in May 1861. That’s when the U.S. government took his land and home. Lee was with his army in nearby Manassas when the U.S. Army came knocking on May 24th.
Though the war started well for Lee and Virginia, it didn’t end well. After his defeat at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would never recover and Lee would be forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. In the meantime, the land was used by Lee’s (and other) former slaves to grow food to feed the Union Army.
After the war, the Lee family decided to try to get their land and home back through a series of legal battles. The main sticking point? Lee’s unpaid tax bill. The U.S. government charged the Lees $92.07 in taxes on their land ($2,130.52 in today’s dollars). Mary, Lee’s wife sent her cousin to pay the bill, but the U.S. would only accept the payment from Lee herself. When she didn’t show, they put the property up for sale.
Now that the land was delinquent on its taxes the government could purchase it, which it did. For $26,800, the equivalent of just over $620,156 today. Except in 2017, 1100 acres of Arlington, Va. is worth millions. But in 2017, that specific 1100 acres is actually priceless, because it’s now called Arlington National Cemetery. It’s where the United States inters its honored war heroes.
The U.S. long ago turned it into a cemetery for those troops lost in the Civil War. Union troops were buried there beginning in 1864, partly to relieve the overflowing Union hospitals and partly to keep the Lee family from ever returning. As late as 1870, the year Gen. Lee died, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to get her home back and remove the dead. The petition failed and Mary Lee died in 1873.
Her son, however, sued the government, claiming its 1864 tax auction was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the government to either remove the bodies from the cemetery or pay the Lee estate a fair market price for the land. The government paid $150,000 for the now-priceless land.
Russia could be storing nuclear weapons at a recently renovated underground bunker in the Kaliningrad region roughly 30 miles from the Polish border, according to a report released by a nuclear watchdog on June 18, 2018.
Satellite images showed the site being excavated beginning back in 2016, renovated, and then covered in 2018, which suggests it could be returning to operational status, according to the report from the Federation of American Scientists.
“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in the report.
“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces. But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” the reported added.
Kristensen told The Guardian that the bunker “has all the fingerprints” of Russia’s standard nuclear storage sites, and while there have been upgrades at the site in the past, none have been as “dramatic” as this one.
“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing,” he added. “The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia.”
In short, it’s not clear whether Russia is currently storing nuclear warheads at the facility or is planning to, but this shows the bunker is now an active site.
“The upgrade has been known to NATO for some time,” Kristensen said. “But it would appear to reaffirm Russia’s nuclear posturing in Kaliningrad and is likely to deepen eastern European concerns that Russia is increasing the role of nuclear weapons in the Baltic region.”
Back in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had developed and was testing an array of new strategic nuclear-capable weapons he claimed could outmaneuver American defenses.
“I would like to tell those who have been trying to escalate the arms race for the past 15 years, to gain unilateral advantages over Russia, and to impose restrictions and sanctions… the attempt at curbing Russia has failed,” Putin said at the time.
Kaliningrad also happens to be a base for Russia’s Baltic fleet and is one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Over 200 vehicles provided to the Afghan government by the United States have fallen into the hands of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. That shocking claim comes from a former Afghan intelligence chief who claims that the vehicles include High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.
“We lost 200 Humvees and Rangers in two or three months as the result of incompetence. Imagine what has happened to the people in those two or three months,” Rahmatullah Nabi told TOLO News. Faisal Bigzad, the governor of Badakhshan province, has urged that NATO assist the Afghan government by destroying the stolen vehicles.
The story might sound familiar for another reason. Humvees and other vehicles provided to the Iraqi government were captured by ISIS when the terrorist group seized control of portions of Iraq. American air strikes have since destroyed some of that equipment. However, ISIS and the Taliban aren’t the first American enemies to get their dirty mitts on American military gear.
Artists rendering of the capture of the USS Chesapeake. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Way back in the War of 1812, several American vessels, including the frigates USS Essex, USS Chesapeake, and USS President were among those captured by the British in the fighting. The U.S. Navy, of course, captured or sank a number of British ships as well.
At the end of the Age of Sail, the Civil War saw some American ships captured. Most famous was the USS Merrimac, which was repurposed into the ironclad CSS Virginia. But the USS United States, one of the original six frigates ordered in 1797, was also captured by the Confederacy and briefly used until it was scuttled.
In World War II, Japan captured the four-stack destroyer USS Stewart (DD 224). The Stewart had fought in the Dutch East Indies campaign in January and February 1942 before being damaged. As Japanese forces neared, Allied personnel used demolition charges to try to scuttle her.
Despite the scuttling attempt and a hit from a Japanese bomber, the Stewart’s wreck was captured and the Japanese fixed her up and put her into service as Patrol Boat 102. The ship would be notable for assisting the sub chaser CD 22 in sinking the USS Harder (SS 257). After Japan surrendered, the old USS Stewart was recovered, although the name had already been assigned to an Edsall-class destroyer escort, DE 238. The ship was eventually sunk as a target.
Germany, though, takes the prize for its acquisition of American gear. Perhaps its most notable coup was the way the Luftwaffe was able to either capture or cobble together as many as 40 B-17 Flying Fortresses.
The captured planes were often used by Kampfgeschwader 200, sometimes for inserting agents or for reconnaissance. But some were used to infiltrate Allied bomber formations.
Even after World War II, American gear fell into enemy hands far too often. In 1975, a lot of American equipment fell into Communist hands when South Vietnam fell, including F-5E Tiger IIs, C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider transports, and A-37 Dragonfly attack planes.
In 2005, Hugo Chavez threatened to give China and Cuba F-16 Falcons that the United States had sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. The Soviet Union acquired an F-14 Tomcat from an Iranian defector. In 2006, Marines in Iraq killed a sniper team of two insurgence who were trying to carry out a sniper attack, and recovered a M40A1 sniper rifle that had been lost in a 2004 ambush.
American gear falling into enemy hands is not new — there has been a long history of that happening in the past. Infuriatingly, it will happen in the future, despite the best efforts of American military personnel.
As government and health officials scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, events around the country are being shut down or modified. Officials, after seeing the spike in cases (and fatalities) in Italy and the subsequent shutdown, are now implementing the same measures to major events in the U.S., whether it be canceling, postponing or barring fans.
This is major news in that sports, entertainment and travel are very important keys to the national economy. The loss of revenue to the teams, leagues, television partners and corporate partners will be big but there are many others too that will have a rough couple of months.
Hotels, airlines, arena workers, concession workers, arena security , front office employees, merchandise vendors, food and beverage companies, Uber and Lyft drivers and local establishments all canceled events….The list goes on.
We Are The Mighty will continue to update this list, but here are major national (and some international for fans) events that so far have been affected by the coronavirus.
A full list of all sports events that have been canceled can be found here. This list is mostly international but gives an idea of the scope of event cancellations.
A coronavirus conference in New York was canceled because of the coronavirus.
MLB operations suspended indefinitely
NHL season suspended
NBA season suspended
MLS season suspended
NCAA Tournament canceled
NCAA Women’s Tournament canceled
Big Ten Tournament
Pac 12 Tournament
Big 12 Tournament
Conference USA Tournament
American Conference Tournament
UEFA Champions League (Tuesday matches postponed)
Serie A (Italian soccer)
La Liga (Spanish soccer)
Formula 1 has had the McLaren team withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix this week. Next week the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to be raced with no fans.
U.S. Women’s and Men’s friendly matches canceled
Coachella postponed until October
Stagecoach postponed until October
E3 video game concert
Pearl Jam tour postponed
Adam Sandler tour postponed
Indian Wells 2020
Universities have been either moving classes online, telling students to move out of dormitories and postponing spring classes and canceling classes outright in some instances.
The US dispatched the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to a tour of Middle East on April 11, 2018, as tensions between the US, Russia, and Syria reach a boiling point over a pending US strike.
“The strike group, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, USS Normandy (CG-60), several destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), is scheduled to conduct operations in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility,” a US Navy statement read.
Though the specifics of the deployment haven’t been revealed, the presence of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets will pose a massive challenge to Russia and Syria.
Rear Adm. Eugene Black said at the ship’s departure, “We’re ready for any mission, anywhere, any time … The president can send us wherever he wants, with whatever mission he’s got, and we’re ready to go.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)
The US previously used navy destroyers when it struck Syria in April 2017. This time, experts expect the strike to be bigger. Russia has threatened to shoot down US missiles and the ships that fire them, but the US has a massive advantage over Russia’s forces, should they try to fight back.
Once the Truman carrier strike group arrives, “the US will be able to clean up the eastern Mediterranean in a conventional fight any day,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, previously told Business Insider.
Russia, for its part, has not left its navy dormant, and mobilized 11 ships for fear for its safety as the threat of Trump’s strike looms.
The Truman’s strike group should arrive in the region by early May 2018.
In the video below see how the US Navy sailors in Norfolk, Virginia set off the Truman:
“The Hero Of The Game program is a season long commitment made by the LA Kings to pay tribute to local military personnel and their families. The LA Kings host one military family at each home game to show our gratitude for their continued commitment and sacrifice. As the Hero Of The Game, honorees are treated to dinner in the Lexus Club prior to the game and are recognized on ice during the National Anthem and again during the second period.” — The Official Site of the LA Kings
On March 18, 2019, I was honored by the LA Kings — and it was one of the most patriotic moments of my life.
Being the ‘Hero of the Game’ really wasn’t about me — it was about the service of our nation’s military. The truth is, most of the veterans I’ve spoken with have an uncomfortable relationship with the word “hero.” Few of us personally feel like we live up to the title.
What I tell every veteran who carries survivor’s guilt or who feels like they didn’t do enough is this: you answered your nation’s call. You volunteered, you took an oath, and you were ready to give your life to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That’s pretty heroic.
Still, deep down, I don’t personally feel heroic.
I think most of us struggle with this, so when I was informed by a representative of the L.A. Kings that they would like to honor me, I wasn’t really sure what to expect — and honestly, I wasn’t really sure if I deserved it.
Here’s what the night entails:
From left to right: Pin-Ups for Vets founder Gina Elise, U.S. Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil, Forest Corbeil, Monica Kay
The L.A. Kings have this process down. I was given a very clean itinerary for the evening, including details about complimentary parking, when to pick up my tickets (for myself and three guests), and where to meet a rep from the L.A. Kings who would escort my group to dinner.
In fact, the process is so streamlined that Kings fans know about it and wait to greet that night’s Hero. One woman with season tickets likes to meet the service members and take photos before the game with a touching art print of what it means to be a hero.
Before we even made it inside the Staples Center, patriotic fans were eager to meet me and thank me for my service.
We had no idea what was in store.
The Kings treated us to a delicious (and customized) dinner at the Lexus Club with a great view of L.A. Live and Downtown Los Angeles. We had an hour to eat (and grab some candy) before our rep came back for us and brought me to the ice.
I was informed ahead of time that I would stand on the ice during the National Anthem — and as the Kings were playing the Winnipeg Jets, both the Canadian National Anthem and the U.S. National Anthem would be performed.
The National Anthem during the opening ceremony of the Kings vs Jets.
(Photo by Simone Lara, California Army National Guard)
I don’t know if I should admit this, but I probably cared more about proper protocol and uniform standards during this event than I ever did while on active duty. It was very important to me to reflect well upon my branch and the military as a whole. Strangely, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 doesn’t expressly state uniform guidance for the Hero of the Game — an indoor event with a formation of…me…so I was left to interpret the manual for myself (with the help of previous honorees).
I decided to wear my cover so I could salute the flags during both anthems — and I found myself proud that it is tradition in the United States to infuse a moment of patriotism into our sporting events.
I had been nominated for my work in the veteran community — and specifically for my volunteer efforts with Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and their families. To make the night even more special, the Kings offered Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors and their guests free tickets, so after this high-visibility moment, I started receiving messages from fellow vets in the crowd.
Then we were escorted to our holy sh** seats.
One of our neighbors said we were in Eric Stonestreet’s seats — and if this is true, someone please thank him for me.
Seats for the Hero of the Game are graciously donated by a patriotic donor for the season. We got lucky that night because our seats were upgraded further — right up against the glass. That’s how we discovered that hockey is exhilarating and completely vicious.
If it wasn’t the puck flying at my face and ricocheting off the glass, it was the players slamming each other into the wall twelve inches from where we were sitting. Most of the other fans seated next to us held season tickets, so this was normal for them — but for us, it was thrilling.
Oh — and you’re allowed to bang on the glass. I highly recommend it.
As I walked around, people approached to greet me and thank me for my service or, my favorite, tell me about their own time in the military or their family’s service. It was great to connect with people who were excited about the military. It made me realize how far our country has come.
Then, during the first period I really learned what it meant to be the Hero of the Game.
My name came up on the Jumbotron and I looked up, a bit embarrassed, as pictures of me in uniform flashed across the screen. I turned to give my sister a disparaging look and realized she was standing.
The entire arena was standing.
At that moment, I didn’t feel like me, Shannon — I felt like a veteran of the United States Air Force.
As someone who shares military stories on We Are The Mighty, I’m well-versed in how poorly our country treated our Vietnam War Veterans. I have stood witness to the devastation that has been inflicted upon the men and women who have worn the uniform throughout history. I’ve watched my fellow veterans struggle with seen and unseen wounds. I’ve experienced them myself.
Yet that night, as thousands of people stood to honor the Hero of the Game, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and hope. I’m thankful that our countrymen and women support the troops and that Americans recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of our military and want to give back.
I felt so grateful that there are advocates for veterans and that there are non-profits serving them. It was as if I was in a room of people who want the best for each other, which is why we have a military in the first place.
The military stands for the best in the American people, and that night, the American people were standing for the military.
Thank you to the LA Kings, not just for the incredible experience you gave me, but for supporting the military all season long. It means more than you know.
You can nominate a deserving service member as Hero of the Game right here.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan’s Imperial Navy infamously attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. For the men and women working on Navy ships that morning, their normal peacetime duties were suddenly and violently interrupted with the outbreak of war.
The officers on watch helped lead the immediate defense and rescue efforts, and they also maintained the deck logs that detailed what happened in the hours immediately preceding the attack and throughout the day.
While few of the logs from that day maintained by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration have been scanned into digital copies, the White House released a few on its Facebook page to mark the 75th anniversary of the attacks.
The USS Maryland survived the attacks and went on to fight at the Battles of Midway, Tarawa, Saipan, Leyte Gulf, and others. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 with seven battle stars. At Pearl Harbor, the ship engaged Japanese planes and a suspected submarine
The deck log of the USS Maryland detailed the ship’s quick defense during the attack, getting her guns firing within minutes of the first Japanese planes flying overhead. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)
The USS Solace was a hospital ship which quickly began taking on wounded. It went on to serve throughout the Pacific and survived the war.
The USS Vestal, a repair ship, took multiple bomb hits and was forced to beach itself. Fires onboard the ship created such thick fumes that crewmembers were evacuated to the Solace. The ship survived the battle and served in the Pacific during the war, repairing such famous ships as the USS Enterprise and USS South Dakota after major battles.
The Vestal’s log details the progression of the fight as vessel after vessel took heavy damage on Battleship Row.
The USS Dale was a Farragut-class destroyer that was heavily engaged throughout World War II, earning 12 battle stars before the surrender of Japan.
At Pearl Harbor, it’s officers took detailed notes on the reports coming into the ship and show the chaos of the day. The ships were warned of probable mines, parachute troops, submarine attacks, and other dangers — many of which were false — as the military tried to get a handle on the situation.
The USS Conyngham was a destroyer that screened ships from air attack for most of the war. It fought at Midway, the Santa Cruz islands, Guadalcanal, and others. The ship received 14 battle stars in World War II.
At Pearl Harbor, the Conyngham had just taken on a resupply of ice cream when the attack began. Alongside other destroyers, it set up a screen to shoot down Japanese planes attempting further attacks.
When American forces stormed ashore at Saipan on June 15, 1944, they knew they were in for a fight. Saipan was strategically important to both the Americans and the Japanese. It is the largest island in the Marianas chain and close enough to the Japanese mainland for American B-29’s to launch bombing missions.
Though it is often overshadowed by other battles, the battle of Saipan was the most costly operation for the Americans in the Pacific up to that point. 31,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island from some 71,000 Americans of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division.
Through June and into July, American forces made slow but steady progress across the island. Brutal fighting occurred in places that earned names such as “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge.”
By July 6, the situation was desperate for the Japanese. With the defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, there was no hope of rescue or reinforcement for the remaining defenders on Saipan.
Gen. Saito, the Japanese commander on Saipan, ordered all remaining defenders, wounded or not, and even civilians on the island to conduct a massive banzai charge against the American positions. “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops,” Saito said. “It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than to be captured.”
Saito would not join his troops in the attack, though. After transmitting an apology to Tokyo for his failure, he committed ritual suicide.
Leading the way were soldiers carrying a massive red flag, followed by sword-wielding officers and the rest of the infantry. Behind them came the wounded and what civilians decided to join the attack. There was an insufficient number of rifles for all, so many wounded came with bamboo spears, rocks, or anything else they hoped could do damage.
As some 4,000 Japanese swarmed over the American lines, intense close quarters combat broke out.
Leading the 1st Battalion was Lt. Col. William O’Brien. Since the first days his unit had landed on Saipan, he had shown his bravery and skill as a commander. O’Brien had personally led several assaults to reduce Japanese strongpoints while continually exposing himself to enemy fire.
When the Japanese came at the 1st Battalion that morning, O’Brien was once again in the thick of the fighting and leading from the front.
As the enemy swept over his lines, O’Brien steadfastly held his ground and rallied his men. Like a modern-day Call of Duty character, he dual-wielded two .45 caliber pistols and shouted encouragement to his men as he blasted the onrushing attackers.
As the attack continued, O’Brien received a painful wound to his shoulder but refused to quit. When his pistol ammunition was exhausted, he picked up a discarded rifle and continued to fight. When he again ran out of ammunition, he manned a .50 caliber machine gun and poured fire into the advancing Japanese.
O’Brien was last seen alivesurrounded by sword-wielding Japanese, blasting the .50 caliber machine gun and yelling at his men, “Don’t give them a damn inch!”
Elsewhere on the 1st Battalion line, one Thomas Baker, a private in A Company, was also giving the Japanese hell. Like O’Brien, from the early days of his unit’s involvement on Saipan he had exhibited tremendous bravery in fighting the Japanese.
As the Japanese rushed his position, Baker delivered deadly fire with his rifle. When he was wounded he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on. With his ammunition exhausted, Baker turned his rifle into club and desperately fought off the Japanese attackers until his weapon was battered beyond use.
At this point, a fellow soldier withdrew him from the line, but in carrying him from the field was himself wounded. Baker refused to be taken any further due to the risk to his friends. He made a simple last request — to be left propped against a tree, facing the Japanese, with a .45 pistol with eight shots.
When friendly forces retook the position in the following days, they discovered Baker’s body, just as they had left it, with eight dead Japanese laying in front of him — each killed with a single shot from his .45.
Further down the line from the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was having problems of its own. Japanese forces had breached the perimeter and were attacking the battalion aid station just behind the front lines.
As Japanese continued to infiltrate his aid station, Salomon, with the help of wounded soldiers, expertly dispatched them until he realized the situation was untenable. Ordering the wounded to make their way back to the regimental aid station, Salomon joined the defenses and manned a machine gun.
Salomon was later found slumped over the machine gun, his body riddled with bullet and bayonet wounds, with scores of Japanese dead in front of his position. It was later determined that he had been wounded over 20 times and had moved the machine gun four times in order to get a clear field of fire around the bodies before he was overcome.
The battle for Saipan would be declared over two days later. Afterwards, O’Brien, Baker, and Salomon would all be awarded the Medal of Honor.
When I joined the military, I didn’t have a lot of time for things like “background research” or “making an informed decision about doing something that might affect the rest of my life.” I didn’t even look into which branch I should join. I just walked up to the line at the recruiters’ offices. Like a drunk stumbling through the streets late at night on the hunt for food, I went with whatever was open at the moment I got there.
The list of things I didn’t know is a mile long. Life in the military was like a big black hole of awareness to me. Like most civilians (maybe), I assumed that what I saw in television and movies was more than a little exaggerated. So, what it was really like to live that military life was as foreign to me as the Great Wall of China.
You’ll never get with 1980s Cher in that outfit, guys.
1. Sailors wear crackerjacks all the time.
I’m pretty sure the Navy wanted everyone to think that sailors wore white crackerjacks 24/7 as a marketing gimmick. By 2001, when I was at Fort Meade, I didn’t know who the hell those people in the dungarees were.
And the learning curve for calling these guys “Soldiers” is harsh.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. We were all Soldiers.
Yeah, I didn’t know any better and I still don’t blame civilians for not knowing that only Army troops are called “Soldiers.” I learned I would never be called “Soldier” when I got to Air Force basic training.
Pictured: 20+ second lieutenants who all made more money than me on my best day. And have zero student-loan debt.
(Photo by Greg Anderson)
3. Enlisting is the only way to join.
There’s a difference between officers and enlisted people. That’s a no-brainer to me now, but back then, I seriously thought signing up at recruiter was the only way in. I knew the military paid for college, but I thought enlisting was the only avenue toward getting that benefit.
4. Enlisting is non-stop adventure.
If an airman’s additional duties count as “adventure,” then sign me up for the next squadron burger burn!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re on a base full of airmen and it’s being overrun and there aren’t any airmen with berets on, you’re in deep shit.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice)
5. Everyone wearing camo could end up in the infantry.
I didn’t know that every new recruit goes to technical training. Regardless of the branch you join, you’re more than just a generic troop. Even if you’re in the actual infantry, you still have a military specialty. It’s more likely that you’ll end up in a technical field than in the dirt.
And for good reason.
(U.S. Air Force)
6. All airmen fly planes. That’s what we do.
The closest I ever got to the controls of any plane was taking video of the cockpit. Despite being in the Air Force and the new title of “Airman” I just earned, I would never, ever be taught to fly a plane.
It’s hard not to focus on the giants of military history, whether they are remembered for their skill on the battlefield or just remembered because their oversized personality made it hard for us to forget.
The George S. Pattons, Napoleon Bonapartes and Qin Shi Huangs of the world get remembered for their uncanny ability and long lists of great quotes to go along with the lists of their accomplishments.
Then there are the silent professionals of the world’s collective military history, those who are critical to shaping the world order but are somehow lost to history. Being a total badass doesn’t mean you have to have a big mouth to go with it. Some would argue that these are the biggest badasses of all.
1. Hannibal Barca
In most high school history classes, Hannibal gets treated like some grade-B historical footnote. After covering Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, the curriculum moves right on to the Roman Empire. But mighty Rome was almost smothered in its cradle by Hannibal, who spent much of his career absolutely wrecking Roman armies and occupying their cities for 15 years.
Real history buffs know the truth about Hannibal, who was able to beat Roman asses with his smaller, less-equipped force that was far from home and supplies. At Cannae, he tricked the Romans into fighting so hard and fast they exposed their own flanks. Then he annihilated 70,000 “superior” Roman troops.
Hannibal was Rome’s Voledmort, in that just saying his name on the Italian Peninsula was enough to create rage and fear. Hannibal would escape retribution in Italy when Rome finally turned the tide against Carthage. After Hannibal and Carthage’s final defeat, Hannibal’s spectre was so great, the Romans built statues of him in their own cities to celebrate defeating such a vaunted enemy.
2. Alexander Suvorov
It’s a pretty big deal to be a major military mind in Europe at a time when Europe was just packed to the brim with major military minds. In the 18th century, it seems like all Europe wanted to do was fight big wars. Russia’s secret weapon in this melee was Alexander Suvorov, a lifelong soldier and officer.
Suvorov commanded troops who crushed Poles, Turks, Prussians, Italians and Frenchmen alike. For 40-plus years, he was the real jewel in the Imperial Russian crown, absolutely trouncing armies while outnumbered and outgunned. Even when his enemies had him surrounded and outnumbered in the Swiss Alps, Suvorov managed to inflict maximum pain while losing minimal men.
Even after he was fired by Tsar Paul I (who was really just jealous), all of anti-Napoleon Europe demanded he be reinstated. The Tsar took him back and promoted him in time for Suvorov to wipe out all of Napoleon’s gains in Europe while the Emperor was off in Egypt. Suvorov ultimately died of fatigue and old age in Saint Petersburg, exhausted from a lifetime of kicking ass.
3. George Henry Thomas
Civil War history buffs like to argue about Lee versus Grant, Sherman versus Jackson, and whoever versus whomever but when it comes down to real history, there’s one Civil War standout above all others: the Rock of Chickamauga, the master strategist, George Henry Thomas.
His troops were disciplined, his movements deliberate and his record untarnished. While everyone is arguing about Civil War generals, remember that George Henry Thomas never lost a fight. He gave the Union one of its first victories, saved the Union Army of the Cumberland from utter destruction, and crushed Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army entirely out of existence.
The only reason he isn’t as remembered or celebrated today is because he cared more about his privacy than winning any kind of credit.
4. Khalid ibn al-Walid
Al-Walid started his career opposed to the Muslim armies of the prophet Muhammed. Al-Walid was instrumental in delivering the Islamic armies’ only early defeat at the Battle of Uhud. But the prophet was smart enough to know that if he couldn’t beat Khalid ibn al-Walid, he should convert him. After becoming a Muslim, he served under the prophet and two subsequent caliphs, spreading Islam throughout the Middle East. A simple field commander for one of the Arabian Peninsula’s Arab tribes was suddenly called “The Sword of God” by the prophet.
For nearly a decade, Arab Muslim forces under al-Walid curb-stomped everyone in their path, from Arabia to Persia to modern-day Iraq. He took down some of the rock star names of the Ancient World, including the Sasanids and the Byzantines, never losing a battle to either. Al-Walid was so successful, the Caliph Umar was worried that al-Walid’s fame might eclipse his own. Without al-Walid, Islam might never have left Arabia.
5. Zeng Guofan
By the time the American Civil war broke out, China had been embroiled in a civil war of its own for more than a decade. It would be the deadliest civil war in world history, killing between 20 and 30 million people. Though the Taiping rebels didn’t capture much of the Qing Dynasty’s territory, they wouldn’t be completely wiped out for almost 30 years.
Unlike the Union Army’s strong central government, Qing China was a wreck. Its economy never totally recovered from the Opium Wars, corruption was rampant, and supplies were hard to come by. Its army was in shambles, unable to recapture Taiping Territory or even stop the rebel advance – until a civil servant named Zeng Guofan was ordered to create a military unit.
He created the Xiang Army, and by using respect and discipline (uncommon in the military at the time) his unit became the most effective battlefield unit in the country. His leadership turned the tide of the entire war, stopped the rebels and captured their capital.
It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference Oct. 26, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is confident the U.S. military can protect the homeland and fulfill its alliance commitments today, but he must also look at the long-term competitive advantage and that causes concern.
He said the competitive advantage the U.S. military had a decade ago has eroded. “This is why our focus is very much on making sure we get the right balance between today’s capabilities and tomorrow’s capabilities so we can maintain that competitive advantage,” Dunford said.
Strategic alliances provide strength
The greatest advantage the United States has — the center of gravity, he said — is the system of alliances and partners America maintains around the world.
“That is what I would describe as our strategic source of strength,” he said.
This network is at the heart of the U.S. defense and security strategy, Dunford said. “We really revalidated, I think, what our threat assessors have known for many years, is that that network of allies and partners is truly unique to the United States of America and it is truly something that makes us different,” the general said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes the global strategic environment during a presentation at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 26, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
A related aspect is the U.S. ability to project and maintain power “when and where necessary to advance our national interests,” Dunford said.
“We have had a competitive advantage on being able to go virtually any place in the world,” he said, “and deliver the men and women and materiel and equipment, and put it together in that capability and be able to accomplish the mission.”
This is what is at the heart of great power competition, the general said. “When Russia and China look at us, I think they also recognize that it is our network of allies and partners that makes us strong,” he said.
Challenges posed by Russia, China
Broadly, Russia is doing what it can to undermine the North Atlantic Alliance and China is doing what it can to separate the United States from its Pacific allies. Strategically, Russia and China are working to sow doubt about the United States’ commitment to allies. Operationally, these two countries are developing capabilities to counter the U.S. advantages. These are the seeds to the anti-access/area denial capabilities the countries are developing. “I prefer to look at this problem less as them defending against us and more as what we need to do to assure our ability to project power where necessary to advance our interests,” Dunford said.
These are real threats and include maritime capabilities, offensive cyber capabilities, electromagnetic spectrum, anti-space capabilities, and modernization of the nuclear enterprise and strike capabilities. These capabilities are aimed at hitting areas of vulnerability in the American military or in striking at the seams between the warfighting domains.
“In order for us to be successful as the U.S. military, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace,” the chairman said.
This requires a more flexible strategy, he said. During the Cold War, the existential threat to the United States emanated from the Soviet Union and strategy concentrated on that. Twenty years ago, this was different. The National Security Strategy of 1998 didn’t address nations threatening the U.S. homeland.
“To the extent that we talked about terrorism in 1998, we talked about the possible linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” Dunford said. “For the most part, what we talked about were regional challenges that could be addressed regionally with coherent action within a region, not transregional challenges.”
Transregional threats are a fact of life today and must be addressed, the general said. “What I’m suggesting to you, is in addition to the competitive advantage having eroded, the character of war has fundamentally changed in my regard in two ways,” he said. “Number one, I believe any conflict … is going to be transregional — meaning, it’s going to cut across multiple geographic areas, and in our case, multiple combatant commanders.”
Another characteristic of the character of war today is speed and speed of change, he said. “If you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be very uncomfortable being involved in information technology today,” the general said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be uncomfortable with the profession of arms today because of the pace of change. It’s virtually every aspect of our profession is changing at a rate that far exceeds any other time in my career.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
He noted that when he entered the military in 1977, the tactics he used with his first platoon would have been familiar to veterans of World War II or the Korean War. The equipment and tactics really hadn’t changed much in 40 years.
But take a lieutenant from 2000 and put that person in a platoon “and there’s virtually nothing in that organization that hasn’t changed in the past 16 or 17 years,” Dunford said. “This has profound impacts on our equipment, our training, the education of our people.”
This leads, he said, to the necessity of global integration. “When we think about the employment of the U.S. military, number one we’ve got to be informed by the fact that we have great power competition and we’re going to have to address that globally,” he said.
The Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one, he said.
“China is a global challenge” as well, Dunford added.
American plans have historically zeroed-in on a specific geographic area as a contingency, the general said. “Our development of plans is more about the process of planning and developing a common understanding and having the flexibility to deal with the problem as it arises than it is with a predictable tool that assumes things will unfold a certain way in a contingency,” he said. “So we’ve had to change our planning from a focus on a narrow geographic area to the development of global campaign plans that actually look at these problem sets in a global context. When we think about contingency planning, we have to think about contingencies that might unfold in a global context.”
This has profound implications for resource allocation, Dunford said. Forces are a limited resource and must be parceled out with the global environment in mind. “The way we prioritize and allocate forces has kind of changed from a bottom-up to a top-down process as a result of focusing on the strategy with an inventory that is not what it was relative to the challenges we faced back in the 1990s,” he said.
In the past, the defense secretary’s means of establishing priorities came through total obligation authority. The secretary would assign a portion of the budget to each one of the service departments and the services would develop capabilities informed by general standards of interoperability. At the time, this meant the American military had sufficient forces that would allow it to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Because the competitive advantage has eroded, in my judgment, the secretary is going to have to be much more focused on the guidance he gives,” Dunford said. “He not only has to prioritize the allocation of resources as we execute the budget, but he’s got to five, seven or 10 years before that, make sure that the collective efforts of the services to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow are going to result in us having a competitive advantage on the backside.”
This fundamentally changes the force development/force design process, he said. “This is not changing because of a change in personalities. It’s not changing because different leaders are in place,” the general said. “It’s changing because the character of war has changed, the strategic environment … within which we are operating today and expect to be operating in five to seven years from now, will change. Frankly, were we to not change the fundamental processes that we have in place inside the department, we would not be able to maintain a competitive advantage five or seven years from now.”
Captain Lawrence Dickson was just 24 when his red-tailed P-51 Mustang fighter was downed in 1944. He was an African-American fighter pilot, trained at the Army’s famed Tuskegee Army Airfield. Of the more than 1,000 black pilots trained at Tuskegee’s segregated flying school, Dickson was one of 27 to go missing in action over Nazi-occupied Europe. Presumed dead, his remains went missing for more than 70 years.
Dickson was leading an escort for a photo reconnaissance mission that day, taking off from an Allied airfield in Italy, bound for Prague. But Dickson’s plane began to have engine trouble. No sooner did the pilot radio his squadron about the issue did his wingman report Dickson clearing the canopy of his fighter to bail out, according to the Washington Post. He made the jump at 26,000 feet.
No wreckage or parachute evidence was ever found.
Before taking off for the last time on Dec. 23, 1944, Lawrence Dickson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Since it was his 68th mission, he was just two shy of getting to go back to the U.S. for leave from the war. Considering the war in Europe would end less than six months later, he very likely would have survived.
In August, 2017, a team of researchers in the Austrian Alps came across the wreckage of a P-51 Mustang and some human remains. They contacted the U.S. Army. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency analyst Joshua Frank found a crash site similar to Dickson’s listed in captured Nazi downed aircraft records. The DoD agency tested the DNA of the body found at the site against those of his now-75-year-old daughter, Marla Andrews.
Lawrence E. Dickson (second left), pictured in 1942 with other airmen at Tuskegee Army Army Air Field.
It was a match.
Sadly, Dickson’s wife Phyllis did not live to the see his remains repatriated to the United States. All she was ever told was that his body was nonrecoverable in 1949. But his daughter Marla still decorates her home with photos of her heroic father, his training certificates, and his medal citations.
She also keeps the letter from her father’s wingman, written 50 years after the war’s end.
“The act of writing to you so many years after … brings to me a sadness. And yet I hope it will bring you a moment of peaceful remembrance of a loving father whom you lost.”
Preparations for President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July parade are underway, as evidenced by numerous sightings of military vehicles in the streets of Washington, DC, on July 2, 2019.
Infantry variants of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV), an armored transport vehicle, were sighted crossing a bridge and moving down streets on top of a large truck:
The BFV, which is crewed by three troops and has a range of 300 miles, weighs around 25 tons. City officials raised concerns over the weight of the tracked military vehicles in the weeks leading up to the event.
“Tanks but no tanks,” the Council of the District of Columbia tweeted.
President Trump’s decision to use military assets — including fighter jets and M1A1 Abrams tanks — for his celebration has been scrutinized for being too costly, creating flight restrictions at local airports, and the possibility of road damage caused by heavy vehicles.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new,” President Trump said on July 1, 2019. “We’re going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, DC. It’ll be like no other.”