Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare - We Are The Mighty
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Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.

Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.

Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.

“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.

“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.

That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.

In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.

“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”

A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”

“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.

Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.

The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.

According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”

However, the bill died in the House and has not become law.

The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.

The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.

Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.

“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.

Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.

“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”

The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.

“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”

Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.

In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.

“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Chuck Yeager is an air combat ace, daredevil pilot, and hilarious on Twitter

He shoots down all these Germans, THEN became the fastest human being alive? And he’s this witty, rugged mountain guy? No way, re-write this.” If Chuck Yeager’s life story were a fictional screenplay, it might be rejected as too unbelievable. Just to put his accomplishments in perspective: he was the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound, and that arguably isn’t even the coolest thing he accomplished.


Born the son of a gas driller in West Virginia, Yeager enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII intending to become a mechanic. Turning wrenches presumably didn’t offer enough mortal danger, so he earned his wings as a fighter pilot. On his eighth combat mission, Yeager was forced to bail out over occupied France when his P-51 fighter was hit by German fire. He was injured and alone in enemy territory, so naturally, this was very bad news…for the Germans.

Yeager, thoroughly pissed off by anything that didn’t involve tormenting the Third Reich from the skies- linked up with the French Resistance and taught them bomb-making skills. He also saved the life of another downed U.S. pilot by amputating the man’s leg with a penknife and carrying him over the mountains to neutral Spain.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Upon returning to England, Yeager headed back to the States to take it easy for the rest of the war. Just kidding: General Eisenhower approved his request to return to combat duty, and Yeager promptly shot down five enemy planes in a single day, earning the rare “ace-in-a-day” status.

He also downed one of the Germans’ infamous Me-262 jet fighters by ambushing the much faster jet when it slowed down for landing, later reflecting “not very sportsmanlike, but what the hell?”

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

Yeager’s P-51D fighter in Europe.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The war might have been over, but Chuck Yeager’s appetite for death-defying aerial feats remained unquenched. He remained on active duty and became a test pilot for the first generation of jet aircraft.

Piloting the experimental X-1 jet in 1947, Yeager became the first human being to travel faster than the speed of sound despite having broken several ribs horseback riding a few days before. He quipped over the radio mid-flight to a colleague, “I’m still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off either.”

Oh, Chuck.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

Chuck Yeager next to his experimental jet aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Yeager’s legendary skill as a pilot was apparently surpassed only by the ice water in his veins that enabled him to repeatedly survive disaster. While setting yet another airspeed record in 1953, his jet began spinning out of control. Despite his head smashing against the canopy, Yeager regained control of the jet and landed safely, because of course he did. By this point, even physics itself had learned not to mess with Chuck Yeager. Yeager went on to multiple command billets within the Air Force.

Despite commanding the Air Force’s astronaut training program, Yeager himself was ineligible for NASA because he lacked any formal education beyond high school (admittedly though, if anyone on earth could be justifiably declared “too cool for school,” it was Chuck Yeager). He also logged 127 combat missions in Vietnam as a bomber pilot because if there’re flying and danger involved, then no way is Chuck Yeager missing out. Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 as a brigadier general.

He continued to work as a test pilot after retirement and broke the sound barrier again during his final Air Force flight in 1997. Yeager was portrayed by Sam Shepard in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff” in which he made a cameo as a bartender.

Oh yeah, and then he broke the sound barrier again at age 89 as a passenger in an F-15. Chuck Yeager has broken the sound barrier so many times that one might wonder if it personally wronged him at some point.

Yeager’s legacy lives on in an unexpected way, too. Think about the last time you heard an airline pilot on the intercom. You know that familiar relaxed, deliberate cadence that every pilot seems to speak with? That “pilot voice” began during the early era of jet aircraft when Yeager’s contemporaries began imitating his distinctive West Virginia drawl on the radio.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

(Photo by Olivier Blaise)

This is the point in the story at which one might expect to hear that General Yeager passed away in such-and-such year.

Wrong.

As of the time of this writing in 2019, Yeager is alive. He is very active on social media where his insights and trademark sense of humor (seriously, he’s hysterical) continue to entertain and inform fans across the world.

Check him out on Twitter at: @GenChuckYeager

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli fighters dominating Russian-made defenses in Syria

Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.

In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.


In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.

In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.

(Danny Makki/Twitter)

In May 2018, Israel released video of one of its bombs destroying a Russian air defense system, Russian media offered excuses as to why it failed to stop the incoming missile.

Israel rarely confirms individual airstrikes, and either confirmed or didn’t deny these attacks.

In September 2018, another Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.

Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.

Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.

Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.

Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.

The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.

But the US has attacked Syria twice with cruise missiles, and Syria has never proven a single missile intercept.

According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.

Israel is good at this

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.

Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.

Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

Israel’s air force.

In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35, F-22, and F-18 pilot, told Business Insider that Israel finds “innovative, creative, and aggressive ways to maximize the capability of every weapons systems they’ve ever used.”

Syria is bad at this

Syria has demonstrably failed on many occasions to stop air attacks on its territory. While Russia’s air defenses do give US military planners serious pause, Syria’s have yet to prove themselves.

With US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes in consecutive Aprils in 2017 and 2018, Syria claimed both times to have blocked a significant portion of the attack, but never provided any evidence of an intercept.

Additionally, photos from the second US Tomahawk strike on Syria show Syrian air defenses firing interceptor missiles on ballistic trajectories.

This strongly indicates that the Syrians simply fired blindly into the night sky, unable to detect a thing as US missiles rocked targets across the countryside.

Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.

Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.

That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.

The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”


At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.

Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.

As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.

“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.

Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.

The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”

They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.

From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.

The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.

“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what could happen if India and Pakistan have a nuclear war

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir, a disputed territory to which both nations lay claim. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, recently suggested the countries could be headed toward another.”

There is a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage,” Khan said at the United Nations annual summit in September 2019, referring to the Kashmir conflict.

Together, India and Pakistan possess 2% of the world’s nuclear arsenal: India is estimated to have around 140 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to have around 160. But they’re in an arms race to acquire more weapons.


By 2025, India and Pakistan could have expanded their arsenals to 250 warheads each, according to a new paper that predicts what might happen if the two nations entered into a nuclear war.

In that extreme scenario, the researchers write, a cloud of black soot could envelop the sky, causing temperatures to fall dramatically. Key agricultural hotspots would lose the ability to grow crops, triggering a global famine.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

Truck-mounted Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

“It would be instant climate change,” Alan Robock, an author of the study, told Business Insider. “Nothing like this in history, since civilization was developed, has happened.”

His paper estimates that up to 125 million people could die.

Nuclear weapons are becoming more powerful

Robock said the situation outlined in the paper isn’t likely, but it’s possible. So to determine the hypothetical consequences of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, the researchers sought the advice of military experts.

“We clearly don’t want to burn cities and see what would happen,” Robock said. “Most scientists have test tubes or accelerators. Nature is our laboratory, so we use models.”

The paper doesn’t speculate as to which nation is more likely to initiate a conflict. But it estimates that if India wanted to destroy Pakistan’s major cities, the nation would need to deploy around 150 nuclear weapons. The calculations assume that some of these weapons might miss their target or fail to explode, so the model is based on the explosion of 100 weapons in Pakistan.

If Pakistan attacked India’s major cities, the researchers estimated, about 150 nuclear weapons would likely go off.

If all of those bombs were 15-kiloton weapons — the size of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan — the researchers predict that 50 million people would die.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

“Little Boy” atomic bomb.

(Public domain)

But Robock said the US’ nuclear weapons today are around 100 to 500 kilotons, so it’s likely that India and Pakistan will have acquired more powerful weapons by 2025, the year in which his simulation takes place. If the nations were to use 100-kiloton weapons, the study suggests, that conflict could kill about 125 million people.

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could wreck Earth’s climate

Nuclear explosions produce sweltering heat. Structures catch on fire, and then winds either spread those flames or the fire draws in the surrounding air, creating an even larger blaze known as a firestorm.

Either way, enormous amounts of smoke would enter the air, the researchers write. A small portion of this smoke would contain “black carbon,” the sooty material that usually comes from the exhaust of a diesel engine. That substance would then get pumped through the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) and into the stratosphere. Within weeks, black carbon particles could spread across the globe.

It would be “the biggest injection of smoke into the stratosphere that we’ve ever seen,” Robock said.

Smoke particles can linger in the stratosphere for about five years and block out sunlight. In Robock’s simulation, that could cause Earth’s average temperature to drop by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Temperatures could get “as cold as the Ice Age,” he said. With less energy from the sun, the world could also experience up to 30% less rain.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher.

The researchers estimate that it would take more than a decade for temperatures and precipitation to return to normal. In the meantime, farmers around the world — especially in India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, tropical South America, and Africa — would struggle to grow food.

Entire marine ecosystems could also be devastated, which would destroy local fishing economies.

In sum, the authors write, a nuclear war could trigger mass starvation across the globe.

“As horrible as the direct effects of nuclear weapons would be, the indirect effects on our food supply would be much worse,” Robock said.

This isn’t the first time Robock has modeled this type of scenario: In 2014, he contributed to a paper that predicted what would happen if India and Pakistan deployed 50 weapons apiece, each with the strength of a “Little Boy” atomic bomb.

Even that “limited” nuclear-war scenario, he found, would cripple the ozone layer, expose people to harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation, and lower Earth’s surface temperatures for more than 25 years. But those explosions wouldn’t release nearly as much black carbon as the scenario in the newer model, so the cooling effect wouldn’t be as severe.

‘We’ve been really lucky’

Robock said this type of global climate catastrophe has happened before, but has never been created by humans. He compared the nuclear conflict modeled in the recent paper to the asteroid crash that triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That explosion released billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to plummet.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy.

Robock emphasized that unlike that disaster, nuclear war is preventable.

“There are all kinds of ways that something like this could happen, but if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t produce a nuclear war,” he said.

A key takeaway of the paper, he said, is that when nations threaten to nuke one another, they threaten their own safety, too. A nuclear war between two countries would “affect everybody in the world, not just where the bombs were dropped,” he added.

“We’ve been really lucky for the last 74 years” since Hiroshima, Robock said. “Our luck might run out sometime.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I doughboy was killed the day the war ended

The horrors of war are probably only fully appreciated by those who have served their countries in battles on land, at sea, or in the air. Nearly every history buff has watched Saving Private Ryan or read Unbroken, from which we glean a taste of what it might be like to kill or be killed for a cause–or to simply survive.

It’s all too easy to forget about the pure hell and random misfortunes that men and women are subjected to so that the rest of us can live free and safe. Sometimes, historical accounts from people who have experienced the burden of combat help us understand the sacrifices those soldiers and others have made. I am in possession of photocopies from a journal written by one of my wife’s relatives, a soldier who served at the end of World War I. He died in France on Armistice Day — November 11, 1918. He may well have been the last American killed in the Great War.


Private Joseph Sommers was born in Springfield, Illinois. After boot camp at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, he was sent to fight for America and her allies on the front lines in France during the summer of 1918. What you are about to read are excerpts from Private Sommers’s journal: The soldier was my wife’s great-great uncle. Most of the spelling and grammar is presented as written, though some capitalization and periods have been added to improve readability. The images described within the 5000-word manuscript and the emotions they elicit might leave an indelible impression upon your mind, heart, and soul–they are deeply affecting.

While you read the following, try to place yourself in the French countryside walking along battle-scarred roads on a journey situated somewhere between beautiful and truly horrific. Become the imaginary comrade of Private Joseph Sommers, Company C, 124th Machine Gun Battalion, 23rd Division. A young soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that others might live free.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare
Pages from the journal of Private Joseph Sommers.

Left Camp Logan 5/4/18. Sunday. We always leave on Sunday.

Arrived in Hoboken, NY. 5/16/18. Sailed on SS Mount Vernon ship, formerly the pride of the Kaiser. Ship very crowded. Mess was bad. 132nd Infantry Wolves hogged the boat.

Arrived in Brest, France on 5/24/18 and debarked.

5/26/18 Harbor filled with transports. A beautiful site coming into the harbor. Hills studded with guns. Airplanes and dirigibles guard harbor from subs. Very hot, overcoats on.

Oisemont 5/29/18. Arrived at our present camp. We are expected to be called to the front most any time. Anti-aircraft guns fired at airplanes. White puffs of shrapnel. Elusive planes. The rumble of guns very plainly heard, never ceasing, 25 miles back of the line. Bombing of towns close by continues nightly. I expect ours to be bombed most any time.

6/18/18 Going to machine gun school today for 12 days. Boche [German] planes, 10 in one bunch, 11 another bunch. Antiaircraft guns firing, very few hits made. We are now attached to the British Army. A visit to the lines on the night of July 3. We approached within 3 miles of the front line. Shells began to burst and I wished at the moment that our helmets was large as umbrellas. It is surprising how small you can make yourself when shells are bursting all around you. Ammunition dump struck by airplane bomb near Amiens. The whole heavens lighted with red flare, a wonderful thing.

7/7/18 An observation balloon high in the air, a cigar shaped affair with elephant ears, sways with the wind. It is held in position by a big cable which is attached to a motor car weighing 6 tons. The cable winds around a drum, and the balloon is either brought down or rises in the sky. The observer cuts loose his parachute, it drops. It fails to open like an umbrella. He is finished.

7/20/18 A doctor was found at the operating table standing over a patient in the act of operating on him when the gas struck both and they died. The graveyard at Biere was shelled so much by the Germans that the caskets and bodies and tombstones were scattered all over. There are quite a few soldiers graves here, from all regiments.

7/29/18 Our home in the woods was visited by Fritz’s [German] planes. He dropped about 12 bombs, luckily no one was hit. I would rather dodge 100 shells then hear one bomb whistle through the air.

8/7/18 Arrived at our positions at 12:45 A.M. On our way to this place we met some trucks and ambulances loaded with wounded and gassed, also many wounded walking to the first aid station.

8/7/18, 4:30 A.M. The British opened a terrible barrage. The sound was deafening. The shells were bursting through the air with such speed as to liken the sound of Niagara Falls. Previous to that time Fritz had been sending over gas shells by the hundreds, Mustard Gas which is one of the worst gases Jerry [Germans] uses. We had to wear our gas mask for over two hours.

9/18/18 The trees split as under their naked trunks against the skyline. Nature itself seems to be dead. In that dreary space not a living thing moves, save an occasional bird. “Dead Man’s Hill” is close by. The bones, skulls of men still thickly cover the ground. The rats are tame enough in our dugout to eat out of your hand. They sit and wink at you.

9/24/18 Turned in all our surplus stuff in the A.M. We are now traveling light. The Stunt is near being pulled off and by the looks of things it is going to be a big one. The Germans dropped some Gas and High Explosives pretty close today. We are bringing up ammunition in great quantities. We are waiting for zero hour.

9/26/18, 2:15 A.M. Gen. Jack Pershing and our Captain bid us God Speed and good luck. Up and among them soon. We opened our barrage which lasted for one hour starting at 5:30 AM. We hopped over the top amid the hell of machine gun bullets and ducking big shells. We saw plenty of dead lying on the battlefield which had been a battlefield for four different battles.

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare
Sommers’s obituary

9/27/18 We advanced three and half miles yesterday. The Germans left in a hurry. The water was still in the stoves that they were making coffee. Water was still hot. The Meuse River is about 800 yards in front of us.

10/2/18 Great artillery this A.M. on both sides. It was a little stronger than the usual morning song. Heard tonight that Bulgaria and Austria had surrendered.

10/5/18 Still in the line. Artillery still hammering away and also some machine gun firing.

10/9/18 Orders to move forward. Fired a machine gun barrage and orders came to remove guns and seek shelter in a deep dugout. Still waiting for orders to go forward.

10/10/18 Still in reverse. Got mail from Sister. Beautiful day, sun shining. The sky was full of airplanes, never saw so many. The sky was full of them just like birds. Have been in the line, for five weeks now. Still looking every day for relief.

This entry on October 10, 1918 was Private Sommers’s last. He died on November 11, Armistice Day, during an attack near Bougainville, France. While the armistice took effect at 11 a.m. on November 11, family lore has it that Sommers was actually killed later that day. I’ve thought about trying to help prove he was in fact the last American killed in the Great War. I struggle with whether that matters.

All photos courtesy of Ken Cruickshank

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beloved Coast Guard veteran and crossing guard, ‘Mr. Bob,’ dies while saving two children from speeding car

Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.


Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.

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“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.

Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.

Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.

Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.

“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Jason Momoa had some very strong opinions about the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale

It’s no secret that fans have strong opinions about the finale of Game of Thrones, with over a million disgruntled viewers saying they want HBO to remake the divisive last season. But it turns out, even some of the actors from the show have mixed feelings about its ending, as Jason Momoa expressed his complicated emotions while watching season 8, episode 6, ‘The Iron Throne.’

Momoa, who played Daenerys’ first husband Khal Drogo, live-streamed his viewing experience on Instagram and made it immediately clear that he was team Dany all the way, as he gave a shoutout to Emilia Clarke, who portrayed his former on-screen spouse.


“Khaleesi, I love you,” Momoa said. “Emilia, I love you. So sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

During the aftermath of Dany’s destruction of King’s Landing, Momoa remained loyal to his quick, declaring, “Get ’em! Kill them all!” He even apologized to his Queen for not being there for her.

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(HBO)

However, things quickly took a bad turn for Dany, as she was killed by Jon Snow and, unsurprisingly, Momoa was not happy.

“Fuck you,” Momoa said to the Queenslayer. “Fuck you, punk!”

He also expressed frustration with Bran being elected King of Westeros, declaring “who gives a fuck?” in response to Tyrion arguing on Bran’s behalf.

But none of his previous anger compared to when Jon’s punishment for murdering Dany was being sent to the Night’s Watch, as it seems he would have preferred Grey Worm’s plan to execute him.

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(HBO)

“Let me get this straight,” Momoa said. “You’re going back to what the fuck you did in the first place and you killed Khaleesi? Oh my god!”

Once it was all over, he seemed to share the same confusion and anger as most viewers.

“I feel lost,” Momoa said despondently. “I’m lost. What the fuck! Drogon should’ve fucking melted his ass! Ugh, and the goddamn bar is closed.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.

Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.

Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.

Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.


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Just like the good ol’ days! (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)

 

Going to the range

Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.

In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.

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Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off? (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)

 

Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”

Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.

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“You can eat all of that, right?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

 

Hosting massive barbecues

Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.

The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…

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There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be… (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kareem Abiose)

 

Drinking enough alcohol to relive barracks life

Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .

Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.

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But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game! (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

 

Wearing unapologetically American clothes

It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.

Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.

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No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.” (Photo by Jon Callas)

 

Blasting American musicians

As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!

Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.

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If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

 

So many fireworks…

Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…

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If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it. (WLKY News Louisville)

 

Chosing to avoid fireworks

Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.

Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.

Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.

This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.

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How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

This weekend, comic book fans all over the world were saddened by the terrible news that the father of superheroes had passed — and veterans lost a brother-in-arms who dedicated his life to the arts. This week, the Army Signal Corps says farewell to its most prominent member.

Stan Lee, WWII veteran, comic-book author, and editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, passed away on the morning of November 12, 2018. As painful as this news is to his family, friends, and fans around the world, we can all appreciate the fact that his life was a very accomplished one. The only way to truly honor a man so great is by reflecting on his storied life and “rise ever upward.” Or, as he’d put it, in it’s Latin form, “excelsior!


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Captain America Comics #3 (1941)
(Marvel Comics)

Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, began his career in the comic book world in 1939 when he took on a position as an assistant at Timely Comics under Joe Simon. It wasn’t an easy job, but it needed doing. He’d get people lunch, make sure everyone’s inkwells were full, and even do some proofreading — these weren’t glamorous duties, but they kept the wheels turning. When he finally touched the comic book world directly, he changed it forever — he was given a small amount of creative control over Captain America #3, and he used it to give Cap his signature shield ricochet.

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Many years later, and troops doodling things to pass the time hasn’t changed one bit.
(U.S. Army)

 

What was nothing more than a small writer’s credit at the time gave rise to immense goals. From that moment forward, Lee set out to create the next “Great American Novel.” As we all know, this ambition eventually morphed and developed into the greater Marvel Universe, a web of fictions that has today touched the lives of millions across the globe. But this lofty goal wasn’t outside of the scope of reality for a 19-year old Stan Lee — he believed in himself.

By then, World War II was heating up and Lee found himself enlisted in the Army by early 1942. Soon after that, he was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, learning to string and repair communication lines. In his downtime, he’d continue to draw and write to help pass the time.

It wasn’t long until the Army realized that they needed to create training films to onboard the massive influx of new troops. Because of the highly-sensitive nature of the process, they couldn’t trust just anyone to create them — they needed soldiers. The Army began its Signal Corps Photographic Center at Fort Monmouth, which, coincidentally, was where Lee was stationed.

Lee’s superior officers recognized his creative talents from his hobbies and his earlier work with Timely Comics. So, they more or less hey-you’d him into using his talents for the Army. This was exactly the break he needed. He was laterally transferred to the Fort Monmouth Film Production Laboratory and worked side by side with some of the other greatest artistic visionaries of the U.S. Army.

He stood in formation with Frank Capra, the three-time Academy-Award-winning director for films like It’s a Wonderful Life, cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Lee was one of nine soldiers to ever earn the position of “playwright” for the U.S. Army.

Lee didn’t have any notoriety before then, unlike many of his famous fellow soldiers. He was, simply, that guy who wrote for comic books, but that didn’t phase him one bit. He kept giving the Army his all — and it showed. He was so good and so fast at what he did, in fact, that he was asked to slow down many times because it made everyone else look bad.

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This scene in Avengers 2 will always bring joy to my heart.
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

Lee’s service concluded in 1945 and he went back to Timely Comics. No longer was he just some kid grabbing coffee; he was a war hero. The skills he developed while quickly chugging out quality content for the Army was exactly the type of tempo needed in the comic world.

Lee used his Army experiences to perfect comic book making. He turned the process into a creative assembly line. Lee would write the captions in the bubbles, another artist would pencil in the scene, another would color it, and another would finalize the lettering. This style became known as the “Marvel Method.” It distributed the workload evenly and it gave everyone equal creative input.

Stan Lee may not have written the next Moby Dick as he planned while a bright-eyed 19-year-old, but there’s no denying that his life’s work — the Marvel Universe — stands tall as the most enduring, relevant collection of fiction of his era.

Rest easy, Mr. Lee. You made True Believers out of all of us.

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The US plan to train nuclear suicide bomber paratroopers

It’s an idea as old as nuclear weapons themselves: If you could slip a nuke into a city and detonate it, the enemy would never know it was coming. No missiles detected, no early warning radar, just one day: BOOM. In Cold War lore, these man-portable devices were usually envisioned as suitcase bombs. But the U.S. Army doesn’t do suitcases.


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They used to, though. They used to do suitcases really well.

 

No, the Army’s man-portable nuclear weapon was, of course, a duffel bag of sorts – and it was designed to be carried by a paratrooper, Green Light Team, or Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists in case of World War III. NATO knew if the Soviets invaded with a traditional, conventional force, it would take time to mount any kind of meaningful resistance or counterattack. So in the 1960s, the Army came up with the brilliant idea to pack nukes on the backs of individual troops and drop them into strategic places to deny their use to the enemy.

One single paratrooper could cut off communications, destroy crops, and demolish key infrastructure in both the Soviet Union and in recently-captured, Soviet-held territory. There’s just one problem with this plan that the Army didn’t really see as much of a problem, apparently.

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Humans can run faster than nuclear blasts? (U.S. Army)

 

Humans can’t run faster than nuclear blasts. In theory, the idea would be that the troop in question would either set a timer and secure the location before hoofing it out of there, with plenty of time to spare. But let’s be real: is the U.S. Army going to leave that much to chance? What if the enemy found it, disarmed it, secured it and then was able to reproduce it or use that weapon against NATO forces? They wouldn’t because Big Army isn’t that dumb.

Even if it were possible to outrun the timer on the bomb and/or the bomb yield was small enough for the munitions crew to escape, there’s no way the team would be recoverable due to the fallout or the alarm raised by such a weapon – or more likely because the use of a nuclear weapon triggered a full nuclear exchange.


Feature image: U.S Army photo by Alejandro Pena

MIGHTY HISTORY

How doughnuts have a storied history in the trenches of WWI

Necessity is the mother of invention — and war is often the catalyst. Sure, we can look at all of the obvious military advancements that trickled down to the civilian sector, like fixed-winged aircraft, GPS, the microwave, and the can opener, but it’s a little-known fact that a lot of contemporary American foods also got their start on the battlefield.

The doughnut, one of the most American deserts known to man, got its start when troops needed a tactical desert to get their minds off the horrors of WWI.


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Looks just like the line at your local Krispy Kreme — some things never change.

(National Archives)

During WWI, the Salvation Army actually deployed overseas with the troops, offering a wide variety of support for the troops. This support ranged from preparing home-cooked meals to sending money back home to sewing their uniforms when needed. The organization was entirely independent from the Armed Forces, but they followed units around the battlefield — oftentimes going to the front lines with them.

Two women assigned to assist the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, Ensign Helen Purviance and Ensign Margaret Sheldon, endured the hellish environment of Monte-sur-Soux, France, just as the soldiers did. It rained for thirty days and supplies were running thin. They needed to come up with something — anything — to boost the abysmal morale.

They searched the countryside for ingredients and came back with eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Perfect ingredients to make a cake, but that wouldn’t be enough for all the troops. They made some dough, used a wine bottle to work it, and cooked the cake batter on a frying pan in some grease. They served it up — and the soldiers loved it.

Soldiers would gather from all around when they smelled the doughnuts being cooked. It was said that the lines were so long that troops would miss duty or formation because they just wanted a single doughnut. One soldier eventually asked Ensign Purvaince, “can’t you make a doughnut with a hole in it?” She obliged this request by cutting the middle of the doughnut out with an empty condensed milk can and used the rest of the batter for other doughnuts.

Doughnuts quickly spread across the U.S. front and other Salvation Army officers started making them for the troops in their care. It didn’t take long for the women making the sweets to be given the nickname of “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” — despite the numerous other ways in which they aided troops.

So, when National Doughnut Day rolls around on the first Friday of June, know that it’s about more than the glazed treat you used to cheat on your diet this morning. It’s a day in honor of the women who served on the front-lines with the troops, preparing tasty treats in hopes of cheering them up.

To learn more about Doughnut Girls or real meaning behind National Doughnut Day, check out the video below.

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This Army dentist died mowing down 98 attacking Japanese soldiers

The only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor did so posthumously, 58 years after his death, for his World War II exploits defending his patients. He killed a few enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat before slowly falling back with a machine gun and killing dozens more, totaling 98 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing his patients to escape to safety before he died of fatal wounds.


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U.S. Army dentist Capt. Benjamin Salomon (U.S. Army)

 

 

A young Benjamin Salomon fought for entry into the University of Southern California’s dental program despite the fact that many American universities at the time had a cap on how many Jewish applicants they would accept. When he graduated in 1937, he immediately tried to join both the Canadian and American armies, possibly because of how his brethren were being treated in Europe at the time.

Both armies rejected him and the young man started a successful dental practice in Beverly Hills instead. In 1940, he had a small client base that included aspiring actors in Hollywood when he was drafted into the American infantry as a private.

While it may seem odd that a man with a doctorate of dental medicine was an infantryman, Salomon reportedly took to the training and became a top-tier machine gunner. He gave free checkups and cleanings to his friends in the barracks until, in 1942, the Army commissioned him into the dental corps. Salomon tried to refuse the commission to stay in his position as sergeant of a machine gun team, but his request was denied.

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(U.S. Army)

He was sent to the Pacific Theater with the 27th Infantry Division. There, during the Marianas Island Campaign, a battalion surgeon was wounded. Capt. Salomon offered to fill in until a new surgeon could be assigned and sent.

It was in this role that the 29-year-old was serving when, on July 7, 1944, the Japanese commander ordered waves of suicide attacks against American positions, calling for each attacker to kill 10 Americans before dying.

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(U.S. Army)

Salomon saw his first attacker while working on a patient. The Japanese man emerged from the brush and began bayoneting wounded troops lined up for treatment. Salomon grabbed a rifle and shot the man down and tried to return to his patient.

But two more attackers rushed through the front. Salomon clubbed both, then bayoneted one and shot the other before soldiers started to climb in under the tent walls. The dentist shot one, knifed one, bayoneted a third, and head-butted the fourth.

Seeing that the situation was desperate and the hospital would be lost, he ordered the medics to assist the wounded in a withdrawal while he provided cover.

Contact with Salomon was lost for 15 hours as the American force conducted a withdrawal and then slowly took the territory back. When they found Salomon, he was laying on a machine gun, dead, with 76 bayonet and bullet wounds. Dozens of enemy dead were arrayed before him, a blood trail showed where he had repositioned the gun multiple times, almost certainly while fatally wounded, to continue covering the retreat.

While Salomon’s exploits were well investigated and documented, the recommendation for a Medal of Honor was rejected by Gen. George W. Griner who believed that Salomon’s actions were a violation of the Geneva Convention, which generally bars medical personnel from carrying or using offensive weapons.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)

But medical personnel are allowed to use weapons in final defense of themselves or their patients, and a review of the case decades later resulted in a 2002 ceremony in the Rose Garden where President George W. Bush presented the medal to Dr. Robert West, one of the Salomon supporters who worked for years to get the award approved.

The medal is now on display at the University of Southern California.

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