4 reasons why the quiet drill sergeant is the scariest one - We Are The Mighty
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4 reasons why the quiet drill sergeant is the scariest one

Many civilians have a twisted understanding of how the military operates. Honestly, it might be best not to correct them. Their minds would be collectively blown if they knew the magnitude of downtime and dumb things that happen to our nation’s fighting men and women. But one commonly portrayed character: the drill sergeant. 


Another misconception is that NCOs are constantly barking orders in our faces. In reality, this is pretty uncommon outside of training, but not impossible to find. The truth is, the threat of a knifehand gets old if it’s constantly shoved in your face. When the quiet drill sergeant unsheathes theirs, however, things get actually terrifying. This applies in Basic Training and continues through the rest of your military career.

Drill sergeant with troops

“Everywhere I go. There’s a Drill Sergeant there. Everywhere I goooo. There’s a Drill Sergeant there.”

(Photo by Spc. Madelyn Hancock)

You’ll never see it coming…

Loud NCOs can be heard from a mile away. You’ll hear them chew out a private for having their hands in their pockets immediately before you face the same wrath.

The quiet ones? Oh no. They’ll hide in the shadows and catch you in the middle of doing something stupid before they make their presence known.

A soldier does PT while a drill sergeant looks on

That, or flutter-kicks. From personal experience, flutter-kicks will drain your emotions after roughly twenty minutes.

(Photo by Sgt. Debralee P. Crankshaw)

They will crush your body and spirit

You can only do so many push ups before it’s just a bit of light exercise. Iron Mikes to the woodline and back won’t hurt after you build up your thigh strength. Even ass-chewings get dull once you learn to daydream through it. These are all go-to responses for the loud drill sergeants. The quiet ones, on the other hand, get a bit more creative.

Want to know how to break someone’s spirit while also helping them on their upcoming PT test? Have them do planks while reading off the regulation, verbatim, that they just broke — complete with page turns. If they stumble, make them start from the top.

A drill sergeant uses his "knife hand" to yell at recruits

You only get to threaten to “suck out someone’s soul” before you have to put up or shut up. Use it wisely.

(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

Their threats are more sincere

The loud drill sergeant also tends to stick to the same basic threats. Sure, they may say they’re going to smoke you so hard that you’re going to bleed out your ass, but they can only say that exact threat maybe twice before it becomes silly.

The quiet NCO? Oh, hell no. That guy might be serious when he says he’s going to suck out your soul…

A quiet drill sergeant sits behind a desk

 

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

They choose their words very carefully

Speaking of things becoming silly, have you ever sat back and contemplated the exact nature of most of the threats loud drill sergeants employ? It’s impossible to not burst out laughing sometimes while on the receiving end of an ass-chewing in which every other word is a lazily-placed expletive.

The NCO that understands that expletives are punctuation marks will be much more successful in instilling fear among the ranks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

It was the moment in history that every Western film has tried to emulate. The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their friend, Doctor John Henry Holliday, made their stand in October, 1881, against the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys who had been terrorizing the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

As the clock struck 3:00, Marshal Virgil Earp issued a warning to the outlaws, telling them to “throw up [their] hands.” Moments later, shots rang out and black smoke filled the narrow streets. A half-minute later, three of the five outlaws had been gunned down and the other two ran like hell. The heroic lawmen stood tall.

Moviemakers and novelists have flocked to this moment and heaped praise onto Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and that’s not without good reason. I mean, their lives and friendship make for a goldmine for potential stories and, if you want some protagonists who’ve earned an abundance of cool points, they’re your huckleberries. What’s not to love about a couple of gunslinging bros laying down the law in the Wild West?

Yet, noticeably absent from the spotlight is the man who actually confronted the outlaws. The actual lawman of the group (not just appointed as one) who actually knew the ins and outs of gunfighting: Marshall Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother.


The 83rd Infantry were renown for their sharpshooting skills. Something that would prove useful in the Wild West.

(National Park Services photo)

Virgil’s story begins a week after his 18th birthday on July 26, 1861, when he joins the Union Army. He’d fallen in love and fathered a child with Ellen Rysdam in secret. Her parents strongly disagreed with her choice in him but they married anyway. They’d spent time together raising their daughter, Nellie Jane, before he was mustered into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three years.

When the Civil War broke out, he was reassigned into the 83rd Illinois Infantry and sent down to Tennessee. Detailed records are gone with time, but he did something to earn a court-martial and was docked two weeks of pay. By that point, his loving wife was informed that he’d fallen in combat by her father before being unceremoniously shuffled toward a guy he did approve.

After Virgil returned from the war, his wife and daughter vanished with the new man. He did what any recently-returned veteran would do at the time and ventured west to ease his heartache. This is when he reunited with his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and met an unusually badass dentist by the name of Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge City, Virgil used his military experience to become a deputy town marshal.

For historical perspective, this was Tombstone and the one street was where the showdown happened.

He’d soon get the heck outta Dodge when he was informed that the Cochise County Cowboys down in Prescott, Arizona Territory, were causing mayhem. On one of his first patrols, he first encountered the outlaw gang robbing a stagecoach at the edge of town. He picked up his Henry rifle and plucked them off from a great distance.

He was promptly given the role of Prescott’s night watchman and was later elected as constable for his hard-line stance against the outlaws. Virgil wrote to his brothers, who were in need of work. that a new silver-mining town, Tombstone, was perfect for them, and so they headed south. The U.S. Marshall over Arizona appointed Virgil as the Marshal of the Tombstone District of Pima County. His main goal was to stop all of the coach robberies that occurred between Prescott and Tombstone.

In order to keep the rates of violence and crime down, Virgil enacted an ordinance that prohibited deadly weapons in Tombstone. All weapons must be turned into a stable or saloon upon entering town. This ordinance, as you might imagine, didn’t stop the Cowboy gang from harassing innocent bystanders and making constant threats against the lives of the Earp brothers.

Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, after the outlaws refused to drop their weapons at Virgil’s command.

And the scene of that infamous gunfight is now the biggest tourist trap in the area, bringing money into the middle-of-nowhere town.

(Photo by Ken Lund)

Once upon a time, Wyatt Earp was a lawman. But his days of being officially on the blue side ended in Dodge City and Witchita. In Tombstone, Virgil had appointed Wyatt as his temporary assistant, along with Morgan and Doc as temporary “special policemen.”

It should be noted that prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan and Doc had never been in any documented firefights, and Wyatt Earp had only one officially under his belt — but all three had remarkable track records in fist fights. Virgil. however, was well-versed in firefights. It should also be noted that while everyone else was using their iconic (but tiny) western revolvers, Virgil was unloading his big-ass coach gun into the outlaws, despite being shot through the femur.

Sam Elliot played Virgil in 1993’s ‘Tombstone,’ which we think is a pretty well-deserved tribute.

(Buena Vista Pictures)

The gunfight came to an end and the lawmen rose victorious — but the fighting would continue. For their actions that day, they were all reprimanded. Virgil continued as marshal over Tombstone after being cleared of all wrongdoing.

The Cowboys would unrelentingly go after the Earps. Virgil would later be severely wounded by three shotgun-wielding assassins who simultaneously fired on him. This attack ended his career in law enforcement and he ceded marshal duties to his brother, Wyatt. Assassins killed Morgan Earp a few months later.

Wyatt and Doc would eventually bring those responsible to justice and their names would be remembered throughout history for being the toughest lawmen in the West. Virgil needed many years to recuperate, but never fully recovered.

He would eventually cross paths with his former-wife, Ellen, and his daughter when he was an old man. There wasn’t any bad blood, and he was happy to meet three grand-kids he never knew existed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the UK’s massive “earthquake bombs”

The Second World War saw the creation, fielding, and use of some of the most powerful weapons. From massive battleships armed with guns that will never again be matched in size to the atom bomb, these weapons were built to cause shock and awe and bring about destruction like we’ve never seen. England’s legendary “earthquake bombs,” or seismic bombs, were one such invention.

Barnes Wallis was an engineering graduate of the University of London and an incredibly creative mind. Well known for his bouncing bomb of Dambusters fame, Wallis was an integral part of British and Allied war machine programs, churning out improvements in aircraft and munitions design. He came up with the concept of the earthquake bomb in the early years of the War.

These bombs arose out of a need to hit “hardened” targets — reinforced structures designed to withstand heavy bombardment — and underground installations. Before the deployment of the earthquake bomb, these targets were, in theory, impenetrable.

Wallis took their impregnability as a challenge.


At the time, area bombing was the prevailing method employed by Allied forces to hit German targets in the European Theater. Large cells of bombers would drop hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs with the hope that at least a few would hit their mark. This did little to destroy or even inflict damage upon hardened targets.

Instead, Wallis hypothesized that the ideal way to take out these structures and military installations was with an accurate, concentrated attack using a smaller number of extremely powerful munitions.

Speed and momentum would be the new bomb’s method of penetration. Extremely heavy and built with an armored casing and guiding fins, once dropped from its bomber, the munition would reach near-supersonic speeds as it hurtled toward the ground. This force would be more than enough to punch through the layers of thick concrete used by German military engineers to protect their facilities.

After boring through the ceiling of its target, the seismic bomb would fall as far as its momentum would take it. Only then would it detonate, giving whoever was inside or nearby a glimpse of utter hell. Aircrew who dropped these bombs reported that, at first, it looked as though the bomb merely punched a hole in the target. Within seconds, entire targets seemed to crumple in on themselves and fall into a sinkhole.

When the seismic bomb detonated deep within its target, the shock waves from the gargantuan warhead didn’t just obliterate anything nearby, it destabilized entire structures, shaking and moving the very earth beneath them, destroying and collapsing their foundations. Soon, a new term for these weapons would surface — “bunker busters.”

The Royal Air Force fielded two types of seismic bombs over the course of the Second World War — the Tallboy and the Grand Slam. Both were used against submarine pens, factories, and underground German bunkers to great effect. The US Army Air Force followed suit not too long after with similar bombs of their own. Tallboys were famously used to disable and sink the legendary Bismarck‘s sister battleship, the Tirpitz, in 1944.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a skilled archer hit targets from around corners

What you are about to see is not the stuff of medieval legend… although it should be. If someone were able to do this in the middle ages, they would likely have been set on fire for witchcraft. That’s how amazing it is to watch an able archer hit a target from around a corner.

For once, the reality of something is way cooler than it could ever be shown in the movies, thanks to archer Lars Andersen.


This would be almost as impressive if it were real.

Andersen is a Danish archer who is kind of like the Mythbuster of the archery world. He shows how amazing feats in archery can still be done in the modern world, without a modern bow and arrow set up. He’s proven that ancient Saracen archers could really fire off three arrows in 1.5 seconds, as history recorded. He can catch arrows in mid-flight, just like your Dungeons and Dragons character. He can deflect an incoming arrow with another arrow. He even demonstrates how to catch an arrow the use it to shoot another target.

Sploosh.

In the 2017 video below, he’s demonstrating a technique used by English and Arab bowmen from the days of yore: shooting heavy arrows around corners – he even says it can be a really easy thing to do for any archer, you just lace the arrow on the string in the wrong place, slightly off-center. The off-center firing causes the air resistance to kick the arrow back, making it rotate into a turn.

He even demonstrates a “boomerang” shot, where the arrow turns completely around a corner.

The arrows will not hit the target on a turn with the same force as it would a straight-on target, so it’s unlikely to kill someone taking cover from your arrow barrage, but it will make them think twice about the cover they’ve chosen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Federal judge just moved transgender military ban forward

A federal court ruled on March 7, 2019, that the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members could take effect as courts continue to mull over the issue, bringing the administration even closer to enforcing the policy.

The decision comes after the US Supreme Court lifted two injunctions on the ban in January 2019 to allow it to go into effect. However, due to an injunction in the Maryland case of Stone v. Trump, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of transgender plaintiffs who are either currently serving in the armed forces or plan to enlist, the ban was never fully implemented.


March 7, 2019’s ruling gives the administration another opportunity to move forward with a policy first proposed over Tweet by the president in July 2017. The ban, which was later officially released by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a 2018 memorandum, blocks anyone with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving in the military. Mattis added that transgender individuals could remain in the military as long as they served “in their biological sex” and did not undergo gender-transition surgery.

The case in Maryland was filed days after the president ordered the Pentagon to not allow the recruitment of transgender people, The Washington Post reported.

In his order on March 7, 2019, US District Judge George Russell III ruled that “the Court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision,” thereby revoking an earlier order he had issued to bar the administration from implementing the policy, according to The Post.

“I think it’s really disappointing that the government would take such an extreme position,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, told INSIDER. “That the government would say that [our plaintiffs] can’t complete the enlistment process is really unfair and causes a lot of unnecessary harm to people who have been trying to do nothing else but serve their country.”

A Department of Defense spokesperson told INSIDER that there is no timeline yet for when the policy will actually be implemented.

After the Supreme Court’s January 2019 ruling, which allowed the government to enforce the ban while the policy was decided in lower courts, the Department of Justice filed a motion to stay the injunction in Stone v. Trump, asking for an “expedited ruling,”according to The Daily Beast. BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reported days later that the motion had been filed.

“Consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent action, we are pleased this procedural hurdle has been cleared,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco told INSIDER in a statement. “The Department of Defense will be able to implement personnel policies it determined necessary to best defend our nation as litigation continues.”

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Judge Russell’s order was one of four issued against the transgender military ban, according to the Washington Blade. Injunctions in cases filed in California and Washington state were lifted by the Supreme Court decision.

While the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit sided with Trump on the ban, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction is still in place, the Blade explains.

Lawyers challenging the policy told The Washington Post that the injunction in the DC Circuit case remains for at least 21 days after the court issues its final signed ruling, and that the Court of Appeals has yet to act on that.

Block expressed similar sentiment, telling INSIDER that while March 7, 2019’s ruling is a setback, there is still that additional block on the ban that exists from that DC Circuit case.

“The government has been saying in its court files that this is the last injunction preventing them from implementing the plan, but that’s not actually correct,” he said. “Until the mandate from the DC Circuit is issued, it’s still in effect.”

In response to the Maryland court’s ruling, the Department of Defense spokesperson told INSIDER that, “the Department is pleased with the district court’s decision to stay the final injunction against the Department’s proposed policy.”

In terms of the Stone v. Trump lawsuit, Block said that the case is progressing and they are working tirelessly to prove that the ban is unconstitutional. “This is just the government trying to knock down whatever obstacles remain in the meantime,” he told INSIDER.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy is protecting ships from China’s threats

As China and the US continue to spar over trade and the South China Sea, a Chinese admiral made a bold threat to eliminate one of the US’s primary military advantages, its aircraft carriers — a gaping vulnerability that has concerned US officials as China’s military power grows.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Rear Adm. Lou Yuan reportedly said in a speech at the 2018 Military Industry List summit on Dec. 20, 2018, adding that sinking one carrier could kill 5,000 US service members.


“We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said.

Lou, the deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, has academic military rank and does not command troops, but he has gained attention for his hawkish views on the US, as have other officials who’ve called on Beijing to take a more confrontational approach.

Lou said current US-China tensions were “definitely not simply friction over economics and trade” but rather over a “prime strategic issue,” according to Australia’s News.com.au, which cited Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The US has “five cornerstones” that can be exploited, he said: its military, its money, its talent, its voting system, and its fear of adversaries.

China should “use its strength to attack the enemy’s shortcomings,” he said, according to News.com.au, continuing: “Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”

Lou said China’s new anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were able to hit US carriers despite the “bubble” of defensive measures surrounding them. The US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers.

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, aircraft, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Not indestructible but certainly defensible

China has clashed with its neighbors over its expansive claims in the East and South China seas.

The US has undertaken freedom-of-navigation exercises in the area to assert the right under international law to operate there — moves that have provoked close encounters with Chinese ships.

Reducing or blocking the US’s ability to operate in those areas is a key part of China’s efforts to shift the regional balance of power in its favor by undermining confidence in US assurances about security to its partners. (Russia has pursued similar efforts.)

Beijing’s development of ballistic missiles — like the DF-21, which can reach Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, and the longer-range DF-26, which can reach most US bases in the Pacific — along with air-defense systems and a more active navy have led to discussions about what the US Navy needs to do to operate in a contested environment, where even its all-powerful aircraft carriers could be vulnerable to attack.

The amphibious assault ship Boxer firing a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile-firing exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2013.

(US Navy photo by Kenan O’Connor)

In analyses by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “we determined that if the Navy pursues a lot of the air-defense capabilities that they’ve been talking about, and some of which have been in development or fielded, they should be able to dramatically improve the carrier strike group’s air-defense capacity,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at CSBA who previously worked on Navy strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations, said in December 2018 during a presentation at the Heritage Foundation.

At present, Clark said, carrier strike groups operating about 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese coast using air-defenses assets like interceptor missiles, electromagnetic jamming, directed-energy weapons, and patrol aircraft could expect to hit about 450 incoming weapons, fewer than the at least 600 weapons the CSBA estimated China could fire to that distance.

“So if you shift instead to what the Navy’s talking about doing with its air-defense capacity by shifting to shorter-range interceptors like the [Evolved Sea Sparrow missile] instead of the SM-2 in terms of loadout, adopting directed-energy weapons, using the hypervelocity projectile … you could increase the air-defense capacity of your [carrier strike group] to the point where now you can deal with maybe 800 weapons or so in a particular salvo,” Clark said.

The USS Ronald Reagan conducting a live-fire exercise of its Phalanx Close-in Weapons System in the Philippine Sea in 2016.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke)

These estimates make numerous assumptions about the effectiveness of Navy air defenses and about how China deploys its weaponry. Moreover, the above scenarios end with the carrier strike group’s interceptor weapons expended.

To compensate for that and allow carriers to operate longer in contested areas, the Navy could use electromagnetic warfare to make enemy targeting harder or by attacking enemy bombers and missile launchers before they can fire, according to the CSBA report.

It wouldn’t be enough to eliminate China’s coastal missile batteries. With China’s and Russia’s improving ability to fire sub-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, changes are needed to the carrier air wing’s composition and operations to work at longer ranges and in contested environments, the report notes.

“There is approach that could yield a carrier strike group that is, if not indestructible, but certainly defensible in an area where it could be relevant to a warfight with a country like China,” Clark said at the Heritage Foundation. “This is the approach that the Navy’s moving down the track toward.”

Sailors on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Carl Vinson as it departed Naval Air Station North Island for a deployment in the western Pacific.

(US Navy photo)

‘Americans have gone soft’

Lou is in the hawkish wing of the Chinese foreign-policy commentariat, but his remarks invoked what appears to be an increasingly common perception of the US in Chinese thinking: The US is powerful but lacks resolve to fight.

“A far larger number of Chinese believe it than I think is healthy,” Brad Glosserman, a China expert and visiting professor at Tokyo’s Tama University, told Stars and Stripes in January 2019 in regard to Lou’s comments.

Many Chinese believe “Americans have gone soft” and “no longer have an appetite for sacrifice and at the first sign of genuine trouble they will cut and run,” Glosserman said.

Many in the US would dispute that notion. But this was part of the discussion of the aircraft carrier’s future in American power at the Heritage Foundation event on Dec. 11, 2018.

There is a “heightened national aversion to risk,” especially when comes aircraft carriers, according to Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain who now serves as vice president at the consultant Telemus Group.

Carriers have grown in cost and become regarded as a symbol of “national prestige,” Hendrix said at the Heritage Foundation event. He added that in light of the importance with which carriers have been imbued, political leaders may be averse to sending them into battle.

“There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential for conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers,” Hendrix said. “We need to move these assets back into the realm of being weapons and not being perceived as mystical unicorns.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country – and the US

Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.



It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.

In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.

But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.

Then-Lt. Louis E. Curdes.

Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.

He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.

Baller.

Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.

Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.

Internet legends say that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for downing the unarmed cargo plane, but his citation was so ordered for actions while in the European Theater.

(Pima Air and Space Museum)

He still wins the best “How I Met Your Mother” story of all time, though. His P-51 named “Bad Angel” is in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last horse charge of American cavalry was in World War II

While Poland is sometimes mocked for sending horse cavalry against tanks in World War II (it was actually horses against an infantry battalion, but still), the U.S. launched its own final cavalry charge two years later, breaking up a Japanese attack in the Philippines that bought time for the cavalrymen and other American troops.


The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting in them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

It came in April 1942 as part of the months-long effort to defend the Philippines from the Japanese invasion. The first Japanese attacks on the islands took place on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack (though it was December 8 on the calendar because the international dateline falls between the two). Just two days later, the week of troop landings began.

The Americans on the Philippines weren’t ready for the fight, and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had to lean hard on his elite troops to protect the rest of the force as they withdrew to one defensive line after another. And cavalry was uniquely suited for that mission since it could ride out, disrupt an attack, and then quickly ride back to where the rest of the defenders had fortified themselves.

And so MacArthur called up the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts), a unit that had American officers and Filipino enlisted men on horses. And all of them were well-equipped and good at their jobs.

But, like the rest of the American forces there, they faced a daunting enemy. The Japanese invaders were nearly all veterans from fighting in Korea or Manchuria, but few of the American defenders had seen combat. And the Japanese forces were better armed.

So much so that, unlike Poland, the American cavalry really did once charge tanks from horseback. Oh, and it worked.

The cavalry scouts were exhausted from days of acting as the eyes and ears of the Army, but a new amphibious operation on December 22 had put Japanese forces on the road to Manila. The defenders there crumbled in the following days and completely collapsed on January 16, 1942. If the 26th couldn’t intercept them and slow the tide, Manila would be gone within hours.

The American and Filipino men scouted ahead on horseback and managed to reach the village of Morong ahead of Japanese forces. The village sat on the Batalan River, and if the cavalrymen could prevent a crossing, they could buy precious hours.

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

But as they were scouting the village, the Japanese vanguard suddenly appeared on the bridges. The commander had no time, no space for some well-thought-out and clever defense from cover. It was a “now-or-never” situation, and the 26th had a reputation for getting the job done.

So, the commander, Col. Clint Pierce, ordered a charge.

The men and horses surged forward, pistols blazing, at a vanguard of Japanese infantry backed up by tanks. But the American cavalry charge was so fierce that the Japanese ranks broke, and they dodged back across the river to form back up. It was so chaotic that even the tanks were forced to stop.

“Bent nearly prone across the horses’ necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces,” First Lt. Edwin Ramsey, a platoon leader, later wrote. “A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles.”

And so the cavalrymen held the line, dismounting after the first charge but preventing the Japanese crossing.

Thousands of men died in the Bataan Death March.

(U.S. Army)

While the Philippine Scouts would be well decorated for their endeavors on January 16, and for other heroics during the defense of the Philippines, the story turns grim for them.

They took heavy losses that day before falling back to the rest of the American force after reinforcements arrived. And then they were isolated on the Bataan Peninsula. As the American forces began to starve, they butchered the horses and ate the meat. But even that wouldn’t be enough.

On April 9, 1942, the U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were killed in the death march that followed.

That same month, the last U.S. Army horse cavalry unit turned in its animals in Nebraska.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US military launched a half a billion needles into space

In the early 1960s, international communications were limited to transmissions through undersea cables or occasionally unreliable radio signals bounced off of the ionosphere. As you might imagine from this, many in the Western world weren’t too keen on the state of the situation given that were to someone, say, the Soviet Union, cut those cables before launching an attack, international communications with overseas forces and foreign allies would have to rely on the mood of said ionosphere.

For those unfamiliar, the ionosphere is a layer of the upper atmosphere about 50 to 600 miles above sea level. It gets its name because it is ionized consistently by solar and cosmic radiation. In very simple terms, X-ray, ultraviolet, and shorter wavelengths of radiation given off by the Sun (and from other cosmic sources) release electrons in this layer of the atmosphere when these particular photons are absorbed by molecules. Because the density of molecules and atoms is quite low in the ionosphere (particularly in the upper layers), it allows free electrons to exist in this way for a short period of time before ultimately recombining. Lower in the atmosphere, where the density of molecules is greater, this recombination happens much faster.


What does this have to do with communication and radio waves? Without interference, radio waves travel in a straight line from the broadcast source, ultimately hitting the ionosphere. What happens after is dependent on a variety of factors, notable among them being the frequency of the waves and the density of the free electrons. For certain types of radio waves, given the right conditions, they will essentially bounce back and forth between the ground and the ionosphere, propagating the signal farther and farther. So clearly the ionosphere can potentially play an important part in the terrestrial radio and communication process. But it is the constantly shifting nature of the ionosphere that makes things really interesting. And for that, we’ll have to get a little more technical, though we’ll at the least spare you the math, and we’ll leave out a little of the complexity in an effort to not go full textbook on you.

To begin with, the ionosphere’s composition changes most drastically at night, primarily because, of course, the Sun goes missing for a bit. Without as abundant a source of ionizing rays, the D and E levels (pictured right) of the ionosphere cease to be very ionized, but the F region (particularly F2) still remains quite ionized. Further, because the atmosphere is significantly less dense here then the E and D regions, it results in more free electrons (the density of which is key here).

When these electrons encounter a strong radio wave of certain types, such as AM radio, they can potentially oscillate at the frequency of the wave, taking some of the energy from the radio wave in the process. With enough of them, as can happen in the F layer, (when the density of encountered electrons is sufficient relative to the specific signal frequency), and assuming they don’t just recombine with some ion (which is much more likely in the E and D layers in the daytime), this can very effectively refract the signal back down to Earth at sufficient strength to be picked up on a receiver.

Depending on conditions, this process can potentially repeat several times with the signal bouncing down to the ground and back up. Thus, using this skywave certain radio signals can be propagated even thousands of miles and, most pertinent to the topic at hand, across oceans.

Of course, given the unpredictability of this form of communication, and potentially even times when communication would be impossible, military brass during the Cold War wanted another option.

Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, the project was initially called “Project Needles” by Professor Walter E. Morrow in 1958 when he first dreamed up the idea. It was later re-named “West Ford”, presumably after Westford, Massachusetts, a nearby town. The idea was to place potentially even billions of tiny (1.78 centimeters 0.7 inches long and microscopically thin) copper antennae or dipoles in a medium Earth orbit to be used for communication signals at 8 Ghz.

The first set of well over a hundred million needles was launched on Oct. 21, 1961, but unfortunately this test failed when the needles didn’t disperse as planned.

On a second attempt in May 9, 1963, a batch of 350 million needles was placed on the back of an Air Force satellite and sent into orbit. Once dispersed, properly this time, the needles spread to form a sparsely concentrated belt with approximately 50 dipoles per cubic mile.

Needles from “Project Needles” compared to a stamp.

While you might think surely this wouldn’t be dense enough to be effective for use in communication, in fact early results of the experiment were extremely promising, with communication established using the needle array from California to Massachusetts, some 3K or so miles or 4,800 km apart. As such, there were reports that the Air Force was considering launching two more belts to be placed more permanently in orbit.

There was a problem, however. Beyond the Soviets, allies and even Americans opposed the further deployment and continuance of this program.

Why? Astronomers, in particular, were afraid that the belt would interfere with their observations. The outrage of scientists and the reason for it was perhaps best expressed by Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who said: “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.” After all, the space above the Earth is not the United States’ alone to do with as it pleases without consulting other nations of Earth.

While you might consider this a bit of an overreaction, it’s important to understand the context here, with the U.S. up to and around this point having done a series of things in space without oversight that the international community was more than a little upset about. For example, consider that also smack dab in the middle of this time, the United States was busy accidentally nuking Britain’s first satellite, among many, many others.

The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.

Around nine months after the launch of the first batch of needles, on July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings.

Ariel-1 satellite.

As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl.

The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time.

Most pertinent to the topic of communications, this famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic and managed around 400 such communications before the U.S. accidentally nuked it. Funny enough, the Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional ionizing radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit. They were eventually able to get it back online for a short period via some clever software workarounds, but it didn’t last thanks to the extra radiation further degrading its systems.

It’s also noteworthy here that The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened a couple weeks earlier on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.

It should also be noted that the effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit.

The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Today in our digital world, of course, a similar electromagnetic pulse would have much more catastrophic effects, especially if near more populated centers, potentially even revealing the Lizard people’s Matrix, which would be catastrophic to our Draconian overlords’ (may they reign forever) plans…

The flash created by The Starfish explosion as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu 1,445 km away.

Needless to say, this, the needles in space, and other such projects had many in the international community concerned with the lack of any oversight on the United States’ activities in space. (Presumably it would have been even worse had everyone realized the United States had, a few years before this, planned to nuke the moon, more or less just because they could…)

Going back to the needle issue, a compromise measure was reached thanks to incorporating a sort of planned obsolescence; that is, none of the needles would remain in orbit longer than five years. (Or so they thought, more on this in a bit.)

Thinking more long term, several groups of scientists, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) demanded access and consultation in this and other such projects in the future. Ultimately an agreement was reached which granted the scientists the ability to participate in the planning and evaluation of space projects.

Of course, this particular issue quickly became moot as shortly after the second group of needles was dispersed, the military deployed its own first communication satellite system in 1966, making the needle system, while effective, obsolete. With this deployment of one object instead of hundreds of millions, the furor died down and people, for the most part, forgot about West Ford.

That said, while the project is largely forgotten, its effects are not with the consultation provisions of the original West Ford agreement with the IAU included in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, an agreement entered into by ninety-nine countries, that was designed to protect against the militarization and degradation of outer space. Among other things, in a nutshell, it provides that no country can claim ownership of space nor any celestial bodies; all countries will avoid contaminating both and are liable for any damage they cause; no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be deployed or placed in orbit or on any celestial body; and no military bases may be placed on any celestial bodies, including the Moon, something that unfortunately saw a planned military installation by the U.S. fully scrapped, as we covered in our article: That Time the U.S. was Going to Build a Massive, Death Ray Equipped, Military Moon Base.

On the bright side, the treaty also includes a Good Samaritan law that provides that astronauts are “envoys of mankind in outer space and [all] shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing.”

Going back to the needles, in case you’re wondering, despite the planned obsolescence, as of 2019, a few dozen clumps of them remain in orbit and are closely tracked to make sure they don’t cause any problems with all the other stuff floating around our little beautiful home space craft known as Earth.

Bonus Facts:

  • Given AM radio signals can propagate for thousands of miles via the aforementioned skywaves, particularly at night, this can become a major problem as there are only a little over 100 allowed AM radio frequencies (restricted to keep signals interfering too much with one another), but around 5,000 AM radio stations in the United States alone. As a result, at night, AM stations in the United States typically reduce their power, go off the air completely until sunrise the next day, and/or possibly are required to use directional antennas so their specific signal doesn’t interfere with other stations on the same frequency. On the other hand, FM stations don’t have to do any of this as the ionosphere doesn’t greatly affect their signals, which has the side benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of severely limiting the range of the FM signals, which rely on groundwave propagation.
  • Speaking of Radio and space, while not a job ever mentioned by my school career counselor, it turns out “Space DJ” is a thing, if you work at NASA, going all the way back to 1965 during the Gemini 6 mission on December 16th, likely initially as a joke. During this mission, astronauts Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford were woken up by a recording of singer Jack Jones and Hello Dolly. This musical wake-up call quickly became a regular occurrence intended as a way of bolstering morale while allowing astronauts a few minutes to wake up slowly before having to respond to ground control. Over the years, wake-up calls became one of NASA’s most beloved traditions, with the role of picking the songs given to the mission’s Capsule Commander (CAPCOM)… Yes, just to be clear, not only do these people get to put CAPCOM for NASA on their resume, but they can also add in “Space DJ”. Thanks Career Councilor…
    If you’re wondering, the songs chosen over the years have been wildly eclectic, ranging from classical music by composers like Bach and Beethoven to Metallica and the Beastie Boys. Thanks to the extensive records NASA keeps, we not only know every song played for astronauts in orbit since 1965, we also have the astronaut’s responses to some of the more unusual choices played. For example, for a 2008 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, officially designated as STS-123, CAPCOM played a brief snippet of the theme song from the presumably epic film Godzilla VS Space Godzilla as well as part of the Blue Oyster Cult song, Godzilla, for Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, signing off by saying:
    Good morning Endeavour. Doi san, ohayo gozaimasu, from mission control here in Houston, take on today like a monster.
    An amused Doi responded that he was “happy to hear Godzilla,” before himself signing off to get to work. According to Fries’ extensive archives, Godzilla’s iconic theme song is apparently a popular choice for Japanese astronauts, as are the themes from other well-known films like Star Wars, Star Trek and Rocky.Predictably, songs with a space theme are also popular choices, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man being noted as some of the most commonly played.In addition to songs, NASA has, at various points, played private messages recorded by the astronauts’ loved ones (including the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday” where applicable) and even occasional messages from celebrities. Notable examples of the latter include personalised greetings from William Shatner, Paul McCartney and Elton John, a skit performed by Jim Henson involving Miss Piggy, and even a song sung by Darth Vader set to backing music from The Beatles.Perhaps best of all was the crew of Atlantis on November 25, 1991 being woken to none other than Patrick Stewart stating (with Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music playing in the background),
    Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Its ten-day mission: To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth… To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body… To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario — this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so.
    As for today, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, this wake-up call tradition has partially been left in the dustbin of history, though occasionally is still observed on the International Space Station, and presumably will be reinstituted as a regular activity once NASA begins sending people to space themselves again.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.

When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.

Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.


Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.

The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.

A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.

(DARPA photo)

Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.

But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.

Out of the sky

The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.

US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.

This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.

Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.

The air war

Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.

US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.

The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.

From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.

Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.

Missile envy

The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.

Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.

If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.

While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.

War mentality

In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.

Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.

But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.

The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.

Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battle literally saw brother against brother

On an early June morning in 1862, two brothers from Scotland were fighting for their lives and their adopted homeland on a South Carolina battlefield. They had come to America less than two decades prior, and each had come to love his new homeland. As they moved through the haze of smoke and bullets that day, they knew was the one time they didn’t want to see one another.


Alexander and James Campbell were fighting on opposite sides of the battle.

The Battle of Secessionville, 1862.

We hear a lot about how the U.S. Civil War pitted “brother against brother,” but at least in one case, such a fight actually happened. Alexander and James Campbell made the transatlantic crossing together from their native Scotland, but they didn’t settle in the United States together. Alexander stayed in New York while Joseph became a stone mason in Charleston, South Carolina. When fighting broke out between the states, the men each attended to their duties as citizens of their respective countries.

Alexander joined New York’s 79th Highlander Infantry Regiment while James enlisted into the 1st South Carolina Battalion. Each knew the other joined the enemy cause because they corresponded with one another regularly. The two exchanged letters for the duration of the war. They were still brothers, after all.

The forests and fields where the Battle of Secessionville took place.

Eventually, Alex and the 79th New York landed on James Island, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. The Union Army was trying to make South Carolina pay for its rebellion and the attack on Fort Sumter the previous year. The Union troops captured a Confederate skirmisher who told Alexander that his brother was operating in the same area as the Federal Army. It wasn’t until after the battle of Secessionville that they learned they had been on opposite sides of the same battlefield. He wrote:

“I was astonished to hear from the prisoners that you was colour Bearer of the Regmt that assaulted the Battrey at this point the other day…. I was in the Brest work during the whole engagement doing my Best to Beat you but I hope that You and I will never again meet face to face Bitter enemies on the Battlefield. But if such should be the case You have but to discharge your deauty to Your caus for I can assure you I will strive to discharge my deauty to my country my cause.”

Though the brothers were never engaged in dramatic mortal combat at Secessionville, it was the closest they would ever come. After the battle, the Union Army repaired back north, and Alexander was wounded in the Battle of Chantilly, in Virginia later that year. His South Carolinian brother James was captured at the 1863 Battle of Fort Wagner in his adopted home state, and sent to a federal prison, where he sat out the rest of the war in squalid conditions.

The two continued their correspondence throughout James’ incarceration as a rebel soldier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secretary of State visits Baghdad to warn of ‘imminent’ Iranian threat

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss the United States’ security concerns amid what he called “escalating” Iranian activity.

Pompeo’s May 7, 2019, visit to the Iraqi capital came after the United States earlier this week announced the deployment an aircraft carrier battle group to the Middle East, which U.S. official said was in response to threats to American forces and the country’s allies from Iran.

The U.S. intelligence was “very specific” about “attacks that were imminent,” Pompeo said in Baghdad, without providing details.


Tehran has dismissed the reported threat as “psychological warfare.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since President Donald Trump one year ago withdrew the United States from the 2015 between Iran and world powers and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

After meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad, Pompeo told reporters: “We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019.

(State Department Photo)

He said the purpose of the meetings also was to inform Iraqi leaders about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively provide protection to U.S. forces.

Pompeo said he had assured Iraqi officials that the United States stands ready to “continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq,” he said.

Asked about the decision to deploy additional forces to the Middle East, Pompeo said: “The message that we’ve sent to the Iranians, I hope, puts us in a position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests.”

After his four-hour visit, Pompeo tweeted that his meetings in Baghdad were used “to reinforce our friendship to underline the need for Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities Coalition personnel.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said the sides discussed “bilateral ties, the latest security developments in the region, and anti-terrorism efforts.”

U.S. forces are deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.

Ahead of the visit, Pompeo said he would also discuss with the Iraqis pending business accords, including “big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy.”

Earlier, the U.S. secretary of state had attended a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland and abruptly canceled a planned visit to Germany due to what a spokesperson said were “pressing issues.”

White House national-security adviser John Bolton on May 5, 2019, said that the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and accompanying ships, along with a bomber task force, to waters near Iran was intended to send “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

The United States was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” Bolton said.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

The Pentagon said on May 7, 2019, that the U.S. bomber task force being sent would consist of long-range, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.

Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the USS Abraham Lincoln was already due in the Persian Gulf and dismissed the U.S. announcement as a “clumsy” attempt to recycle old news for “psychological warfare.”

“From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called ‘Iranian threats’,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region — blaming Iran won’t reverse that.”

The latest escalation between Washington and Tehran comes ahead of the May 8 anniversary of the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement with Iran that provided the country with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sneak peek: Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 Auto-Open Dagger

Bold, functional, and hardcore were the first words that came to mind when I unboxed the Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 double-edge dagger. It feels light but still strong. Every edge and line is incredibly clean, and at a nearly $500 price point, it should be that way.

It is an incredibly comfortable blade to carry, for its size, thanks to the tip-down, deep-carry pocket clip. If you’re the kind of person who wants to carry this type of tactical blade on a MOLLE capable host, you can certainly do that — although I’m not sure that its anodized blue color makes it the best choice for that (in such a case, you might prefer Benchmade’s fixed-blade Infidel instead). That being said, my preferred method of carrying is in my pocket, so this is a great option for me. While the color isn’t my normal choice, when I consider that I’ve got a box full of black and gray tactical knives, it is actually kind of refreshing to have something that stands out a bit.


This iteration of the popular Infidel OTF (out-the-front) platform features the introduction of a bold new anodized blue handle (.59″ thickness) to a family of tactical knives that sported more traditional colors. The handle material is 6061-T6 aluminum. It looks a little blocky from certain angles, but it is very comfortable to hold and deploy. The total weight comes in at 4.90oz so it isn’t heavy enough to be noticeable while carrying. I’ve got average-sized hands and this knife feels great in every way. It wasn’t simply the handle color that got an upgrade — the blade did too.

The 3.91″ length blade now sports a DLC (Diamond-like Carbon Coated) finish on a new CPM-S30V steel with a thickness of 0.118″ and a hardness of 58-60. When the plain double-edged blade is closed the handle length is 5″; when the blade is open the overall length is 8.91″. Deploying the blade is a clean action. There is no unnecessary play with the release button, and it doesn’t require superhuman strength. For the first few days I carried this knife I was admittedly nervous about a negligent discharge, but soon came to realize it wasn’t a valid concern due to its quality.

The Infidel 3300BK-2001 comes with a MSRP of 5 (depending on where you look it may be slightly more or less). This Benchmade “Black Class” blade is in the company’s highest tier of quality. It is considered an “Unlimited Limited” product, meaning that it will only be available for one year. If you’re looking for a defensive blade that conceals easily in your pocket but also has a bit more character than the typical tactical knife, this is one to consider. This blade will be available for purchase on 8/20/2020.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.