During the Cold War, the U.S. faced the very real possibility they’d have to rush masses of troops to the front line but wasn’t sure where the front line would open up. While the more obvious places like the Fulda Gap or Checkpoint Charlie had troops, tanks, and helicopters nearby all the time, many other potential flashpoints were lightly defended.
The plan for a conflict in these areas was to rush airborne soldiers and Marines in to plug the gap while follow-on forces were deployed over the following days to reinforce them.
So how did airborne soldiers get badly needed tanks and heavy equipment? Well, the Air Force dropped them out out of C-130 Hercules cargo planes while flying 150 mph while only a few feet from the ground.
The Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) was rigged to drop heavy equipment needed by remote troops where a plane couldn’t land and takeoff safely. It was developed in 1964 and saw use at the Siege of Khe San and other battles in Vietnam.
America’s current tank, the M1 Abrams, weighs four times as much as the M551 Sheridan did and so isn’t typically dropped out of planes. It’s armored personnel carrier, the Stryker, is only a little heavier than the Sheridan was and is dropped from planes, typically in Alaska.
As the U.S. faces the prospect of another Cold War, the defense industry has pitched a new light tank that can be air dropped. So, tomorrow’s tankers may benefit from airborne qualifications again.
A dramatic video released by the Saif Al Sham Brigades fighting in southern Syria shows an Islamic State guided missile ricocheting off a T-55 tank with a hard metallic smack.
It was close … seriously close. For whatever reason — a dud or a bad shot — the ISIS missile failed to explode. Had it, the blast could have blown up the tank, killed the crew and the rebel filming the incident. The camera operator, stunned by the blast, captures the tank backing off. The T-55 later returns and fires its cannon in a “shoot and scoot” maneuver.
The tank — almost certainly captured from the Syrian army — had no discernible “active protection” systems which can scramble a missile’s guidance systems. The ISIS missile was almost certainly captured … but the origin is unknown.
The Saif Al Sham Brigades is a Free Syrian Army group active in southern Syria and has appeared on lists of CIA-vetted rebel factions. Saif Al Sham counts itself as part of the Southern Front coalition of rebel groups, but this is a loosely-knit organization at the best of times.
The Front has also received support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear if Saif Al Sham specifically has received any funding or weapons from any of these nations.
What the video does demonstrate is the intense pressure anti-tank guided missiles can put on armed combatants in the Syrian civil war. Despite failing to knock out the tank, which was quickly back in action, the close call was enough for the rebels to back up — fast.
Tank-killing missiles have proliferated so much, they’ve effectively halted armored breakthroughs and contributed to a five-year-old stalemate.
Fighting fires is hungry work. And since firefighters spend long hours, even days, at the fire station, it naturally falls to some schlub rookie to lace up an apron and put food on the table. That’s normally how it goes.
But Meals Ready To Eat doesn’t profile normal.
In South Philadelphia, there’s a fire station where things go down a bit differently. That’s because the members of Philly’s Fire Engine 60, Ladder 19 are lucky enough to count a gourmet chef among their ranks. In fact, he outranks most of them. He’s Lieutenant Bill Joerger, he’s a former Marine and this kitchen is his by right of mastery.
It is a little weird for a ranking officer to spend hours rustling the chow. It’s a little strange that he goes to such lengths to source ingredients for his culinary art. It’s a bit outlandish when those meals are complex enough to necessitate a demo plate.
But Bill Joerger doesn’t care about any of that. When not actively saving lives, he cares about honing his cooking skills, eating well, and creating — in the midst of a chaotic work environment — some small sacred space where everyone can relax and just be people together.
“You have the brotherhood in the Marine Corps, and it’s the same as being in the firehouse…it’s some satisfaction for me to know that I’m producing a good meal for these guys after the things that we deal with on a daily basis.”
Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl spent a day with Joerger at the firehouse, experiencing the often violent stop-and-start nature of a firefighter’s day and, in the down moments, sous-cheffing for the Lieutenant. The story of how Joerger found his way from the Marine Corps to a cookbook and then to the firehouse kitchen is a lesson in utilizing one’s passion to impose some order in the midst of life’s disarray.
Narco-subs, aka drug subs, aka Bigfoot submarines, are custom-made submarines used by cartels in Central and South America to smuggle drugs (usually cocaine) from Colombia to Mexico and/or the United States. For more than twenty years the U.S. Coast Guard has been on the watch for these kinds of smuggling techniques. The first time they found one, they dubbed it Bigfoot, because before they actually found one, they had only heard rumors of their existence.
Sometimes the subs are self-propelled, sometimes, they’re dragged by a surface ship. Sometimes the subs are fully submersible, sometimes, they aren’t. This all depends on the level of expertise in their creation. The subs can typically carry tons of illegal cargo. Before subs, fishing vessels and speed boats were the main enemy in the war on shipping, but they can be seen on radar and the Coast Guard developed a special kind of helicopter to catch the fast boats. Much of cocaine moved that way was intercepted.
In July 2015, the Coast Guard caught a semi-submersible running just below the waterline.
In the video, the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew seizes bales of coke from a self-propelled semi-submersible submarine caught 200 miles off the coast of Mexico, July 19, 2015. They captured more than six tons of drugs from the 40-foot ship, worth an estimated $181 million. Another two tons of cocaine sank with the homemade sub.
Brutal cold, rough terrain, and intense firefights were just some of the dangers the Marines dealt with on a daily basis while engaging enemy forces in the Korean War.
Now, imagine possibly sharing the same bloodline with an enemy force your orders say you must fight and kill. That’s the real narrative for Kurt Chew-Een Lee, who served as the first Asian-American Marine officer during the multi-year skirmish.
On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, while the San Francisco native was in charge of a machine-gun platoon in Baker company, chaos broke out as Chinese forces shot curtains of gunfire at the 8,000 men stationed in the area.
Lee’s Marines found themselves stuck in the middle of an incredibly loud and hectic situation.
Then, an eerie silence fell over the battlefield. Lee instructed the Company Gunny to keep his eyes peeled and be ready to take contact.
Lt. Lee then ventured out deep into the thick darkness to locate the Chinese’s position.
“Too many people think they can save lives hiding behind a boulder and not firing,” Lee explains in an interview. “In order to accomplish the mission, you got to keep moving forward.”
As Lee courageously went on his single man reconnaissance mission, he managed to fool the Chinese by firing his weapon at different cyclic rates from a variety of locations making it appear as if a massive force were advancing.
The plan worked. The Chinese returned fire exposing their fortified position. As Lee continued his approach, he used a weapon that none of his fellow Marines possessed — a second language.
By speaking Mandarin, he confused the enemy and earned himself enough of a distraction to toss his remaining hand grenades. Amidst his improvised plan, Lee discovered an enemy post that led to a single victory, saving countless Marine lives.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to hear this epic story from the Marine legend himself.
The CH-47 “Chinook”, H-60 “Black Hawk”, V-22 “Osprey”, and the C-130 “Hercules” – what do these four aircraft all have in common? They’re all support aircraft that happen to have some pretty heavily armed combat variants. Check out this video that highlights the more kickass sides of their personalities:
When Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney took off for a routine training flight on June 7, 2014, he was probably just expecting to fly a few hundred miles and use some missiles to shoot down alien spacecraft (…because we get our entire understanding of Marine Corps aviation from Independence Day).
But what Mahoney didn’t know was that his AV-8 Harrier had a landing gear problem that wouldn’t become apparent until the jet alerted him to it in the air.
He flew past the control tower on the USS Bataan and asked the people there to take a look. They let him know that his front landing gear wasn’t down.
For those who aren’t aware, the front landing gear is very important on all aircraft. Jump jets are less susceptible to problems from landing without gear than other aircraft are, but it’s still a very dangerous gamble.
Luckily, the other pilots on the Bataan had a bold idea.
Wait, “crazy” isn’t spelled B-O-L-D.
The crew ran a very nice, custom stool out to the deck and chained it down. Mahoney then flew his jet very slowly toward the stool and bounced the nose of it.
Yeah, he bounces the nose of his multi-million dollar jet on a what is basically a well-dressed stool.
But it worked. Mahoney took a second to breathe and remember how to turn his jet off, and then climbed out to the general praise of his shipmates. You can see the whole landing and an interview with Mahoney in the video at the top.
Heather Hayes was an Air Force mechanic who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and has tattoos that tell the story of her time in uniform.
To Hayes, “tattoos are a journey.”
One of them is a Banksy graffiti piece called “Suicide Butterflies” that depicts a woman shooting herself and the resulting damage morphing into butterflies.
“It’s kind of intense I suppose,” Hayes said. “Basically it’s a symbol of something really tragic turning into something really beautiful.”
Hayes’s story is part of a series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattoo’d veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page withthe hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
With the capability to carry a variety of weapons such as air-to-air missiles, precision guided bombs, and a 25mm machine gun that can fire up to 3,600 rounds per minute, the Harrier is the Marine Corps’ top choice when they need close air support where airfields are hard to come by.
“On my first flight, my instructor told me it was going to be like riding a dragon,” says Marine Capt. Brady Cummins during an interview. “He was definitely telling the truth.”
The AV-8B Harrier II was the first Marine tactical aircraft to arrive in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in the early ’90s.
According to Boeing, the U.S. took 86 Harriers, flew 3,380 combat sorties and totaled 4,112 hours of combat flight time during the 42-day war.
The Harrier II jet demonstrated it’s effectiveness during Operation Desert Storm. (Source: Naval Technology”
These aerial marvels are known for their fixed-wing vertical short takeoff and landing — also known as “V/STOL” — which makes the Harrier one of the most maneuverable in service. The Harrier’s engines produce 23,000 pounds of thrust, allowing the aircraft to hover like a helicopter or launch forward at near-supersonic speeds.
At only 47 feet long and weighing 15,000 pounds when empty, this combat jet is approximately half the size of other modern fighter jets.
“Just be quiet for a second. You hear that?” retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rob Disney asks a visitor. When she nods, he says, “Absolutely nothing. That’s what I love the most about this place.”
Disney’s life wasn’t always so tranquil. A 21-year pararescueman in the Air Force, Disney was often being sent in when Army Green Berets, Marine Force Recon, or Navy SEALs had gotten into a situation where they couldn’t get out without help.
During one of his deployments Disney was shot in the face with an AK-47 and lost all feeling in his face for several months. Disney received the Purple Heart for his injury and has a host of awards to show for his bravery.
But to help those combat memories fade, Disney bought an amazing mountain retreat after retirement, saying it was “love at first sight,” with the deal being sealed when he went out on the porch with a cup of coffee.
“It definitely was my destiny,” Disney told the host of the video. The house, built with both log and drywall, has three bedrooms and a finished basement. While the house in the mountains may have been Disney’s destiny, it’s not the first house Disney has owned. The experience of buying homes and closing “quite a few mortgages” during his 21 years of service has given him some valuable insights.
“Something that is very very important in anybody who is going to buy a home is that they need to find a mortgage company that they can absolutely trust and have a rock-solid foundation with,” Disney said, adding that Veterans First was the one he trusted most.
Disney closed on his house of destiny 13 years to the day after he was shot, and moved there exactly a year later.
“I took one of the worst experiences of my life and turned it into one of my best memories,” he said.
Disney also demonstrated some guitar skills. He started playing at age 15, shifting from the banjo, which didn’t attract the attention he sought from girls.
“Still play all the time, every day,” he said, describing it as an emotional release.
The full video from Veterans First mortgage is embedded above.
The Swiss Guard, the Pope’s elite security force, had humble beginnings 500 years ago as infantrymen defending their lands against cavalry. In medieval times, the Swiss perfected the use of the pike in battlefield formations, and quickly became known as one of the greatest fighting forces of their time.
This past week saw We Are The Mighty at the 2015 Blue Angel Airshow at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu.
It was a full day of weaving in out of the crowds of people excited to see incredible planes, crazy stunt pilots, and (of course) the legendary Blue Angels performance. WATM managed to snag interviews with a couple of pilots, the executive officer of the VAW-112 Air Wing, and the crew of the gargantuan C-5M Super Galaxy (who let us take a peek inside!) before the Blue Angels took the skies in an impressive display of flying.
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”