As we reported on Saturday, the Numbskull Coalition Farting AroundNational Commission on the Future of the Army report was mostly a boondoggle. But we did find one extremely positive recommendation. First, the set-up:
Leaders from all Army components have identified excessive mandatory training requirements contained in AR 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development, as an issue. Regular Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve leaders were near unanimous in their assessment that AR 350-1 training requirements leave too little time to conduct collective training or focus on the training that commanders assess as most needed. …Over 1,000 Army directives, regulations, pamphlets, and messages address mandatory training.NOTE p.77
Yes, yes, yes. Much of this “mandatory training” is stuff that was some senior officer’s baby or some passing fad or buzzword (think COO, SHARP, formal Risk Assessments for using a porta-potty, etc., etc.), and once it gets into AR 350-1 or some other snippet of Army doctrine, or has an office somewhere among the Doolittles, Doonothings, and Doodamages of the Pentagon, it remains an indelible stain on the unit training schedule. Out, out, damned spot.
It doesn’t go far enough, but the report’s Recommendation 47 shows that this miserable situation even got through the skulls of this bunch:
Recommendation 47: The Army should reduce mandatory training prescribed in AR 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development by the following means:
Reducing the number of mandatory training requirements and moving the reduced tasks to local command policy per AR 600-20, Army Command Policy;
Developing a formal process for approving additional mandatory training tasks and reviewing existing mandatory training requirements annually for retention or deletion;
Chartering the Army’s Training General Of cer Steering Committee to provide governance for approving all added Army and Combatant Commander mandatory training requirements;
Changing the reserve components’ mandatory training requirements from an annual cycle to a two-year cycle;
Codifying mandatory training requirements with (1) task, condition, and standard; (2) Training and Evaluation Outline and lesson plan; and (3) the means to make this information available through the Army Training Network as the consolidated repository for mandatory training requirements;
Delegating mandatory training exception approval authority to two-star commanders; and
Completing the AR 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development, revision within one year of this report.
Why delegate the authority to bin useless “mandatory” check-box “training” to 2-star commanders? Why not, just, “commanders”? That’s the officer with skin in the game. Literally. You want to develop risk-takers and widow-makers, you can’t expect to hide them behind mommy’s skirts until they’re 50-something-year-old major generals.
And we’ll tell you what: a company commander (in most branches, a captain still in his 20s and with troops every day) is a lot more likely to know which box checks are bogus than a major general (who was last with troops a decade or more ago, and is surrounded by aides, staff officers, personal servants, and other obsequious yes-men).
“We’re too broke for training ammo, but our graphics design budget is going strong!”
The what? Yeah, apparently Congress set up such a thing. A friend of ours was tasked to provide a report to it, and notes that after that, the Commission staff went radio silent; members were sworn to secrecy. At least, until their product dropped Friday.
Looking at their product, you have to wonder: sworn to secrecy, why? It would be hard to generate a more anodyne document, even with a larger and duller committee; this committee was clearly large enough and dull enough that it could scarcely be improved upon, at least, in those critical metrics. The commissioners junketed to sites where they could expect to find Army stakeholders, including Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and Hawaii. A plurality of its public meetings, though, were held in DC so that an army (no pun intended) of lobbyists could bill their clients.
The Commission was asked to address two big issues:
How the Army should best organize and employ the Total Force in a time of declining resources.
Whether the Army should proceed with the transfer of AH-64 Apache aircraft from the reserve components to the Regular Army, as directed by the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative.1
Its report is here and it’s a typical Beltway snore from typical Beltway trough feeders: three retired four-stars, one retired three-star, a few politicians in the form of former service secretaries, a guy who was a military officer for three years and had never held a job in the productive economy since, an Illinois lawyer-lobbyist representing whoever paid him, and a few other Beltway insiders.
Naturally, their basic conclusion is: don’t do much of anything. Fiddle around the margins, and cut a couple hundred thousand in end strength (active and reserve components total).
They do identify some challenges ahead, like demographics.
RAND Corporation projections show that by 2025, the military age population will decline by 2.1 percent for ages 17–24, and 3.1 percent for ages 23–27, even as the total population grows. This decline in the recruiting-eligible population is particularly concerning given that less than half of the military age population is eligible for military service due to physical, educational, or behavioral fitness (e.g. criminal records).
Increased disqualifications for health will overwhelm small improvements in educational attainment and aptitude (as assessed by the Armed Forces Qualification Test). The military’s recent decision to allow women into all combat roles may slightly increase the eligible population, but women might not voluntarily join direct combat career fields in overly large numbers.2
Gee. Ya think? Is it just occurring to these geniuses now that feminizing the combat arms is going to provide full employment for every Woman in Sensible Shoes® in America (at least, the subset of them that can meet a height/weight standard, as opposed to the usual Fireplugs in Sensible Shoes®), while making a large enough number of young men lose interest, that the math comes up short every time?
But that’s OK. they’re looking for ways to lower the bar to meet the recruit.
The military could relax some criteria (e.g. tattoo restrictions or body piercings) without harming the quality of recruited personnel, but significant changes in the standards for physical fitness will likely result in a less-capable force. However, there may be room for carefully considered adjustments to physical standards for specific career fields, such as cyberspace operations.
Ah, that’s the ticket; they’ll just drop the standards to zero for the Cheetos-powered specialties like cyber and drone operators.
Look, we’re already dropping the standards off a cliff to open everything to women. Why not just bin the height and weight standards, and then our recruiting pool opens up to the other 95% of Fireplugs in Sensible Shoes®. Heck, that could bring ROTC to Smith for the first time!
The Army will continue to have the most difficult recruiting challenge within the Department of Defense based on the volume of enlistments needed and public perceptions concerning risk to the force.3
Translation: The fact that a fellow can get himself killed doing this, kind of undermines the sales pitch.
And in Europe, where 90% of the Cold War USAREUR strength is gone:
Buy hey, we’ve got Smart Diplomacy™, although it does seem to be smart only in the Idiocracy universe.
There are some substantive reforms in the report’s dozens of recommendations, although many of the recommendations are empty pablum and others are just screwy (they’re pushing the Army’s latest personnel-mega-computer-system boondoggle, which promises that Army paperwork will still be all screwed up, but a huge array of beltway “facilitators” and lawyer-lobbyists will be making serious money. But recommendations to integrate the Guard and Reserve more closely would be something worthwhile to pursue.
Of course, the devil is in the details, which are sometimes contradictory.
On the Apache question, they may actually have come up with a good idea — a better idea than either the turf-grab proposed by the Active Army, or the turf-defense that the National Guard Bureau countered with — but it needs a little more reading before we can write up a post on that, if we ever do. Interested parties should read that part of the document with an open mind.
Their suggestion of a system in which individuals can go back and forth between active and reserve component system service according to their desires and service needs is utopian in all senses of the word. It just can’t be done in the Army’s antiquated and over-legislated personnel system. (Any reform of the system that does not cut personnel officer and enlisted billets by 90% and automate their jobs isn’t enough).
And finally, consider this small plug for the Surveillance State:
The Army does not gain or share information with other government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, to maintain contact information for IRR members.4
Uh, no thanks. The IRS is rogue enough without having it share its data with every other bureaucrat who thinks he’s been touched by the Good Idea Fairy™.
And then there’s all the knob-polishing for a feckless senior leadership. did you know that they’re not planning cuts? Oh, no, they’re “garnering efficiencies from a smaller force.” The parrot isn’t dead; he’s just meeting SECARM energy-conservation standards.
In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Most of these recommendations will be stillborn; institutional DC couldn’t successfully organize a lemonade stand. But hey, a gang of retired generals and lawyer/lobbyists got a free all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii out of it. There is that.
Tank and AFV News has a great article, an extended version of one that author James Warford, an expert in Soviet tanks, published in the tankers’ branch magazine, Armor. We’ve always liked tanks, as very interesting weapons and technology in their own right, even though they strike us as a pretty awful place to die. Likewise, we’ve always been interested in espionage, and this is a story of a very peculiar kind of espionage that took place under an extremely strange and historically unique set of rules of engagement on all sides.
If the intel collectors stayed within the letter of the agreement, they had near-diplomatic immunity. But then, they couldn’t always get the access they wanted to the targets they were tasked with collecting on. If they bent the rules, immunity was gone, and they could (and did) get detained, threatened, beaten up, and shot.
USMLM Potsdam House, 1964. This originally belonged to a Hohenzollern prince.
You might say Big Boy Rules were very much in effect, in the heyday of the Four Powers Military Liaison Missions.
Under the postwar Huebner-Malinin Agreement, each ally maintained a “liaison mission” in the opposing side’s zone. In no time at all, these “liaison missions” became, primarily, sanctioned — but limited — spies. (Technically, the US could maintain one in the French or British zone, and vice versa, but in fact three missions were loose in the Soviet sector, and one — the Soviet Military Liaison Mission — in the three Western Allied sectors. Berlin had originally been divided into thirds for occupation, and the US and UK gave up slices of their zones so that the French could have a sector of their own. But the three Western allies cooperated and competed in spying on the Group of Soviet Forces Germany).
A Ford Custom Sedan was the usual vehicle in the sixties, and the drivers praised its off-road ability — as modified.
The US mission was based in a compound in Potsdam in the Soviet Sector, and in what had been a secret command post of Wehrmacht Field Marshal Keitel in Berlin. Americans being car-happy, our effort was characterized by “tours” or patrols in modified sedans or SUVs, like the 1963 Ford seen here that was used in 1963-65. A tour may have seemed aimless to the Soviet counterintelligence elements tasked with thwarting it, but each one had specific targets and a concrete plan.
Early USMLM plate, and new 1964-89 version, right. Yes, the mission commander had one on his personal Corvette in ’64.
Same style plate, a couple of decades later.
The military liaison mission vehicles had distinct license plates. (NATO vets will remember their SMLM card, which described what to do and what to report if you saw the Soviet mission’s vehicles).
Flogged hard, a mission vehicle lasted some 25,000 miles. A mission team was two men, an NCO driver who was proficient (ideally, natively fluent) in German, and an officer LNO who had had an extensive course in Russian (fluency would have been nice but we’re unaware of any time this happened, while native-fluent German-American drivers were common).
Just one example of how successful the “Tri-Mission” (US, British and French) efforts were over the years, and the true depths that these dedicated and courageous team members would go to gather intelligence, can be seen in their response to the Soviet Army practice of “litter-bugging.” It seems that the Soviets were notorious for throwing away valuable documents and paperwork and leaving them in un-secure trash dumps when they moved from one location to another. Going through these trash dumps had been part of USMLM operations for some time but it wasn’t until 1976 that a more formalized and intensified effort was launched. It wasn’t long before these efforts were coordinated under a program called SANDDUNE. SANDDUNE produced a wide variety of intelligence including Soviet Army unit training schedules, tank firing tables, vehicle maintenance manuals, troop rotation plans, radio call-signs and frequencies and new equipment technical documentation, to name a few.
BRIXMIS had a very similar program to SANDDUNE called Operation Tamarisk. Tamarisk was equally successful and published accounts describe BRIXMIS team members not only digging through trash dumps but also through retired latrines and sites used for medical waste disposal. The examination of medical waste sites understandably proved to be challenging for mission members. “It was an extreme strain on the boys to do that job. But it did produce what might be called surgical memorabilia which linked the stuff to (Soviet) battle wounds.”5
The Holy Grail — imagery of the inside of the highly secret T-64A was obtained by US and British missions.
Perhaps the most significant find to result from SANDDUNE and Tamarisk efforts over the years was made near a Soviet Army barracks at Neustrelitz, in Northern East Germany in 1981. A Tamarisk operation conducted by three BRIXMIS team members “under the noses of sleeping (Soviet) sentries,”6 produced a personal logbook. The logbook was written in Russian and included technical drawings. According to a British Military Intelligence Officer who had knowledge of what the logbook contained and who subsequently debriefed the team that discovered it, “it was (at the time) the most important thing we have had from any source for ten years.”7 The logbook contained top-secret information detailing the composition of the armor and the strengths and weaknesses of the new Soviet T-64A. The logbook also contained the same type of information regarding the even newer and more mysterious T-80B MBT
You’ve probably heard of the greatest failure of USMLM, the incident in which the LNO was shot by a sentry, and then the Soviets denied him medical treatment until he bled out. (His driver subsequently went SF).
Soviet pass for a mission vehicle.
This story, because of its location and Warford’s interests, concentrates on technical intelligence about tanks. However, the USMLM, BRIXMIS, and the FMLM all collected military intelligence of all kinds: technical intelligence, imagery, and other disciplines, sources and methods that are best left in the vault, even though the military liaison missions are no more. And they did it against all arms and services. Mission-gained intelligence could often corroborate or leverage intelligence gathered through other means, and vice versa.
Interior of the pass. It is for a 1965 Ford Custom which was assembled in Mahwah, NJ with the 4-barrel 352 cid engine — not, as frequently reported, a hi-po engine.
Naturally, the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM) was doing the exact same to the West at the exact same time. Such was the Cold War!
The reason this report’s a bit schizophrenic, with Warford’s reports of 1980s effort and our comment on how they did it in the 1960s, is because we can also provide a 1964 historical report (the source of all these black and white pictures) which has been declassified. It was an interesting year, with the Soviets shooting down two US aircraft, casualties of the Cold War who are forgotten today.
Very little seems to have changed in the practices and procedures of the USMLM, except that by the mid-80s they had American sedans and also West German vehicles, including Mercedes Geländewagen SUVs.
With the loss of the Soviet satellite/slave states in Eastern Europe, this mission came to an end, and both Western and Russian spooks had to find other ways to keep tabs on one another. Of course, they did. But during the Cold War of over forty years, they ran military liaison missions in each other’s back yard!
The weapon was new, made of cutting-edge materials. It had demonstrated its capability in the lab and on the range, and the men had such confidence in it, that when a Laotian unit, driven out of Laos by NVA forces with tanks, begged the SF camp commander for anti-tank weapons, team sergeant Bill “Pappy” Craig (who was acting as his own weapons man, having been sent a flaky kid as a replacement who more or less defected to the NVA) gave the Laotians his two old, if proven 3.5″ rocket launchers, aka Super Bazookas. He kept the new Light Antitank Weapons for his own team.
He would live to regret that decision.
The time was early February, 1968, as all of South Vietnam convulsed with what the People’s Army of Viet Nam called the “General Offensive/General Uprising” and the West knows as the Tet Offensive.1 The place was the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp on Route 9, a scrawny , risky road running west past Khe Sanh, where a large Marine force was besieged on one large hill and several hill outposts.
Lang Vei was the northwesternmost permanent Allied presence in the Republic of Vietnam. This map of Special Forces compounds the year before the attack hints at just how far out it was — it’s the solitary little dot in Quang Tri province. The Marines at Khe Sanh were almost as isolated.
The LAW is a 66 mm weapon, as its name implies a Light Antitank Weapon, which answered the question: “What if you took the German disposable Panzerfaust concept and redeveloped it with the latest Space Age propellants, explosives, and materials — could you make a compact tank killer?”
The result was a small, environmentally sealed, extensible shipping container/launch tube that was, on its design, marginal on modern tank front turret and glacis armor, but effective on side, rear, top or bottom skins. It was effective through 360º on armor of World War II vintage tanks, still widely deployed by potential adversaries.
The LAW’s adversary that night should have been well within its capabilities, as the 1950s-vintage PT-76 light amphibious tank was never intended to slug it out with AT defenses. It was built to support river crossings — something the Soviet Army’s offensive doctrine demanded an answer for — with a better-than-nothing tank mounting a descendant of the first generation T-34’s 76mm main gun in a truncated-conical turret. The NVA also deployed a Chinese copy of the PT-76 with a domed turret like that of the T-54/55, mounting a version of the improved 85mm gun from the improved late version of the T-34; they also used T-34s themselves, but the only tanks confirmed at Lang Vei were PT-76s.
Lang Vei, with three destroyed PT-76s highlighted, the next day. Central PT-76 is adjacent to destroyed TOC bunker. The two visible in the upper right were killed by James Holt’s 106mm Recoilless Rifle.
The PT-76 would go on to perform adequately at another SF camp, Ben Het, the next year (in the light of Lang Vei, Ben Het was reinforced by attached artillery and tanks, but one of the PT-76s actually knocked out a defending M-48 MBT before being destroyed itself). The PT-76 was also used by the Egyptian Army in the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.
The Lang Vei TOC bunker entrance and tower before the attack. The bulk of the TOC was underground and the roof was supported by 8×8″ beams.
Knocked-out PT-76 and ruins of TOC the day after. The bunker was blown by the NVA after the surviving USSF escaped to the Old Camp and then out by Marine CH-46. The fuel drums full of rocks, from which Schungel engaged tanks coming from the left are at the left of the TOC.
This 50-odd minute documentary is rife with errors2, and omits even the names of those Green Berets that did not talk to the filmmakers, but does include a broadly accurate reenactment of the fight, and snippets of rare interviews with SF defenders, including men from all key groups (the defenders who held out in the TOC bunker, then evaded under air-strike cover; the guys evading on top of the hill, some of whom escaped and some of whom were captured; and the guys isolated with the Laotian battalion at Old Lang Vei). The story of the fight, though is complex enough that you ought to read an overview before trying to make sense of a 50-minute video retelling, or it may confuse you.
The reputation of the LAW never recovered both from the blow of its failure at Lang Vei (it didn’t work much better at the next camp attacked by tanks, Ben Het, either), and the Army’s failure to face that failure squarely and forthrightly. Denial kept things from being resolved.
The camp itself was overrun. Of the eleven attacking PT-76s, three were left on site, destroyed by the defenders or by air; four more were blasted by air or artillery and destroyed in the immediate area. A 12th PT-76 had been caught in the open and killed by the USAF on 24 January.
Of 24 USSF on the site, 10 were killed, captured or missing, and 14 got away, all but one of them wounded. When an awards formation was held shortly afterward, only half of the survivors could stand up to get their medals.
One posthumous medal was presented in Washington: here VP Spiro Agnew presents the award to Eugene Ashley’s widow and uncomprehending son.
Rich Allen, who was single, had traded places with Ashley before a fifth and final assault of their small element at the Old Camp to try to relieve the besieged new camp. Because Gene had a wife and son, Rich asked to take the more exposed front position. He was reloading his BAR — the camp had a lot of BARs — when he heard a burst go past him and mortally wound his friend.
Allen would be the only man who survived without a wound.
The Vietnamese VNSF and Montagnard CIDG strike force suffered similar casualty percentages. 209 of the Yards would be missing or killed, about 70 wounded went out with the Americans from the Old Camp, and 160 more escaped overland to the Marine base at Khe Sanh — where the Marines treated them as POWs. A SOG element at Khe Sanh was able to get them sprung and evacuated to Nha Trang.
The Marine commander at Khe Sanh, Col. David Lownds, had been lying when he’d told General Westmoreland he would reinforce Khe Sanh if it were attacked. He never had any intention of risking his men on a night movement on a road on which the NVA would certainly have prepared ambushes. He did, however, authorize his transport helicopters to pick up survivors, which the Marine crews did (amid enemy fire).
The official Army history of Special Forces in Vietnam doesn’t mention the 1968 Lang Vei battle, and dismisses the 1967 fight at the Old Camp that ultimately forced the camp to relocate, with a very few lines, and an ominous foreshadowing of the tank menace:
In I Corps on 4 May 1967 at 0330 Camp Lang Vei, Detachment A-101, Quang Tri Province, was attacked by a company-size force supported by mortars and tanks. About one platoon of Viet Cong gained entry into the camp. With the assistance of fire support from Khe Sanh, enemy elements were repelled from the camp at 0500. Two Special Forces men were killed and five wounded; seventeen civilian irregulars were killed, thirty-five wounded, and thirty-eight missing. Enemy losses were seven killed and five wounded. 3
And referring to NVA armament, to wit, tanks…
…major changes in enemy armament occurred. Introduced in quantity were tube artillery, large rockets, large mortars, modern small arms of the AK47 type, antiaircraft artillery up to 37-mm., and heavy machine guns. Tanks were employed on one occasion against the CIDG camp at Lang Vei, and others were sighted in Laos and Cambodia near the border and in South Vietnam. In central and southern South Vietnam, North Vietnamese Army replacements were used to bolster main force Viet Cong units that had lost many men.
The enemy launched his Tet offensive on 29 January 1968. This was followed by a massive buildup at Khe Sanh and the armor-supported attack that overran the camp at Lang Vei in I Corps. Pressure on CIDG camps, except for the attack on Lang Vei, was unusually light during the entire Tet offensive and for approximately sixty days thereafter.4
The tank menace had been well reported by the border camps and by the secret cross-border penetration patrols of MAC-V SOG. A Mike Force patrol had found a recently-used tank park near Lang Vei shortly before the attack. But intelligence officers dismissed the eyewitness (and in the case of some of the border camps, ear-witness) reporting, as implausible. The data conflicted with the theory, and they threw out the data.
We suppose that’s why we have intelligence officers.
In the months and the years that followed the hilltop fight, the Army made many half-hearted attempts to understand why and how the LAWs had failed. The testimony that they did fail is clear: they failed to fire, squibbed, hit the PT-76s and bounced off, hit and didn’t penetrate. And the weakest tank in the enemy inventory, a tank with a bare 15mm or so of armor, rolled over the defenses with near impunity. But most of the investigations were aimed at proving “that couldn’t have happened,” and shoring up the reputation of the M72 which had performed well in tests and poorly in combat.
The most plausible explanation is that long-term storage, careless handling while in storage (in the Army, the hard left of the bell curve goes into ammo handling), environmental problems, or the shock of parachute delivery had somehow affected the functioning of the rockets. The Lang Vei survivors reported so many diverse problems with the weapons that engineers were at a loss to duplicate the failures or even come up with an Ishikawa diagram or failure tree that plausibly explained them.
Other than the ineffective LAWs, the anti-tank weapons the defenders had included obsolete 57mm and obsolescent 106mm recoilless rifles, lightweight cannon that used the discharge of a countermass (in the case of these ones, gases through a de Laval venturi) to “punch above their weight.” The guns had been scrounged by team members and there was very little ammo for the 106s — perhaps as few as ten rounds. The recoillesses were positioned, necessarily, in fixed positions that were located before the attack and attacked. The Montagnard crews were killed or wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Schungel tried to get one of the 106 RCLs into action during the fight; another was crewed by James W. Holt, an Arkansas soldier who went missing that night while seeking more 106 ammo or LAWs (his remains were recovered in 1989, and identified only in 2015, thanks to advances in DNA technology). Holt managed to kill three PT-76s, according to a DOD POW-MIA narrative of the fight stored in the Combined Action Combat Casualty File for Lang Vei reliever (and later DNH in an air crash) Major George Quamo of MAC-V SOG.
Shortly after midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank
assault drove into Lang Vei. Two PT-76 tanks threatened the outer
perimeter of the camp as infantry rushed behind them. SFC James W. Holt
destroyed both tanks with shots from his 106mm recoilless rifle. More
tanks came around the burning hulks of the first two tanks and began to
roll over the 104th CIDG Company's defensive positions. SSgt. Peter
Tiroch, the assistant intelligence sergeant, ran over to Holt's position
and helped load the weapon. Holt quickly lined up a third tank in his
sights and destroyed it with a direct hit. After a second shot at the
tank, Holt and Tiroch left the weapons pit just before it was demolished
by return cannon fire. Tiroch watched Holt run over to the ammunition
bunker to look for some hand-held Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs). It was
the last time Holt was ever seen.
But the same narrative shows that apart from the 106, the other defensive means were ineffective.
LtCol. Schungel, 1Lt. Longgrear, SSgt. Arthur Brooks, Sgt. Nikolas
Fragos, SP4 William G. McMurry, Jr., and LLDB Lt. Quy desperately tried
to stop the tanks with LAWs and grenades. They even climbed on the
plated engine decks, trying to pry open hatches to blast out the crews.
NVA infantrymen followed the vehicles closely, dusting their sides with
automatic rifle fire. One tank was stopped by five direct hits, and the
crew killed as they tried to abandon the vehicle. 1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins,
the detachment executive officer, left the mortar pit with several LAWs
and fought a running engagement with one tank beside the team house
without much success.
.... NVA sappers armed with
satchel charges, tear gas grenades and flamethrowers fought through the
101st, 102nd and 103rd CIDG perimeter trenches and captured both ends of
the compound by 2:30 a.m. Spearheaded by tanks, they stormed the inner
compound. LtCol. Schungel and his tank-killer personnel moved back to
the command bunker for more LAWs. They were pinned behind a row of dirt
and rock filled drums by a tank that had just destroyed one of the
mortar pits. A LAW was fired against the tank with no effect. The cannon
swung around and blasted the barrels in front of the bunker entrance.
The explosion temporarily blinded McMurry and mangled his hands, pitched
a heavy drum on top of Lt. Wilkins and knocked Schungel flat. Lt. Quy
managed to escape to another section of the camp, but the approach of
yet another tank prevented Schungel and Wilkins from following. At some
point during this period, McMurry, a radioman, disappeared.
The tank, which was shooting at the camp observation post, was destroyed
with a LAW.
That’s the only reference to a LAW having an effect on a tank.
Team Sfc. William T. Craig and SSgt. Tiroch had chased tanks throughout
the night with everything from M-79 grenade launchers to a .50 caliber
machine gun. After it had become apparent that the camp had been
overrun, they escaped outside the wire and took temporary refuge in a
creek bed. After daylight, they saw Ashley's counterattack force and
And there you have it.
Signals intelligence showed that the Lang Vei defenders weren’t making it up — the attackers, too, made note of the rockets’ poor performance in their after-action reporting.
(In an interesting aside, the degree of enemy success at Lang Vei was due in part to infiltration, not unlike the insider threat our guys have faced in Afghanistan:
Subsequent intelligence and prisoner of war interrogations indicated that the attackers were aided from inside the camp by Viet Cong who had infiltrated the CIDG units, posing as recruits. One prisoner of war said that he had been contacted by the Viet Cong before the attack and directed to join the CIDG at Lang Vei in order to obtain information on the camp. After joining the CIDG, the man recruited four other civilian irregulars to assist him. One man was to determine the locations of all bunkers within the camp, the second was to report on all the guard positions and how well the posts were manned, the third was to make a sketch of the camp, and the fourth was to report on supplies brought into the camp from Khe Sanh. The Viet Cong had contacted the prisoner who was under questioning on four occasions before the 4 May attack to get the information. On the night of the attack, the prisoner of war and another CIDG man killed two of the camp guards and led the Viet Cong force through the wire and minefield defenses into the camp’s perimeter. This technique of prior infiltration was a Viet Cong tactic common to almost every attack on a camp.5
Nothing to do with LAWs or tank fighting, but … interesting).
And there the situation stood. The Army continued to buy LAWs in the hundreds of thousands, and sponsored dozens of improvements great and small. The Soviets would even make a conceptual copy, after their proxies encountered the weapon in Vietnam (where no one was impressed by it) and Angola (where it proved a surprisingly useful antipersonnel weapon, although less so than the RPG-7). The first Soviet version was the RPG-18 and it was closer to the original M72 than to the current version at the time it was introduced, the M72A2.
The LAW would later be replaced in the United States by the combination of the extremely effective Javelin fire-and-forget ATGM, and much-improved LAWs, which continued to be produced as a multipurpose light weapon after most development and production was transferred to Norwegian licensee NAMMO. The LAW is now at M72A7 and counting, but its reputation hasn’t recovered much, and SF teams have preferred to kill enemy armor long before it gets within LAW range — which new weapons like the Javelin and AT-4 make possible. When in 2003 a small Special Forces team (from the same SF Group as was engaged in Vietnam, 5th SFG(A), as it happens) found itself attacked by an Iraqi armored and mechanized force, the Green Berets destroyed so many Iraqi tanks and APCs that what had started as a ferocious attack turned into a headlong rout.
The Special Forces guys used the Javelins. The Iraqis, who fought bravely if futilely, didn’t get the chance to get within LAW range.
But to this day, nobody really trusts the LAW, even though today’s M72A7 is far more effective than its 1968 version. Why not? Lang Vei, where men who trusted the LAW were killed and captured, and the post was lost.
The offensive began on the Asian lunar New Year, known as Tet in Vietnamese; the Americans had been expecting the NVA to violate the traditional holiday truce — that is, after all, what Communists do — but were taken aback by the scale and fury of the offensive, which was led in many urban locations by local Viet Cong. The offensive was a failure for the NVA — their VC guerrillas were finished as a fighting force for the rest of the war — but was reported in the US as an NVA victory, based largely on the Saigon hotel bar rumor reporting that characterized the “new breed” of war correspondents.
Errors are too many to list here, but one of the most grievous is using random tubular mock-ups in place of LAWs. They also include the statement that the NVA/VC took the US Embassy during Tet, whereas none even got inside the chancery building (between the Marine guards and responding MPs, the NVA sappers that got inside the wall of the compound were all expeditiously slain); the use of later M16A2 rifles in some scenes; the lack of description of what became of the CIDG that surrendered (they were murdered); the use of wrong vehicles such as late-1980s CUCV trucks and 1970s-vintage Dodge M880s. It appears to be based largely on Phillips’s The Night of the Silver Stars, which seems to have been written in part to rehabilitate the reputation of certain Marine officers at Khe Sanh, who did not cover themselves in glory that night
Kelly, Francis J. “Splash”. Vietnam Studies: US Army Special Forces, 1961-1971, p. 110
Kelly, Francis J., pp. 126-127
Kelly, Francis J., p. 110
Cash, John A.. Battle of Lang Vei. Chapter from: Cash, John A., Albright, John, and Sandstrum, Allen. Seven Firefights in Vietnam . Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, US Army, 1985. Retrieved from: http://www.history.army.mil/books/vietnam/7-ff/Ch6.htm
Jones, Gregg. Last Stand at Khe Sanh. Boston: Da Capo Press, 2014.
That’s the message the city of Randers has sent to militant asylum seekers in the northern European community, have arrived with their hands out (when their hands aren’t groping), and immediately demanded that the Danes change their diets to suit the colonizers.
Or be killed. Because that’s always the bottom line with the soi-disant Religion of Peace, isn’t it?
They didn’t reckon with Danes. The Danes have been occupied before. They didn’t like it.
Neither did the occupiers. The Danes confounded Nazi Jew-hunts by putting on the gold star themselves — even the King did this. Meanwhile, the Jews were smuggled across the Skaggerak into neutral Sweden. Alone among continental nations, Denmark saved most of her Jews.
So when the asylum seekers showed up, acting like conquerors — imagine the Nazis, but without the technology or intelligence — Randers was ready.
A Danish city has ordered pork to be mandatory on municipal menus, including for schools and daycare centers, with politicians insisting the move is necessary for preserving the country’s food traditions and is not an attack on Muslims.
Frank Noergaard, a member of the council in Randers that narrowly approved the decision earlier this week, says it was made to ensure that pork remains “a central part of Denmark’s food culture.”
Denmark is a major pork producer and it is the most popular meat, but it is forbidden to Muslims and Jews. Most of the asylum-seekers who have arrived in the country in the past months are Muslim.
Noergaard, a member of the anti-immigration, populist Danish People’s Party that proposed the council motion, said Thursday that it wasn’t meant as a “harassment of Muslims,” but added that he had received “several complaints about too many concessions” being made to Muslims in the small, predominantly Lutheran country.
“The signal we want to send here is that if you’re a Muslim and you plan to come to Randers, don’t expect you can impose eating habits on others. Pork here is on an equal footing with other food,” Noergaard told The Associated Press. He said that halal meat, vegetarian dishes and diets for diabetics would still be available.
Hoist high this Jolly Roger, and set yourself forth to roger with extreme jollity….
Whether it’s a hearty “Arrrr!” to the Jolly Roger or ISIL’s prayer to their manifestation of the ancient moon god-demon Baal, the attraction of the black flag has always been the benefits: loot, plunder, and to put it delicately, women. (Well, for ISIL, their “women” include caprines, beardless boys and even small children, but al-Raqqa hasn’t got much of a dating scene. Unless you count the slave auctions).
Turns out, the pirate’s life is not as rich in plunder as it has been portrayed. And given a choice between layoffs or pay cuts, ISIL has chosen to keep (be)head count high and have everyone tighten the trousers of their mandress equally.
ISIS might seem like a ragtag group of terrorists, but in reality, it operates as a government over parts of Iraq and Syria. And it hands out biweekly paychecks to its jihadist army.
ISIS soldiers earn between $400 and $1,200 a month, plus a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 for each child, according to the Congressional Research Service.
But running a state at war is expensive. And recent victories for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS mean that the Islamic State can’t afford to pay its soldiers quite as much as it used to.
Well, the US-led (for some pusillanimous values of “led”) coalition and the Russian bombing, but, mostly, the Russian bombing
“On account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone . to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position,” the ISIS’ government wrote in a memorandum.
CNN’s source for this story is largely the US State Department, so take it with a grain of salt — but they indicate that the multifaceted opposition is putting a budgetary squeeze on ISIL.
ISIS makes most of its money by taxing its population. But one major source of pressure on ISIS’ finances is the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing runs. Airstrikes are taking aim at the ISIS oil business: blowing up oil trucks, storage tanks, mobile refineries and other oil field equipment.
The result? ISIS was making $40 million a month on oil alone in early 2015, according to the U.S. Treasury. Now, it’s making only a fraction of that, according to the State Department.
The airstrikes have also targeted ISIS money itself — literally. Last week, the United States military made an extremely unusual move, two U.S. defense officials told CNN. It dropped two 2,000-pound bombs on a building in central Mosul, Iraq, destroying a cache of cash worth “millions.”
Of course, the problem with putting a financial squeeze on ISIL is the same as trying to put one on Washington, DC: both gangs of putatively sovereign wild men are able to use deficit spending to live (or die, as the case may be) high on the hog (or halal animal, hog being haram), while sticking future generations with the bill.
It’s not likely an organization that promotes suicide bombing as a preferred career option is overly concerned about the future. After all, they are not going to inhabit it.
Tough as They Come is the story of an infantryman who would probably tell you he is a typical airborne infantryman. But, while he is in some ways, that’s not the whole and unvarnished truth. Before being wounded, Travis Mills was an excellent infantryman. After he was wounded, he became outstanding on a whole new level.
The title phrase, “as tough as they come,” crops up several times in the memoir. But while the overall theme of the memoir is positive, this is no standard-SEAL-book-contract braggadocio. Being as tough as they come, Travis learned, has its limitations:
Time passed and the intense pain remained. One night my dad was with me and I begged him to turn my leg around. “Dad! I know I don’t have a leg, but it’s backward. You’ve got to turn it around.” I cried out all that night, my dad told me later. I screamed. I shouted. I thrashed about in agony.
A doctor showed me a chart and said, “Travis, on a scale of one to ten, describe your level of pain.”
“Ten,” I said. They administered some sort of painkiller as part of a medicinal study on me. I don’t remember what it was. Again the doctors asked me to describe my pain.
“Ten,” I said. They tried a second study. Afterward, the same question.
“Ten,” I said. They tried a third study. I don’t know how long these studies took to implement. When this study was over, they asked the same question. “
Ten,” I said. I couldn’t stand the torment.
“I want to die,” I said again. I didn’t know who was listening. I didn’t care. It was the truth. I was as tough as they come, but I couldn’t take these phantom pains. It felt like I was being filleted alive. The skin was ripped off me. Spikes were driven through my heels. My toenails were yanked out. Gasoline was rubbed all over my skinless flesh. I was screaming again. Screaming. A match was tossed on the gasoline and my body exploded in fire, burning, burning, burning.
“There’s a relatively new and controversial experimental study,” a doctor’s voice said from above me. “It’s only ever used on extreme cases. Basically, we pump him full of Ketamine and put him into a coma. We leave him there for a while, then bring him back out. It’s like turning a computer off and then rebooting it again. The hope is that we can reset his pain tolerance. It’s not a guarantee. And there are risks.”
“What sort of risks?” came a voice off to one side. My eyes were closed. They were having a meeting about me, and I didn’t hear the answer just then. I’d heard that on the street, Ketamine is known as Special K or Cat Valium. It’s similar to PCP. I’d never tried either, but I’d heard that if you take enough Ketamine, it feels like you’re not in your body anymore. You have wild hallucinations. Sometimes people describe the feeling as “near death.” On the street, they call this being plunged into the “K-hole.”
Okay, then. If I had one chance in a hundred of feeling better again by going into a Ketamine coma, then that’s where I would go. I was awake enough at one point to agree to the procedure. I knew I might never wake up again. I knew it might fry my mind completely. I might become a basket case for the rest of my life. I didn’t care. Anything was better than this unbearable level of pain.1
While Mills is famous for his horrible wounds — he is one of five quadruple amputees to survive in American military history, all of them from Afghanistan and Iraq — and his robust recovery from them, the book is not simply a tale of gettin’ blow’d up (as the guys say) and the Stations of the Cross of recovery. It’s a tale of a full and ongoing life, beginning with a Michigan childhood and youth that flowered into manhood in the Army.
Travis was like a lot of young guys who followed the easy path from high school into college. He was an athletic guy but didn’t intend to express that in the Army. His dream had him playing big-college football, and maybe, possibly, pro ball. But the small town (Vassar, Michigan) football star didn’t catch the eye of college recruiters, and didn’t have the grades to get into a big state university and try to walk on. He was playing ball in the dead-end community college leagues, and taking classes that didn’t interest him very much.
The military did interest him. His family had a proud tradition of service, and he liked the idea of a challenge to mind and body, and a chance to be part of an even bigger team.
His new team was the 82nd Airborne Division; he made several deployments to Afghanistan and grew as a soldier and leader. He thrived in combat.
After a while the shooting died down, and we moved forward. Dangerous terrain lurked everywhere. Bullets could come from other compounds, from behind huts or foliage. A couple trucks whizzed by on a road in the distance. We could hear the Taliban on our Icom radio. They were planning movements and calling in reinforcements, more weapons and ammunition. Essentially, their plan seemed to be to shoot at us for a while, then pack up and move to a new location down the road where they’d shoot at us again, and so on and so on until we got back to our base. It didn’t take much brains to figure out that was a smart move for them. They were driving. We were walking. For us, our only plan was to keep moving, always on the lookout for our next point of cover and concealment. If you’re standing still, then you’re a sitting duck. You always want to keep moving, even under fire.
Sure enough, not long after that, we got into our second firefight of the day. Bullets whizzed in all around us and we fired back. We fought for a while, then the fighting eventually died down, and we moved on.2
That was the start of a series of at least seven firefights that day… and that wasn’t the only fighting day. It was just the one where the helicopter pick-up was botched and the unit had to shuffle back to the outpost, fighting all the way for ten kilometers. They called it the Ten-Click-TIC3.
But it wasn’t just fighting; leadership has other aspects, too, as Travis illustrated at the end of the Ten-Click-TIC:
We fought the whole way back to the strongpoint. It was a grueling day. But I’d made it a point on other missions to run ahead and sing to my guys the 82nd cadence when they returned into our gates. I was exhausted, but I wasn’t going to let them down, today of all days. I ran ahead, started singing, and high-fived them all in.4
Some of the most interesting and revelatory passages are not the combat ones, but the passages describing his family and its impact on his decision-making and family; and it’s also interesting to see the impact that he and his seriously-injured friends have had on other wounded, especially other amputees. (And the impact that a brief meeting with an earlier quad-amputee, Marine Todd Nicely, had on Travis).
A description of a trip to Boston after the Marathon bombing is instructive as well as entertaining. The administrators at the Boston hospital, full of Boston values, didn’t think wounded soldiers could possibly do anything but alarm and terrify these wounded civilians. (That will probably seem illogical to most readers. It did to Travis. But having lived among the Bostonians, most of them do not distinguish between terrorists, criminals and soldiers: Massachusetts schools teach that all are interchangeable users of violence. In their world, a wounded warrior is a wounded warmonger, and probably had it coming). In any event, Travis and a buddy knew that the best thing for a fresh amputee is seeing the example of a successful amputee, and they sneaked off from the higher ranks who were debating what was and wasn’t good for the injured, tapped into the nurse mafia to find them, and spent the day showing them what the potential of an amputee’s life is. (They also fielded a lot of practical, “How will I learn to do x with a prosthetic y ?” questions, as only someone who has done it can).
By the time the administrators had finally been persuaded to let the wounded warmongers circulate among their patients, it was too late; the deed was already done.
And that is why you should not bet against SSG (Retired) Mills. He’s an airborne infantryman, as stubborn as a mule, and yes, as tough as they come.
Mills & Brotherton. Tough As They Come. pp. 198-199.
Ibid., p. 162.
TIC: military acronym for “Troops In Contact,” pronounced like the small bloodsucking arthropod, “tick”; Ibid., p. 163.
We’re going to use some anti-gun propaganda from the Chicago Police Department in the media to look at how the propaganda theme, and a particular example used to support the team, can evolve – and how far it can be from the truth.
The bare bones facts are these: police responded to a shooting. A six-year-old boy shot his three-year-old brother, Eian Santiago, in the face. Eian was dead when paramedics arrived. The handgun his brother killed him with belonged to the boy’s father, Michael Santiago. Michael Santiago has been arrested and charged with felony child endangerment.
The story was initially reported as an example of the dangers of having a gun in the home. Here is an example headline (there are many more).
The second propaganda theme was closely related to the first. It was that guns were killing children. The headlines were things like “Gun in Home leads to Death of Toddler.” Each story quoted the same anti-gun activists (never mentioning the criminal records some of them had), and each story took a gratuitous swipe at the NRA.
The reporters would bristle at the idea they had coordinated their stories. Perhaps they didn’t, overtly, but does a fish know he is wet?
After the Chicago police released more information a third propaganda theme emerged: the father bought the gun for self-defense. Oh noes! Your licensed concealed weapon can kill your kid. (Of course it can. A gun is potentially lethal, any gun).
Here’s what then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a skilled shaper of media reports even though he couldn’t lead a hungry dog to a plate of bacon, said to the Associated Press:
It’s real simple. If that gun is not in the house that kid is alive today. We see this happen over and over and over again.
Until something happens with these gun laws, it’s going to continue.
McCarthy’s solution, which apparently appeared to him in the dregs of his too-manyth vodka and lime, is to ban the guns of the people who are not committing murders with them. That may be because, under his weaving, wobbling, wayward management, the Chicago Police Department sucks at stopping the actual murderers. AP again:
Chicago also has more homicides than any city in the nation, and the number this year has climbed, with department statistics showing there were 370 homicides as of Oct. 4, compared to 306 for the same period last year. The number of shooting incidents also has climbed during the same period to 1,870 from 1,581 last year.
Some members of the city council recently called for McCarthy to resign because they said he had failed to stem the violence.
Wait, how bad is it? What does the Chicago Tribune say?
Especially brutal? Looks like a fairly stable trendline to us. But hey, reporters are English majors and trendlines happen in the Forbidden Forest of the math department.
OK, so McCarthy’s department wasn’t preventing the nation’s most out-of-control set of homicidal hood-rats from hood-ratting. Still, that’s a very high standard.
It is pretty good at McCarthy’s priority, though, confiscating guns:
McCarthy routinely points out that his officers seize many times more illegal guns than any city in the nation, including the larger cities of New York and Los Angeles. The department has seized more than 5,500 illegal weapons thus far in 2015.
That counts their “buyback” guns, where criminals trade in their old, broken and incriminating guns, no questions asked, for cash or discounted equivalents that enable them to acquire newer and better guns.
Now, bringing the total through the end of 2015, Chicago racked up 443 gun homicides and a total of 2,995 shootings, proof of first-rate trauma care and lousy criminal marksmanship; there were 9 individuals shot and killed and 16 more wounded by the generally straighter-shooting police in Chicago (CPD but also other jurisdictions like Illinois State Police and CCSO, if the shooting took place within the city limits). There were also 56 killings by other means (including 5 homicides by automobile!) and 55 more “death investigations” which may go homicide or suicide, and more with cause of death undetermined. It’s a great place to live! If you’re the undertaker. Or a murderer: the 2015 homicide clearance rate rose to 24.5%.
On 358 of 365 days in the Windy City, there was at least one homicide or shooting. That is, only 7 days in the whole year lacked one or more of those events.
The color of crime in Chicago is black: of 68 identified suspects, 1 is Hispanic and 2 in the catchall category “White/Other.”
There were four non-police self-defense shootings in 2015.
Defenestrating McCarthy has gotten one ill-handled gun off the street, but the move, a political pawn sacrifice by the mayor, hasn’t helped the statistics.
In the first ten days of 2016, Chicago hosted 100 shootings. Zero of these were by licensed concealed carriers; with none of them even being hood-rats popped by cops, it’s a rat-eat-rat world out there.
The first 14 days of January have already seen more people shot (152) than all of last January combined (149). This month is easily pacing towards 300+ shot. While there could be any number of reasons for the increase, a milder winter, better aim, higher quotas, etc… one likely reason for the increase is the CPD’s new, politically driven, fetal policing program.
“In the first 11 days of the year, officers filed just 3,916 investigative stop reports compared to 16,698 during the same time period last year, according to police data.
Fetal. Ferguson Syndrome. Call it what you will, cops are working less this year, and you’re going to see the results in the crime stats.
That’s a 79-percent decrease, and arguably evidence that officers are avoiding the kind of proactive policing better known as the “stop-and-frisk” investigative stops pushed by former top cop Garry McCarthy. That approach led to thousands of gun arrests and illegal guns being confiscated every year.
Indeed, gun confiscations and arrest are each down more than 35 percent this year.
That reality has put Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration in a precarious position as he focuses efforts on rebuilding trust in the scandal-plagued police department.”
Tiny along with some parts of the city, want it both ways, low crime and a less aggressive police department. No doubt you’ll get one of the two, but unlikely to get both. It’s hard to take a bite out of crime when your dentures are soaking in a cup.
The police, all of whom have wisely taken on the persona of Sgt. Schultz under an unrelenting attack from a hostile mayor and his reverends, have yet to drill anybody, so that statistic is running behind last year.
Version Four: The Truth
And here are the facts that are in evidence, but are being elided from many media reports, and ignored by drunken Garry because they don’t fit The Narrative™ or, as psyops practitioners call it, the Overall Propaganda Campaign. Only themes that support the campaign — in this case, for gun control — and only facts that support the themes are of interest to the propagandist. Or, for that matter, the journalist, since the emergence of New Journalism in the late sixties (or farther back than that, perhaps).
Fact: Michael Santiago is a gang member, or a former gang member.
Fact: He got the gun from another gang member.
Fact: The sale was an unlawful transaction between two prohibited persons.
Fact: his purchase and ownership of the firearm was always illegal under current law.
Fact: The acquisition (however done) and ownership of the firearm by the ganged-up previous owner was always illegal under current law.
Fact: the one propaganda theme that the propagandists of the media won’t tell about this crime, is that Dad of the Year was one of just the sort of gang criminal that the Chicago Police, in their leadership’s Ahabite quest for gun control, doesn’t bother to pursue.
Sure, some individual cops still do, but CPD’s clearance rate for gun homicides is under 25%, and their clearance rate for gun assaults is 8%. The vast majority of the uncaught shooters and killers are gang members. The average gang member’s IQ is about 20 points lower than the average cop’s, yet they got all the way to 8% while really trying, and with command emphasis on catching these violent criminals? Are they kidding? Or are they just the worst cops since the department rolled out of the fictional burg of Keystone?
Or, have they gone fetal with Ferguson Disease? (That’s just a new name. The practice of seeing nothing and getting through one’s shift with minimal risk has been around for a very long time).
Yet, none of the facts in the last section feature in mainstream media reporting of crime in Chicago, or anywhere else in North America.
It is a potent illustration of how, by feeding the media what they expect to hear, and couching your press releases in the good-guy-white-hat bad-guy-black-hat duality and man-bites-dog kind of clickbait cliché that reporters love in their reporting, you can control the story. Give them stuff that’s easy to fit into The Narrative™ and that’s exactly what they do with it. That’s how master media manipulators from Ralph Nader to the late Andrew Breitbart to Barack Obama and yes, Donald Trump, have always worked: not by frontal-assaulting the media, but by taking it down by its own weight, using The Narrative™ as a fulcrum for judo. Hai!
The Mexican website El Blog de Narco has this video of the “El Chapo” Guzmán raid. We had to compress it to get it small enough for WordPress to load it (there are ways around that, but none we wanna mess with while waiting for an airplane). Here it is; you can get the higher-quality video by going to the source.
Helmet cam appears to be on El Jefe.
We don’t actually see the narcos; we just hear them firing.
This video gives the layman some idea of the chaos, sound and fury, smoke, fog and confusion that’s attendant on CQB, and just how destructive it is of the property.
The Mexican Naval SOF team moves methodically and deliberately. They’re not going for speed, surprise and violence of action. (At the door, maybe: “¡Vamos, vamos, vamos! ¡Arriba!” but later you can hea El Jefe telling them to take it easy. At several points they ask the narcos for surrender; this is at first met with fusillades.
It looks like they hit from multiple entrances at once.
Explosive breaching would have gotten them in faster.
They’re generally well-equipped and professional. Although firing through curtains at, what exactly? didn’t strike us as prudent.
Medics get the wounded out of the line of fire and begin treating them immediately. Hmm, wonder if any of those wounded were friendly fire? None, maybe; the hostiles were certainly shooting enough.
At the end, a woman inside the target building says that there are 6 persons inside (“Seis hombres.” She’s very insistent, and the naval personnel keep asking. This is probably because their total bag was five persons: two men, unhurt; two women, unhurt; and one man, stone cold graveyard dead.
El Blog del Narco has a lot of El Chapo news right now, including stories about the fact that the Mexican authorities have not charged him with any of his gang’s homicides, and his plans to buy the English football club, Chelsea. Now he’s back to planning a prison break, something he has a lot of experience with.
Bottom line: the Iranians are lucky they didn’t mess with the Mexican Navy.
Flint Kaserne (the quad at center) and the family housing area (the apartment buildings to the left), 1950s.
The lost Garden of Eden of Special Forces is the former Flint Kaserne at Bad Tölz, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. It was built as a school for political soldiers, and during its American occupation it was a base for the guerrilla and counterguerrilla forces of Army Special Forces.
The castle-like building was built by the German Political Party Who Shall Not be Named as an officer school (Junkerschule) for the SS. The courtyard inner walls were whitewashed and decorated with Germanic pastoral murals; the building was as beautiful as its first tenants were nefarious.
Flint Kaserne in SS days
The corridors had periodic niches, in which the officer cadets (Fähnenjunker) had racked their K98k’s, back in the day; the carved buttplate sockets were still visible. During 10th Group’s, and later 1st Battalion, 10th Group’s, tenancy (1952-1992 or so), group pictures of the officers and men hung on the walls; after 1980 or so, pointillist art by a civilian employee who shared ethnicity and name with the great Czech patriot, playwright and politician Václav Havel, also graced the walls. You could run down Havel and order prints; it was good stuff.
Was one of the SS Fahnenjunkers in this image the future Ghost?
And there were two legends — the Ghost of the Hauptsturmführer, and the Possessed Desk. Sometimes the Ghost was a Sturmbannführer, depending on who was telling the story; the ranks are SS-Captain and SS-Major respectively. The story ran that staff duty officers and NCOs could hear the tap of boots in the basement corridors at night, but could never find the walking man; they could just feel a chill. The Nazi officer had, supposedly, whacked himself there in despondency at the thought of living in a world without Adolf Hitler. You can usually start a fiery argument among old Tölz hands about whether there really was a Ghost or not. Kind of like Santa Claus, he was there if you chose to believe in him.
1956 Yearbook. Before the current crest, 10th Group’s unauthorized but perfect symbol was the Trojan Horse.
The Desk, on the other hand, was not such a benign spirit. It was a magnificent affair carved in the Black Forest style, a bit over the top for Americans, but Patton had used it, having inherited it from the SS commander, and therefore every subsequent American base commander used it. During the 1952-68 era where all of 10th Group was stationed there, the Group Commander used the desk, and there were no untoward incidents of demonic possession — that we’re aware of, anyway. After 1968, the SF unit was a smaller Battalion (it may have been called a Company in early days), commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. He had three Companies headed by Majors, each of which could put up to six ODAs and one ODB on the ground. But this LTC was no longer the king on post. He was just the commander of a tenant unit. (It was the most important tenant unit, the next one down the totem pole being the 7th Army NCO Academy). The Community Commander was a full Colonel still, and he was always, as far as we know, an SF officer, and often a former 1st Battalion Commander.
One by one, beloved and respected former BCs came back as Community Commanders — and one by one, they seemed to undergo a remarkable transformation, going from respected special ops leaders to unhinged apparitions raving about something or other.
As near as anyone could figure out, it was the influence of the desk, which was demonically possessed.
Hey, it made as much sense as any other theory.
Recently, though, we discovered in a book1 that SF was not the first guerrilla force to be based here. In the Götterdammerung of the end of World War II, Hitler Youth gathered here to take their part in the ill-fated Werwolf movement.
Hitler Youth identity document. Fine print at the bottom says it remains property of the Youth Ministry.
Among the senior Nazi leadership, only Arthur Axmann2 spared the time and bother to prepare a detailed scheme for the period when most — or all — of Germany would be occupied. This ‘Axmann Plan’ took shape in March and April 1945, when, as a preliminary step, the headquarters of the Reich Youth Leadership was shifted from Berlin to the site of a HJ elite training school at Bad Tolz, in the Bavarian Alps. Plans were also made to preserve the ‘essence of the nation’ by moving 35,000 HJ leaders to the inaccessible hill country of southern Germany and Bohemia, whence they could maintain cohesion and harass the occupation forces. Axmann foresaw an imminent war between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union, so for him the trick of survival was to stick together until the HJ could join the Western Allies in a final campaign against the hordes from the East.
On 5 May, [Gottfried Griessmayr] and a number of other HJ and SS leaders gathered at the town of Prachatitz [Bohemia], where they founded a rejuvenated NSDAP based upon a new ten-point program. 3
In truth, an unknown number of HJ guerrillas actually reached the southern mountains, where they were directed to carry out partisan warfare and prepare for the outbreak of a new conflict.Some officials were very enthusiastic: the Upper Bavarian HJ chief, HJ-Major-General Panzer, ‘had quite unrealistic illusions as to the effect of partisan activities against the advancing Allies.’ Tyrolean HJ leaders trusted in their ability to carry out guerrilla warfare because of their experience in underground operations prior to 1938. 4
Werwolf guidon. It’s so typical of the Nazis that as their world was falling apart, they were designing snazzy insignia.
Training for this last-minute levy was carried out at a number of mountain huts: near Benediktbeuern, for example, a school for HJ special forces was set up as early as February 1945 in the Tutzingerhiitte.’ This camp was under the supervision of the SS and was manned by NCOs from Mountain Regiment 98, stationed at Garmisch. Near the end of the war, one of the trainers at the camp, Sergeant Max Reutemann, was made responsible for organizing the Benedikt- beuern Werwolf, along with a local forest ranger and HJ-Colonel Miiller from Bad Tolz. This detachment subsequently exploited the food and weapons ear- lier laid away for the personnel of the training camp. At the time of the collapse, the faculty and students of the HJ elite school at Bad Tolz also fled into the mountains in order to form a 250-man guerrilla unit, and they, too, benefited from supplies that had earlier been cached.45 HJ-Colonel Johannes List launched an identical undertaking at the hut ‘Zur Schonen Aussicht,’ near Salzburg, and SS personnel were involved in yet another, similar project at mountain cabins near Tanzstatt, in Carinthia. At Bad Reichenhall, a special school trained signals personnel withdrawn from the threatened districts in the Sudetenland and Upper Silesia. 5
After the war, the town, although not the Kaserne, of Bad Tölz was the seat of a well-financed Nazi underground, rooted in the adult leadership cadres (imagine a Scoutmaster’s evil twin) of the Hitler Youth.
With money and clear directives in hand, [former HJ-Brigadeführer Willi] Heidemann based himself in Bad Tolz, and in late April made a sound investment by buying Tessmann and Sons, a transportation company with offices throughout Germany. One of Tessmann’s managers, a member of the Allgemeine-SS named Leebens, was apparently bitter about the loss of the company’s head offices in Dresden at the time of the February 1945 phosphorous bombings, and he was happy to sell the business to Heidemann for the fire-sale price of 10,000 marks, contingent upon the stipula- tion that he himself remain a partner in the firm. Tessmann and Sons subse- quently became the basis of Heidemann’s operations, since its nature as a transport company improved Werwolf communications, and its dealings in food and coal gave it close contacts with General Patton’s lax Military Government in Bavaria. One American officer, a Captain Goodloe, was even involved in some of Heidemann’s business dealings. Simultaneously,of course, Heidemann retained liaison with Franke, and he provided a flow of funds for desperadoes throughout southern Germany. During the summer of 1945, he also proved him- self an adept businessman, and, by the end of the year, he had bought six addi- tional companies and expanded throughout the American and British zones, and into Austria. Moreover, an extensive network of contacts was built up among some of the most important names in German business, such as the Krupp fam- ily, who used their influence to smooth the way for Heidemann’s expansion into the Ruhr. Fear of the Deuxieme Bureau, notably, kept Heidemann out of the French Zone.6
Heidemann’s strength was millions of marks of former Nazi money, entrusted to him to build a clandestine organization in the American sector. He took his tasking to heart and worked on network building and underground organization, forbidding acts of sabotage or overt attacks, in order to create a sustainable, going concern. A parallel organization grew in the British sector; it was more effective at recruiting, but didn’t have Heidemann’s windfall of cash. The British-sector organization was hassled less by counterintelligence personnel or Nazi hunters than American-sector Nazis were, and Heidemann’s net went down first, despite his quickly having ingratiated himself with the occupation forces, but neither organization would survive into 1947. Griesmayr’s organization was still functional in 19477, and after 1949 he was a member of (overt?) groups called Bruderschaft (“Brotherhood”) and ANG (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Nationaler Gruppen), roughly “Working Association of National Groups”8.
For decades thereafter, Nazi undergrounds would be a sort of bogeyman, used to frighten children and make otherwise unimaginative novel and movie plots go. But they were never a real threat to do anything except keep the occasional war criminal on ice in Argentina; most of the original underground leaders, like Axmann and Heidemann, were rolled up in the immediate aftermath of the war.
We leave you with this final image, of SS-Fahnenjunker briefing back a sand-table exercise. It is a creepy image for those of us who have briefed back an ODA mission in that very same building. (Unfortunately, we struck out on an image of the Commandant’s desk. Even though we took one back in the day, and the negative did develop and all, Lord knows where it is now. Can a brother hook us up?)
This Bundesarchiv photo shows instruction at the SS Junkerschule. Change the uniforms and haircuts, and it could be ODA 122 briefing back Exercise Lions-Lowlands 88.
Biddiscombe, Werwolf!. (see Sources). All references are to this edition of this book.
Artur (correct spelling) Axmann was the Reich leader of the Hitler Youth and an interesting character. He was an early Nazi party adherent, who lost an arm in infantry service on the Eastern Front in 1941. While often portrayed as a fanatical Nazi, he refused to allow the girls of the Hitler Youth’s women’s movement, the Bund Deutscher Mädel, to serve in combat at war’s end; his reasoning was that women nurture life, not death. Today’s feminists would hate him. He escaped the Führerbunker in the last days, was the witness who accurately reported the location of Martin Bormann’s dead body, and lived quietly into the 1990s.
Biddiscombe, op.cit., p.77.
Ibid, p. 77n, (note on p. 340).
See the two-line capsule biography of Griesmayr on the Axis History Forum: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=129517. After 1949 little seems to be known of him, but he did co-write a book on the Hitler Youth that was published in 1964. Biddecombe erroneously suggests that his ideological tome Völkisch Ideal was never completed, but it comes up in Google Books. A currently popular author bears the same name but we do not know if he is related.
Biddiscombe, Perry. Werwolf! The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944-1946. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.