This is one of those Wednesday Weapons Websites of the Week, where we send you out to make your own experience. The reason is that there is an almost unlimited amount of quality information available here, but it’s all information that’s going to need to be winkled out using some awkward search facilities.
FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act, a 1970s law aimed at government transparency that has made many lawyers indecently rich for finding exceptions to shield misconduct and wrongdoing by government agencies or (more often) by senior government officials. Nonetheless, these sites offer the secrets of two agencies that have had a great deal of success as well as some spectacular failures; released documents tell the tales of both.
CIA FOIA Page
The CIA is subjected to a barrage of FOIA requests daily and has developed robust protocols to respond to these requests, whether serious or frivolous. (The most frequent request, we’re told? Information on UFOs. The kooks are out there). The CIA has one of the more comprehensive and, fortunately, easily navigated FOIA sites in the Federal government.
Here’s a specific example of the sort of thing you can find on the CIA site: a translated West German set of political objections to the Western Powers potentially renegotiating the status of West Berlin with the Soviet Union, from 1961 or thereabouts. Some of these objections are quite prescient and were narrowly forestalled by statesmanship at the time; others did come to pass, without seriously impeding the Western defeat of the USSR in the Cold War. (Or the USSR’s defeat of itself, perhaps). But the Germans had no way to know it at the time.
We went to the FOIA page looking for something very specific that we were promised was there — an accident report on an aircraft mishap this year in Kyrgyzstan to a tanker flying from Manas. We couldn’t find that, but we found so many other good things that we shrugged it off.
To set up a remarkable example of the material available here, we’re looking at a recently (28 Aug 2014) released report of the Winter Study Group’s sensing sub-panel from 1960. The Winter Study Group was set up by Lt. Gen. Bernard Schriever USAF and managed by the Mitre Corporation in approximately 1956 to examine the chaos that electronic systems procurement had become. The sensing panel made interesting assumptions about the Soviet bomber and ICBM threat and about systems for detecting an attack. It is no exaggeration to say that this work led to the DEW Line, NORAD, and satellite early warning, just as the WSG’s overall work led to the AIr Force Systems Command’s Electronic Systems Division (which was established within a year of the final report) and the entire concept of Electronic Command and Control.
The report is a priceless time capsule of 1960 thinking, and the fear of The Bear is palpable in it.
Unfortunately, the bad news: the USAF FOIA website has a human interface that might as well have been designed by Mitre in 1960, and it’s a bear (as in difficulty, not Russian, although it is a bit like a long Russian novel in a bad translation) to link an individual report (and impossible to link an individual .pdf). Your only hope is to search the site for WINTER STUDY GROUP, and Lord alone knows what you’ll find.
Both agencies are host to a lot of documents that are low quality (microfiches, photostats, old mimeographs) and tend to do a pretty lousy job preparing them for the web (they’re seldom OCR’d or printed to .pdf yielding a searchable document). But they have information you’ll never find anywhere else. That’s the trade-off.
And if you dare to say different, they’ll cut your ^$&$&!! head off. Infidel!
Item: Jihad Boy
Or Hudson Taylor Clark, as he was known before his conversion to Islam, alarmed his family with his visits to jihad websites. When county sheriffs did a welfare check on him Friday 5 December, they found him muttering:
Dear God please forgive the disbelievers. Praise be to Allah.
It seemed clear that he was on the cusp of committing some islamic sacraments, but he hadn’t done anything yet, so the coppers could only note that he was alive and declined assistance.
Then, he walked out of his family’s house at about 1400 on Saturday 6 December, telling them he wasn’t coming back.
They called the local (Cañon City, CO) police and officers began looking for Clark.
Meanwhile, Clark found a way to beat Colorado’s new gun laws: he grabbed a handgun from the shelves in Victory Defense, a gun shop, and tucked it in his waist. Clerks saw his clumsy attempt at shoplifting, and followed him; they got the gun back, but he threatened them with a large folding knife.
“Don’t touch me or I’ll cut you.” Having recovered the gun, the clerks backed off. Clark did make off with a holster and ammunition, but without the gun they were of no immediate use to him.
Clark then left the scene, [Cañon City Police Department Chief Paul] Schultz said, and was found 10 minutes later … by CCPD Cpl. Andrew Sanders.
“Mr. Clark did not respond to the officer’s commands to stop and talk to him,” [Schultz] said. “Our officer went up, tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around with a eight-inch knife … Then without saying anything, stabbed corporal Sanders under the left arm toward the armpit and then continued to encroach upon him.”
Schultz said the officer told him to stop after he was injured, but he didn’t comply.
“He continued to encroach upon Corporal Sanders with the knife, which was open obviously,” he said. “Corporal Sanders then fired his handgun in self-defense, striking Mr. Clark five times.”
He was shot twice in the left arm, once in the right arm, once in the abdomen and a bullet grazed across his chest, Schultz said.
Clark was shot at while he was somewhere between four and six feet away, he said.
From what we’ve read elsewhere, Sanders nailed Clark with 5 out of 6 shots, after taking a hit from a large knife. It would have been nice if more of them were bang in the boiler room, but it was eminently successful in stopping Clark’s attempts to stab him.
More from Chief Schultz:
The suspect at this point dropped to the ground, never lost consciousness, was bleeding profusely and continued to make comments. Next to him was the Koran, which fell out onto the ground and during this first aid situation at this point, he did ask for his Koran.
Sanders was treated and released; Clark has a long stint in hospital, and a longer stint behind bars, ahead of him. He’s fortunate to be alive. He’ll be back in court for the next legal round on Christmas Eve. Allah that, Jihad Boy.
One hopes they’re serving ham in jail.
In the hospital, he asked police if he’d hit Sanders with his knife thrusts. He was smiling when he said it. Meanwhile, Sanders didn’t need to ask if he’d hit Jihad Boy.
Item: The Love Sheikh
For a long and involved look at the Sydney cafe hostage situation, which ended with the gunman having put on some weight in 65-grain increments, and the hostages all freed, several of them wounded, the Daily Mail in the UK has excellent coverage. There’s a good infographic showing the escapes of several hostages over time, and good quotes from people on the ground.
The latest update: Along with the Sudden Jihad Syndrome mullah, two of his hostages are dead and four injured or wounded. The 34-year-old man and 38-year-old woman killed, and a woman and a police officer were injured by gunfire. It’s unclear whose fire killed the hostages; the wounded woman appears to have a rifle-caliber wound in the shoulder, and the policeman has shotgun pellet wounds. The hostage-taker carried a shotgun.
For a capsule version, Australian newsman Tim Blair at The Telegraph (OZ) has it covered in his blog here and here, whence we saw this video showing the stack and assault from one angle. It went down shortly after 0200, Sydney time.
Items of note: The Aussie cops are using M4s or equivalent. Good choice. They had various optics — looked like mostly EoTechs in the grainy video — and handguns in drop holsters. Pretty standard kit.
The terrorist attack locked down the central business district of Sydney for two days.
Many are making much of career criminal and Islamic cleric Man Haron Monis aka Sheikh Haron aka Mohammad Hassan Manteghi being a “self-proclaimed” islamic cleric. But all mullahs are, especially in Sunni islam which is non-hierarchical; there’s no Pope or formalities of ordination to advance one over the other. You don’t get a Mad Mullah Matriculation suitable for framing in your mud hut in a Waaziristan training camp.
Monis / Haron / Manteghi called for an ISIL flag, and while waiting for it, displayed the black flag bearing the shahada or Islamic profession of faith, which has come to mean terrorism everywhere.
His past crimes appear to include various rapes and kiddie-diddling (after one woman he “counseled” Guru Pitka-style came forward, there was a flood of them), and the murder of his ex-wife, although police think it was his current girlfriend who committed the actual murder; our sheikh of many names merely set her corpse on fire. He also sent “sympathy cards” to the families of Australian soldiers slain in Afghanistan — sympathizing with their killers. At the time of the attack, he was out on bail for 40-plus rapes, and accessory to murder (bail. Why?).
This is the latest of several ISIL-inspired lone wolf or small cell attacks Down Under. Meanwhile, a couple of others who were caught in the planning stage were in court.
The other writers at The Telegraph have, of course, deeper coverage of the issue, but Blair hits the high points. The Age (Melbourne) has what appears to me to be a leftier viewpoint — a lot of hand-wringing about how people will get the wrong (?) idea about Moslem terrorists.
Item: The Mosque that Ate Santa
The extremist mosques in Cambridge and Boston that radicalized the Boston Marathon have claimed a new casualty in their jihad: Santa Claus. Ever politically-correct, Principal Jennifer Ford of the Andrew Peabody School banned the stout elf after complaints from a radical moslem parent. The “Christmas Concert” which had always featured a St. Nick appearance had long since been renamed a “Winter Concert” in keeping with Ford’s vision of state atheism as established religion.
Even many local Moslems think this is over-the-top, for which they’ll probably be targeted by mosque leadership. Apostates!
As the nation reacts to a disputed report about historical “torture,” which will let the media focus relentlessly on something other than today’s foreign and defense policy failures, we’re reminded of the arguments over torture, or “torture.” Some of the things in dispute have been:
What constitutes torture;
Whether permitted stresses applied to detained unlawful combatants were torture;
Whether torture (or those stresses, if you prefer not to call them torture) is, or can be, effective.
We won’t get deep into questions one or two, just note that many people have very very firm opinions on these definitions. And those same people base their views of empirical facts on whether they think torture is always condemnable or sometimes useful. We’ll just start with the creepiest Hollywood torture scene ever, to set expectations. Then we’ll take a look at the more complicated question about whether torture works, illustrated by two instances of torture used by a defunct agency — the Army of Imperial Japan — against American and Filipino guerrillas in World War II.
First…. is it safe?
If you haven’t had enough, the scene continues.
Dentists hate that movie. It’s cost them a fortune, over the years.
Two Instances of Torture in the Phillipines
As the Japanese advanced down the Bataan Peninsula in January, 1942, the American-Filipino army in retreat did a curious thing. Some units were broken up and posted in an Outpost Line of Resistance some 2000 meters forward of the friendly Main Line of Resistance. Why this was done is not entirely clear, but it left squad and platoon inkspots out of mutual support of one another and of the MLR. This subjected them to encirclement and destruction in detail, and many of the men, exhausting ammunition and other supplies, surrendered.
Torture, Data Point One
The Japanese forces sought to exploit these prisoners for tactical intelligence. American officer Russ Volckmann recounted, in a postwar book based on his contemporary diary1, how they did it:
The men were tied to trees and subjected to a session of questioning in a manner in which the Japs were most proficient. The question centered on the main battle position, about which our Third Battalion men had no knowledge, for they had never been on the main battle position. Each question that brought an unsatisfactory reply was followed by a bayonet jab. The Japs finally left all of our men for dead, but some hours later one of our men came to and managed to crawl through the jungle to our lines. He had 11 bayonet wounds to confirm his story.
This torture, like the enthusiastic dentistry practiced on Dustin Hoffman in the video, was ineffective. And for the same reason: you can’t torture a fact out of somebody that does not have the fact in the first place.
Bayoneting a prisoner. While this picture is actually one of many from Japan’s war in China, you get the idea.
It’s also a fact that the information the Japanese were torturing the hapless Filipino riflemen for was easily gleaned by sending out reconnaissance patrols. We don’t know about you, and clearly we don’t know about the junior officers of the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Rikugun in that tumultuous period of the Showa era, but we’d be more inclined to trust the visual observations of our own corporals, than something we beat out of somebody.
So there are two lessons in that: there’s no percentage in torturing someone for something he does not know, and there’s no more in torturing someone for something you can readily discover by less grueseome and more reliable means. (As a good rule of thumb: the most credible means of knowing something is to observe the ground truth with your own eyes. Next best is having one of your own guys, whom you trust, observe it. Having an enemy guy observe it? You’re betting your life on his observational skills, memory, and that he’s telling you the truth. Bad bet, except for stuff you can get no other way).
Torture, Data Point Two
This picture is all we could find of LTC Martin Moses, doomed resistance fighter.
The next incident of torture undid two American officers who had escaped from the Bataan encirclement and set themselves up as leaders of the resistance in Northern Luzon, LTC Martin Moses O 016924 (West Point ’27; Cullum 8213) and LTC Arthur K. Noble O 017780 (West Point ’29, Cullum 8775, an Arkansas native leading the Phillipine Scouts). There are several stories of their operations and demise. Volckmann remembers visiting them in their camp, finding them ill (a frequent problem for all the malnourished and ill-cared-for guerrillas).
While traveling, the two sick colonels hooched up in a village, and sent a trusted Filipino to get them food and other supplies. He was caught by a Japanese patrol, brought to the local garrison in Bontoc, Mountain Province, and then tortured into revealing the whereabouts of the guerrilla leaders. (Absolutely none of the sources report the disposition of the Filipino beyond this point, but standard Japanese practice would have been to murder him one way or another, once he’d been stripped of the desired information).
The patrol swooped on Moses and Noble and caught them, and they in turn were tortured, not for information but to secure their signatures on a surrender demand, that read:
I surrendered for the peace and happiness of the Philippines to the forces of the Imperial Japanese Army in Kalinga on June 2, 1943. Since our surrender we have been treated with kindness and generosity and in every case according to the Rules of the International Law.
I have been assured by officials of the Imperial Japanese Army that all members of the USAFFE still at large on Luzon, who surrender now, will be treated in the same way and in no case will any of them be tortured or killed.
All members of the USAFFE now at large on Luzon are therefore hereby “OT ONCE” to surrender to the Bontoc garrison of the Imperial Japanese Army.
We will pray to God for your happiness and peaceful life.2
Whether Moses and Noble had anything to do with this document is uncertain, but their capture was not possible without the interrogation of their man (although not necessarily impossible without torture), and it is unlikely they would have appended their signatures to this document without considerable duress.
There are two uses of torture that achieved their end; while the action was bestial, it was not ineffective. Moses and Noble’s guerrilla command was completely neutralized, although surviving individuals often rejoined other local guerillas such as Lapham’s and Volckmann’s outfits.
The way General Wainwright’s story recalls their end is similar:
[Moses and Noble] took to the mountains at the surrender of Bataan, enraged by the fact that the Jap forces which were bearing down on their headquarters, to take over in accordance with the surrender, fired upon them.
Japs thereafter paid dearly for this breach of the rules of war. After nine days of great hardship Moses and Noble reached Pampanga. At tremendous risk they then worked their way across the Central Plain during the summer of 1942 and reached the mountain province that autumn. There they set about the job of organizing guerrillas and stimulating such guerrilla bands as were already in action.
They launched vigorous offensives through the mountainous regions that fall and winter, killing many Japs. The Japs took their terrible type of revenge on the innocent Filipino residents of certain villages near the scenes of the guerrillas’ operations.
The Japs set out to get them with great determination early in March 1943. Moses, Noble, and their men moved south to Kalinga, from which point a Jap outfit pursued them for fifty-two days into Apayao and back to Kalinga.
They reached the end of their courageous resistance on June 3, 1943, when an overwhelming Jap force, tipped off by a Filipino cook the Japs had captured and tortured, captured Moses, Noble, and many of their men. Moses and Noble were beaten then and there and all their property, including their West Point rings, was taken from them.
A Jap captain named Hirano later formally apologized to them for this treatment and returned some of their belongings. They were moved to Bon-toc, thence to Camp John Hay, then to Baguio’s M.P. jail—where they were starved—and finally were transferred to Bilibid Prison in Manila. The Japs raised their hopes of fair treatment by questioning them almost politely. But on September 30, 1943, they were led handcuffed from Bilibid, and these wonderful officers who had fought to the limit were never heard of again.3
Likewise, Ray C. Hunt, another evader who served with Bob Lapham’s Luzon Guerrilla Army Force, remembers the end of Moses and Noble thus:
Moses and noble eventually claimed control over perhaps 6000 men previously scattered throughout a dozen lesser partisan groups. Through Praeger’s transceiver they reported to MacArthur that they had established a unified command, Adding that they had also done much damage to Japanese installations at small loss to their own forces, that morale in their units was excellent, that thousands of young Filipinos would join them eagerly if arms were available, and that their most pressing immediate need was for radio communication to keep track of their scattered forces.
… the luck of Moses and Noble ran out. The Japanese captured their orderly, tortured him until he revealed the whereabouts of his superiors, and then captured them on June 3, 1943, and executed them three months later.4
There appears to be scant record of the actual end of Moses and Noble. Whether they were summarily executed, tortured to death, died of starvation and mistreatment in captivity, or drowned on a POW hellship is not well documented — all were common fates of Japanese prisoners. However, a West Point memorial page records, an unspecified official document in the Moses family’s possession says:
Lt. Col. Martin Moses, of the Headquarters Philippine Department, a guerrilla leader in the northern provinces, was arrested by the Japanese in May or June, 1943, and brought to Fort Santiago. Moses was tried in old Bilibid prison with Lt. Col. Noble (U.S.A.), Lt. Col. Hugh Strong (U.S.A.) and Colonel Nakarr (P.A.) by secret court martial in late October 1943. These officers and about 21 enlisted men were executed in the North Cemetery in early November, two or three days after the court martial … it was in the first few days of November, probably the first or second before a firing squad.
Moses was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit for his efforts as a guerrilla and the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts in the ultimately-doomed defense of the islands:
For extraordinary heroism against the enemy without the least regard for his own personal safety and for courage, energy and efficiency of the very highest order as Commander of the 12th Infantry, P.A., at San Juan, La Union, on December 21, 1941; at Guagua and Lubac, Pampanga. January 4, 1942; and at other times and places too numerous to mention but all occurring during the period December 8, 1941, to January 5, 1942, his regiment being almost continuously in contact with the enemy under fire from ground and air, Major Martin Moses, Infantry, U.S.A., is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In one critical situation after another attended by dangers and difficulties of inconceivable magnitude, his Regiment progressively and completely disintegrating in action, Major Moses carried on with courage and fortitude that were an inspiration to both subordinates and superiors alike.
Whether Moses and Noble were the aggressive, effective guerrillas of the Wainwright retelling or the wretched, miserable evaders of the Volckmann version is not really germane to this story; the Japanese took them seriously, and used torture effectively to make a guerrilla disclose their whereabouts, which led to their doom and the erasure of their guerrilla unit and command. Only units that were separated by cut-outs and other cellular structures — and, perhaps, a little bit of luck — survived this 1943 debacle.
Finally, torture was effective in compelling Moses and Noble, honorable military officers raised in the Academy tradition of Duty, Honor & Country, to append their signatures to the surrender demand (if not to draft it; no one alive knows how much they were compelled to do).
While torture could not produce the information the Filipino regulars did not have in the first example, it could and did produce the information and obedience the Japanese officers demanded in the second. Bear that in mind the next time someone says, “Torture doesn’t work.”
Notes & Sources
1. Volckmann, Russell W., We Remained, based on Volckmann’s War Diary entry for 3 Feb 42, via Guardia, Mike. American Guerrilla: the Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann. Havertown, PA: Casemate Publishers, 2010.
2. The original document (or rather, one of the many Japanese broadsides of it printed and distributed on Luzon) survives in the Volckmann family archives and its text is reproduced (along with the story) in Guardia on pp. 97-98.
Would you trust your diplomatic Mission to this guy?
There have been a number of reports that have let the kimono of secrecy about the Benghazi attacks slip a bit. That kimono has been in place solely to protect the careers and reputations of intelligence community managers and political appointees who handled the incident incredibly badly. As a rule, the media reports — which have their flaws — have been better than the official reports — which have many of the same flaws, plus an attempt to protect this ox or that from being gored.
One of the sacred oxen, of course, is failed CIA Director Michael Morrell, who torpedoed himself for any high office, ever, by lying repeatedly (including under oath) to Congress. And he didn’t do it for the nation, or for the CIA officers he sent into harm’s way: indeed, he threw them under the bus to protect his political patrons. Of course, having reached a certain Beltway patent of nobility, he won’t be prosecuted for perjury, the way you might.
Some of the reports have made Morrell’s dismal performance glaringly clear. Except for the on-scene PSD and other contract and career officers (and not all of them by any means), nobody in government, of either party, comes out of this with much of a reputation.
But no report we’ve seen takes on the Benghazi cover-up in the Administration and in Congress with more clarity and even-handedness than a new one coming in the 15 December 14 Weekly Standard, written soberly and factually by Steven Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn. Here is a link, and a taste:
Kris Paronto remembers joking with John Boehner about his tan.
It was nearly 9:00 p.m., and the Longworth building was mostly empty. Paronto was joined in Representative [Devin] Nunes’s [R-TX] office by two others who had fought in Benghazi—Mark Geist and “Jack,” the pseudonym for a former Navy SEAL who doesn’t want his name made public—as well as [Mark] Zaid, their lawyer. The men sipped port from Portugal, the country of Nunes’s ancestors, and red wine from the Alpha Omega winery in his home state of California.
The 45-minute meeting with the speaker was mostly taken up with small talk—about family, Congress, the military. There were two exceptions. The first came when Boehner asked about persistent rumors that the CIA was involved in weapons transfers from Libya to Syria. Paronto reported that he had never seen any evidence to support those claims. He made clear that he couldn’t rule it out, but could speak with certainty only about what he’d seen and done—and that didn’t involve moving arms. Boehner, who was intensely interested in Benghazi but not inclined to chase conspiracies, seemed satisfied. The second serious moment came near the end of the meeting, when Boehner told the men that he fully supported Nunes and his efforts to have them testify before the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes, who will succeed [Mike] Rogers [R-MI] as chairman in the new Congress, had spoken with some of the CIA officers before, including a six-hour session in his office on the occasion of their first meeting. The stories these men told affirmed the Obama administration’s version in some respects and contradicted it in many others. Before their appearance, the full committee had heard from only one CIA officer who was on the ground in Benghazi. There was no way to conduct a serious investigation without hearing from these eyewitnesses and others like them, yet the committee never contacted them.
Most remarkable story. Nunes and others wound up having to, more or less, cram the eyewitnesses down Rogers’s throat; Rogers’s senior staff director would later leave to work for a shifty, shadowy lobbying firm associated with Hillary Clinton. The report continues:
In the late summer of 2013, after the men had made clear to Nunes their willingness to testify, Rogers exchanged several letters with Zaid, who represented not just Paronto, Geist, and “Jack” but also two others who had been on the ground in Benghazi, John Tiegen and “D.B. Benton,” another pseudonym. The men had begun collaborating on a book, 13 Hours, which would be published in September 2014. Written by Boston University journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff, it offers a detailed and decidedly nonpolitical account of what happened in Benghazi. Each of the men fought throughout the night to repel the attacks, some of them sustaining major injuries. Geist nearly had his arm blown off by a mortar as he fired on attackers from the roof of a building at the CIA annex early on September 12. Tiegen arrived moments later to find Geist trying to hold his tattered arm in place and both Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty dead.
Zaid wrote Rogers that his clients were eager to share their story with the committee, and he made several routine requests in preparation, according to the correspondence, obtained by The Weekly Standard. “On behalf of my clients and the memories of their fallen colleagues, thank you for your interest in this event,” Zaid wrote, later noting that his clients “are looking forward to providing assistance to the Committee’s investigation.”
These quotes are from deep within the report, but every word of it is worth reading. Rogers, by the way, initially denied them reimbursement for travel to testify, in contravention of common Congressional practice. He really didn’t want the ground guys on the record.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI — the state needs to be specified because there’s a Mike Rogers, R-AL), comes across as an anti-military dirtbag, willing to throw the defending contractors of Benghazi under the bus for his Beltway pals, but the real Nehru Jacket of Evil seems to fit two flunkies, Committee spokeswoman Susan Phalen (a Republican staffer) and committee lawyer Michael Bahar (a Democratic one). Bahar accused CIA security officer Kris Paronto of insubordination, and lectured him that he was betraying his Ranger heritage by “insubordination” in contradicting the official line put out by the Administration, that the attack on the facilities in Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. (One suspects that Bahar’s resume, like Morell’s, doesn’t contain a military service line).
Now, this report itself could be a plant by some other Beltway buffoon (Boehner? It’s remarkably kind to him), but there’s not much question about the rotten performance of Mike Rogers and the House Select Committee on Intelligence in this investigation. Rogers, fortunately, has retired from Congress. He had an eyeblink career in the Army (minimal obligated service as an MP officer, 1985-89) and a similarly short stint at FBI (89-94). NTTAWWT, but judging from his performance on Benghazi he didn’t learn a damned thing about investigation on either job.
The following film of a live lecture appears to date to the 1970s. (Ignore the placeholder picture, which seems to be some posed nonsense, and ignore that fact that the idjit who posted it to YouTube thinks it’s SF-related). It’s definitely post-1973 as they refer to the experiences of returning Vietnam POWs. The lecturer, Capt. Arthur, a Medical Service Corps officer, wears the combat field medical badge, suggesting he is a Vietnam veteran, but he’s too young to be 15-20 years out of combat, which rules out most of the 1980s. In addition, he’s wearing the men’s khaki Class B uniform, which went out of service in October, 1981. A woman in the class is wearing one of the oddball 70s womens’ uniforms that went out sometime between 1980 and 81.
While YouTube bills this as an SF class, it is no such thing. As the podium reveals, this was a lecture period from the Army Medical Institute of Health Sciences, and CPT Arthur refers to “all of us in AMEDD” — the Army MEDical Department.
In the late 1970s, Col. James N. “Nick” Rowe revitalized SERE training in the Army. Prior to Rowe’s creation of the SERE course, a handful of men went to Air Force or Navy survival training and came back to pass the lessons on. Afterwards, Rowe’s course became mandatory for SF officers and NCOs, and later still became a must-pass gate in the training pipeline.
Survival, Evasion and Escape doesn’t come up until about 16 minutes in, and Resistance is never covered (as it never was, before Rowe). At about 19 minutes he displays a blood chit, part of an escape kit. At about 24 minutes, he explains why stealing a weapon is a bad idea for an evader. At 30 minutes or so, there is a discussion of the display of the Red Cross, something that has remained a subject of discussion or argument to date. Right after that, there’s a discussion of whether it does medical personnel a disservice to train them on the Geneva Conventions when so many of our opponents don’t honor them. This was, to us, the most interesting moment in the whole thing.
We had never thought about the situation medical officers were in, when captured; they’re supposed to have a special status called “retained,” and be allowed to treat their wounded. In Vietnam, one doctor was captured, and we learned from this lecture that he was treated no better than other POWs. This seems to have been the norm on the Eastern Front in WWII, on both sides, as well.
This video is a glimpse of what passed for Survival, Evasion and Escape training in the Army, and even in SF, before Rowe. And it’s still about what you’ll get in much of the Army today: an earnest and well-prepared officer delivering a briefing on the Code of Conduct in a classroom environment. It’s also a glimpse of what Death By PowerPoint looked like in the decade before PowerPoint’s invention.
It’s also a glimpse of the earnest belief that many in Big Green still have in the laws of land warfare and those laws’ protections of noncombatants such as medical officers. The last enemy we fought that even paid lip service to these rulebooks was Nazi Germany, a lifetime ago. Every subsequent enemy has made less attempt to honor the conventions than the one before him.
They call themselves “kulturny”: looted luggage from Flight MH17.
Here’s the latest report by a guy on the scene, who interviews both a Russian Cossack separatist ataman, and a Ukrainian government official, as well as visits the crash site as locals sheepishly turn in victim IDs (but notably, not valuables), spirited away by looters after the crash.
Follow the link to see the video; there’s no transcript.
The Russian separatists have really bungled their handling of the crash site, insuring that conspiracy theories will go on forever. (This is nothing new or particularly Russian; the FBI did something similar with its mishandling of TWA 800 evidence, dropping a windfall in the laps of conspiratroid nut jobs).
The most interesting thing, we thought, was the reporter’s suggestion that the Dutch investigators are slow-walking any conclusions, for fear that they’ll lose access to the badly contaminated and unprotected site if those conclusions cut against Russian propaganda themes.
One of the next most interesting things is the suggestion that Ukraine was using movements of civil aircraft to mask their movement of military aircraft. Wouldn’t be the first time such a thing had been done, but the Russian suggestion that this justified targeting MH17 is a bit of a stretch (imagine it with the players reversed).
It’s nice to know that someone is still reporting on this act of barbarism and its aftermath, even after the bulk of the media have rolled on to new amusements. And he’s if anything too even-handed, but you get a sense of how much the propaganda of both sides has muddied the waters here; enough that, whatever the truth was, the true believers on both sides will be comfortable placing all blame on the other guy.
Air Defense screwups (or worse) have been a recurring global problem over the years, with the US Navy inexcusably shooting down an Iranian airliner (1988) and Israelis blasting an off-course Libyan one in 1973, but most of the shootdowns have involved Russians, former Soviets, or former-Soviet-sponsored rebels. For example, Russian-catspaw militia shot down three Georgian airliners in 1993; Soviet-armed-and-trained guerrillas shot down two Rhodesian airliners in 1978-79; the vodka-powered Soviet Russian air defense system shot down a Korean 747 in 1983, and the Ukrainian military (!) shot down a Russian airliner (!) in October, 2001, in a crime the Ukrainians initially tried to brazen out with lies, and later attributed to a training-exercise screwup.
Since we knew you were going to ask, here’s the weapons stuff out of Vol. II., which was the Recondo School presentation. But it’s notable that before they discussed weapons, they discussed two more crucial elements — helicopter support (both logistics, in terms of slicks, and fires, in the shape of a Light Fire Team of attack and scout helicopters). But they did get to weapons in due course.
Weapons – The type of enemy positions, type of operation planned and the AO requires a supply of varied weapons. Most of the time a major commander will make weapons available regardless of the MTOE. However. to solve the problem. a weapons pool at the company or detachment headquarters with some of each type of weapon should be created. This would include such items as the M-79 grenade launchers, M-l6 machineguns, silenced pistols and rifles and other special purpose weapons.
Straightforward enough. We have always struggled agains the Big Green bureaucracy, in our efforts to maintain a pool of foreign and obsolete weapons, as well as other low-density US weapons, for training and operational purposes. Conventional officers, especially logistical types, tend to come from way out on the left tail of the bell curve, and have a really hard time understanding this. They really hate it when sensible preparations for combat interfere with their systems of orderly and regular inventories.
Next, the report addresses the patrol member’s dream date, the CAR-15 (which is very, very rarely called “XM177E2,” its real Army name, in period reports. Of course, some were XM177s and XM177E1s, and others were combat tested with just a Colt model number, or a Colt GX — “Government Experimental” — model number).
The CAR-15 appears to be a popular and desirable weapon and should be available. However, it is questionable as whether every man should have one. Much of its popularity is due to its newness and novelty. The point man and radio operator should have them to reduce the welight they must carry and because of the convenience offered by their shorter length. Sometimes the accuracy at long ranges of the M-16 is needed and the M.16 rarely malfunctions; therefore, it must also be available.
Of course, Colt’s whole production run of CAR-15s was, according to Colt records, 10,000 weapons. Not counting odd lots and rarities like this “GX” model (“Government Experimental,” usually indicating a toolroom prototype).
When the Son Tay Raid was standing up, there were none in the Army’s inventory in new condition, so Task Force Ivory Coast acquired a stock of either Air Force or Export guns. The handful of existing Son Tay photographs show that the carbines resemble Colt Model 639/XM177E2 “submachine guns,” but lack the characteristic forward assist.
Even though airborne insertions were never used in RVN by Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol or Long Range Patrol teams, the conference concluded it was valuable:
The group was unanimous in desiring airborne qualification. First of all they felt LRP’s had to be considered on an army wide basis and not just on operations Vietnam. They felt units in Europe would be hindered if this capability was taken away. As a bonus the group contended the airborne qualification increases a man’s ability and confidence. It is not that being a jumper is so important: it is the mere fact that a man has proven to himself that he can go through the training and overcome a natural fear, the fear of leaving an aircraft. He has accomplished something that he had probably felt was beyond his capability. He also has learned to pay attention to detail. You have to see a new jumper or a halo jumper check his equipment to see attention to detail.
An LRP team requires this meticulousness in preparing their weapons and equipment, in planning for the patrol, and in intelligence collecting and reporting. In the CIDG program all of the MIKE forces, Mobile Strike Forces and recon units are sent through jump training. The man who is cocky enough to jump out of an airplane will probably be more willing to move into that hole in enemy territory. Some felt the graduation from Recondo School should be a prerequisite for airborne pay but the majority were opposed to this since there are only a limited number of spaces at the Recondo School.
Interesting thoughts. Even today, 46 years later, most of the world’s elite forces undergo parachute training even if they will never, ever make an airborne insertion. And recent events have proven that an airborne insertion is still a useful capability.
A great deal of mythology about the M16, CAR-15 and other weapons in Vietnam continues to circulate. Here are real lessons-learned as discussed in a period document, the 2-part USARV Long Range Patrol Conference Summary, which discussed a conference held from 9-12 August 1968, in other words, at the height of the US Army’s combat involvement in the Vietnam War. While those attending were primarily officers in grades of 2LT through MG, they clearly brought the experience of the units most involved in running long-range patrols, including the “letter” Ranger companies then of the 51st Infantry Regiment, the greek-letter projects, Mike Forces, MACVSOG, the SAS from OZ, and the Special Forces-run RECONDO school, where LLRP leaders from many US and Allied units trained.
So what did they say about weapons (with, maybe, some operational and equipment digressions)?
II Field Force Vietnam (Co. F., 51st Infantry (LRP)), p. 22-23:
Equipment carried by the patrol includes as little food and water as possible, M-16s, a Light Antitank Weapon (LAW), an M-79, and an M-60 MG with 700 rounds. The patrols remain in the area for five days and are extracted only if they have wounded personnel. If the wounds are slight, they will be treated and then reinserted.
Note that this is a 5-6 man patrol. F Company Rangers practiced what they called “saturation patrolling,” where 10 to 14 of these teams would be on the ground seeking the enemy. The heavy firepower assisted in breaking contact by “impersonating” a larger unit. Unlike some other long range patrol elements, they would not be extracted unless a member was wounded; their instruction, and ethos, was “break contact, continue mission.”
Harassing and interdictory (H&I) fire continues in the AO even while teams are being inserted or on the ground. To stop the fire signals the enemy something is happening. The teams move between the fires. The fires are plotted 800 meters from the team, except at night when defensive concentrations are as close as 300 meters or closer if desired.
Details like this, which would have been extremely useful to the enemy, are why the report was classified. It would not be declassified until 31 December 1974, long after the withdrawal of American forces.
In the III CTZ operation areas where shots are heard in the jungle all day, the teams snipe at close ranges. A noise suppressor would be beneficial to assist the sniping.
Another tactic especially effective at night is to set up a trip flare behind a team that is being pursued. If gunships are on the scene, they can fire at the trip flare when the enemy trips it.
Some of these TTPs would work just as well today as they did 50 years ago. Case in point.
The teams use the starlight scope and have found it effective. The LAW is used mainly as a psychological weapon to make the enemy think twice before assaulting a team. The weapon deceives the enemy as to the size of the team. Time pencils and fragmentation grenades are used, especially at night to mislead him on the location of the team. Claymores are used extensively. Wrist compasses are used also. .It saves the man from fiddling with the lensatic and getting it caught in the brush.
Many of these small defensive possibilities have been eliminated since then, by unilateral anti-mining decisions taken by American political leaders. No more grenades with a time fuze, or tripwire Claymores on your back trail. Note that these less-well-resourced patrollers didn’t get toe-poppers and minigrenades like SOG elements did. They didn’t even have CAR-15s:
Survival knives are on the MTOE but extremely hard to obtain. The M-l6, while a good weapon, is not as suitable to LRP operations as the CAR 15 because it is too long and catches in the brush. The present camouflage uniform tears easily and mosquitoes bite through the material. The CIDG tiger suit is better.
It was complaints like these about the ripstop ERDL camouflage uniform that led to the sweat-bag first edition of the abominable BDU — 12-15 years or so later. The survival knives were, of course, pilfered in the supply chain. That still happens; team guys would stop in at Camp Vance and see every clerk in the S4 wearing the high-speed gear intended for the teams but mysteriously never issued.
Special Air Service Regiment (Australian Army), pp. 24-25.
The XM 148 is used extensively by the Australians. The trigger arrangement is dangerous as issued–it catches on vines and fires unexpectedly–so it is cut off and the sear is used to fire the weapon. The sights are removed also. Since contact range is normally five to ten meters, the sights are not needed. One XM 148 is carried per patrol.
Another piece of equipment is an anchor device for the McGuire rig or for rappelling ropes. It can be fitted to the UH-l series helicopter in about five minutes and deploys six ropes, three on each side. A pull of a lever releases the rope in an emergency. The UH-IH can extract a six-man patrol with full equipment using this rig. The present McGuire rig lifts only three people and cannot be cut· away in an emergency.
The XM-148 was a Colt-designed grenade launcher (Colt nomenclature was CGL-1 through -4) that preceded the M203. AAI’s M203 would, a few years later, provide the same capability, but without any of the 148’s problems.
Yes, SASR really did roll with XM148s. Three troopers on right have them (left hand guy has an M203) on M16s and L1 FAL. Image source.
The SF STABO rig ultimately adopted that Australian innovation which was, as SAS Major Wade noted, quite superior to the improvised (but working) McGuire rig.
25th Infantry Division, Company F, 50th Infantry (LRP), p. 35:
The old AR belt is a very useful item of equipment. It has numerous pouches for ammunition or grenades, which distributes the weight and does not have to be taped. The wrist compass could replace the lensatic if it had a sighting device on it. It is accurate and handy, and is immediately available not in a pocket. Light weight web gear made from CS cannisters [sic] is being experimented with at the present time and also the M-16 noise suppressors. The new face camouflage made by Elizabnth Arden that is used by the SEAl.s seems better than our issue camoufhLge. The time pencils are very useful but hard to get.
The “old AR belt” that Captain Dawson of the 25th mentioned is the BAR belt. The then-standard Army issue equipment, the M-56 field gear, had metal buckles and snaps and, without a liberal application of green tape or duct tape, would make a patrol jingle like Santa’s reindeer. (Garrison-oriented commanders and especially sergeants major and first sergeants tended to oppose addition of tape to issue web gear, and it was a constant source of friction between combat troops and chairborne REMFs, until the M-56 and its equally shoddy successor, ALICE, passed out of service).
101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), Company F, 58th Infantry (LRP), pp. 37-38:
This is actually the later L/75th Ranger scroll; we didn’t find one for F/58. All these scrolls come from this site: airborne-ranger.com.
The 101st’s program seemed particularly mature and well-thought-out to exploit the Division’s copious helicopter mobility. While their notes on operations and ARVN integration were most personally interesting, they had some interesting observations on weapons and equipment, too:
The use of CS dropped by helicopters has proven successful but required the team to take a gas mask along. This is deemed worth the extra effort. …
Air support is preferred to artillery in the AO due to triple canopy vegetation. It is difficult to observe and adjust ar tillery and a LFT can respond in 10 to 15 minutes.
The first light insertion is utilized most frequently. It allows reaction in case of contact on or near the LZ and an air relay, a U-1A Otter from Phu Bai. can standby during insertion or until the team establishes communication with the base camp or ground relay station. The teams do not move during the noon period or when another team is in contact because a team is less likely to be discovered when it is stationary.
The standard 65-foot Chinook suspension ladder cut in half and strung through a UH-1 model helicopter so that about 12 feet hangs down on each side is effective for insertion and extraction in stumpy areas, thickly vegetated areas, over uneven ground or where rotary clearance is needed. Rappelling is used also but its use makes McGuire rig extraction required, and this is avoided when possible. However, one McGuire rig wHh handcuffs on the riser is used to extract prisoners.
The company has three British Sten guns with silencers which are extremely quiet. They have not been fired in the course of an operation although they were taken along.
36th Mobile Strike Force Command, Vol. 1, p. 42:
The patrols carry one AN/PRC-25 radio with two headsets per patrol (the headset has proven to be the most likely part of system to fail). Their base station has an RTT capability and single side band in addition to the AN/GRC-46 radios. The Americans a.re armed with the CAR-I5 and the Cambodians carry the M-16. There are Sten guns and two pistols, all with silencers, available in the unit. Three of the American members carry the Swedish K submachinegun.
“Swedish K” was the Special Forces nickname for the Swedish Carl Gustav M45B submachine gun, which was commonly carried with 36-round box magazines but could also use 50-round Suomi magazines by removing a retaining pin and magazine housing. We think they could also use the Suomi drum but never tried it ourselves!
The Swedish M45B was copied in Egypt as the “Port Said,” which is the version seen here (file photo). It is a typical 2nd-Genrration SMG.
The MACV Recondo School, p. 49:
Personal appearance is deemed important by the school. While a student is at school, the individual is required to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and appearance. Mustaches must be nearly trimmed, haircuts must be short, and the normal appearance ·of an elite l.RP trooper does not include rings in ears Qr bracelets. The school is a MACV school and these standards must be maintained.
The school had previously mentioned some problems they were having with unmotivated students (definitely a problem as Recondo school used the enemy as a training aid). It attributed these woes to poor selection and neglect of published selection standards by sending unit. The school listed the goodies each student got, as well as some problems with what he was expected to bring along:
… provide each graduate with six Recondo patches and a diploma. Honor graduate receives a
special knife purchased from the fund.
USARV Regulation 350-2 contains a list of equipment that the individual should bring to the school with him. Many students do not realize this and the school does not have enough facilities to provide this equipment for every student. Critical items are camouflage fatigues and M-16 magazines.
So as early as 1968, the training base and the troop units were already scamming M16 mags (in those days, 20-rounders) from one another.
One little detail: everywhere in this report M16 (which is the weapon’s actual designation, although the Army model was always the XM16E1/M16A1) is rendered as M-16. This instantiates the well-known idea that, even though an item’s official nomenclature is one thing, the troops may call it something different — even in official reports.
IIIrd Marine Amphibious Force (1st & 3rd Recon Battalions), p. 45.
Once again, the Marine contribution was most interesting for their tactics and operation art, very different from any of the Army approaches. But they did have this to say about weapons, and interesting take on CS gas (non-lethal tear gas):
One way of using CS is to employ it by fixed wing. A ton of it can be placed in the napalm tanks with sand to get it through the jungle canopy. It can saturate 4,000 square meters :in five minutes. It is a good technique for taking prisoners but an extra gas mask must be taken along for the prisoner or he will die.
So, even with normally non-lethal gas, the dose makes the poison. One suspects that was learned at the expense of some fellow named Nguyen.
Note well: these comments are all from Volume I of the Conference proceedings. There’s more cool stuff in the shorter Volume II but we’re already knocking on the door of 2,000 words, awfully long for a web article.
This one is pretty far out there. But the guy who went on to be in the longest-serving draftee in the US Army, nearly didn’t serve at all. He was already to go to Canada. It was his mom who talked him out of it.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph E. Rigby, a native of Auburn, New York, began his military service when he was drafted, in 1972, during the Vietnam era. Today, he is known as the last continuously serving draftee on active duty in the U.S. Army.
As a young boy, Rigby always had a love for vehicles. He would walk around carrying any tool he thought could assist someone who was having car issues. Rigby had just started his own mechanic shop when he received a draft notice.
At the young age of 19, joining the Army was far from his life plans. He was clueless as to what would be in store for him.
His first response to the notice was, “I don’t have to put up with this! I can just move to Canada like everyone else, and avoid all of this,” he said jokingly. On the other hand, his mom, Dorothy Rigby, wasn’t going to allow this to happen.
Her exact words to him were, “No Way! You are not a quitter,” she said. “We do not quit in this family.”
Dorothy was scared that her son had to serve, but her daily prayers reassured her that he would come back home safely. With his mother’s advice, Rigby set out on his military journey.
“I took my mother’s words and kept on going,” said Rigby. “After all, being drafted was the closest I have come to winning the lottery.”
We wish Chief Rigby all the best in retirement, and realize that the draftees we knew all beat him out the door.
Back in the day, you weren’t supposed to serve in SF unless you were a volunteer. So draftees who passed the SF Aptitude Battery test in basic training were given the opportunity to get discharged from the Army of the United States (draft Army) and enlist in the Regular Army. But the Army didn’t manage the personnel rules intensively, so sometimes a guy finished his training and Vietnam tour and still had an AUS rather than a RA serial number. (In the 1970s, before our time, everyone began using the Social Security Number as their serial number. All our old orders have the Socials of everyone on the orders on ‘em).
When old SF guys get together, there are always stories about how jacked up the personnel system is. We have to wonder if Rigby and his buddies in the maintenance world were also ill-served by the personnel bureaucracy.
Like Rigby, we didn’t expect to do anything but minimum time in the Army. Just wanted some college money. But we found things we weren’t expecting.