Category Archives: Modern

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Sojourner On Over


We established in a previous post that the space program and NASA will fall under the purview of this blog. Many of the advances made by the program benefit both the military side of the country as well a the civilian side, and without one there would not be the other. That said, above is a picture of the Mars rover, Sojourner which for many years served as our eyes on the planet Mars. Yeah, you got me I wanted to write about this because of The Martian, great movie and great book.

Sojourner was named via a completion that NASA held asking  students up to 18 years old to submit essays that pitched a name of a historic heroine, and a description of why that name would be fitting for the rover. The winner chose the name Sojourner Truth, an African-American woman from the Civil War era that traveled the land seeking to advocate equal rights for all men. It probably didn’t hurt that Sojourner also means traveler, a perfect name for the little robot.

Among the runner ups were such luminaries as Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart, Athena, Minerva, Atalanta and Thumbelina.

All said that above is a model of the little bugger. Originally they planned for that little bugger to wander Mars for approximately a month, and it lasted for over three. During that time it provided very valuable information on the Red Planet which set the stage for subsequent missions. I would recommend checking out the original NASA page on the mission for a couple of reasons. One, it is fascinating to see what the web looked like in 1996 (wow!) the other is for the pictures of Mars that are still on the site.

Writing about war and conflict and those things is needed. To help shape the future we need to understand the past. Sometimes though it is nice just to see what we can do when we let our natural inclination to explore take the wheel.

100th Post Old Glory

This the monumental 100th post on this blog. That means we have reached almost a year of telling stories and sharing some of the military of this great nation. Thank you all for your support.

Flags have been in the news a lot lately, and oddly enough  if you look back through you will see that we have been talking about flags before it became fashionable. See, flags have meaning, they are symbols. The problem is that sometimes the symbols don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

The flag in this photo above should be very familiar to you. Take a close look though and you will that it is a little different.

Did you see it?

There are 48 stars. See this flag is from the WWII era and for the most part during that time if you saw this flag it meant one of two things.

To our friends it was a symbol of hope, it was a symbol that the big dog had entered the fight and we were going to be doing everything possible to win the war. For ourselves, for our friends and for the sake of the world. Many Americans and our allies died for that flag and many more since have for the very same reasons.

To our enemies it was a symbol of dread. They say the flag and knew that the fight was on. We would not quit, we would not stop until they were defeated. Early in the war our enemies underestimated us and that was to their detriment. Many enemies died in the shadow of that flag, and they still do today.

So same flag different meanings. Weird how that happens, eh?

Thanks for the first 100. Stay tuned for the next 100.

So That Happened…


That is a Nazi armband. It was worn by an actual Nazi soldier during an actual war. Very seldom in the course of writing for this blog have I allowed much in the way of personal feelings, but there is something going that just needs stopped. People here and elsewhere are going through an unbelievable amount of effort to pretend that the Nazis never happened and by doing so allowing them to be swept under the rug.

Last summer a 93-year-old man in Germany was charged as an accessory in 300,000 murders for his role as a prison guard at Auschwitz. That trial is currently under way. but it is getting less press, especially in the United States than the Apple iWatch (or whatever they are calling it). This man was a Nazi, this country went to war to stop them from carrying out their plans. That man, even at 93, is only coming to justice because what we did to end the war and end the regime that he was a part of.  and this story gets barely a mention.

This is the thing. What they did was terrible and that sort of thing, not just in terms of the Holocaust, not just in the number of Jewish, Romanian, Polish, Russian, and all other races they felt unclean must never be allowed to happen again. The way to stop it i not through laws, nothing international agreements, not through erasing part of our collective history, but through remembering what they did. As each generation gets farther and farther from that truth, from that evil, it will take work to remember.

See that symbol in the picture above. That is the Nazi symbol. That armband was real and was worn by a real person that carried out their evil. we must never forget.

The Gulf War Revisited


While I have plenty of pictures of the A-10’s, affectionately known as the Warthog, this picture of a unit patch from a flight suit deserves special notice.  The Gulf War was not that long ago, a little more than twenty years, but for many of my generation it our first real experience of our country being at war. Growing up in the shadow of Vietnam, the Gulf War almost seemed like  shot at redemption. Since this week has had a sort of “remembrance” theme, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the Gulf War and that patch is a great reminder of a different time and a different war.

The Western World’s dependence on oil has kept the Persian Gulf a strategic theater for the US for a very long time. Like South America the US has always had this vested interest and has taken steps to insure that “friendly” leaders we in place to keep the oil flowing. This particular strategy did not pan out so well in Iran. In fact we did such a poor job of trying to keep Iran friendly that in the end we had to prop up their neighbor and help them fight a long drawn out and bloody war against them. That neighbor was Iraq, lead by Saddam Hussein, who with our help was able to keep Iran in check. Unfortunately, as often happens with us, the lesser of two evils grew beyond our control and decided to invade a neighbor, in this case Kuwait. This lead to the first Gulf War.

In the Gulf War the United States was able to gather a large multi-national coalition to face off against Saddam and remove his army from Kuwait. Most impressively the coalition contained several Muslim nations, something important to keeping the conflict from become a West vs Middle East conflict. This alone was a great start to what would be a historic campaign. For the US this was an attempt to wash the lingering taste of the Vietnam era out of its collective mouth. For the first time since WWII the US faced a black and white conflict without the shades of grey that were cast over South East Asia. This war was going to be different.

Different it was. The Gulf War was carefully planned and had clearly defined goals, the idea being to bring as much military force to bear against the enemy as possible. The air campaign that opened the war was surgical in the way it destroyed the enemy’s ability to fight. By the time the ground war started and the famous “left hook” was employed the Iraqi army was not only driven out of Kuwait, but stood substantially weaker. The coalition was a success, but even in the glow of victory came the seeds of another war. Saddam would be left in power and allowed to rebuild.

The US after the war stayed active in the region with mixed results. Promising help and support to the native Kurds and those opposed to Saddam, we stood by and watched as at least one attempted coup was put down. We did enforce no fly zones and supported the UN in trying to keep the Iraqi stockpile of chemical and biological from growing. This led to almost a decade of air strikes and economic sanctions designed to keep Saddam under control, which failed. All the time this was happening, Iran came back to world stage in attempting to obtain and build nuclear weapons, an effort that was helped tremendously by the first Gulf War and the flood of Iraqi material and minds that fled the country.
Militarily the strategy was almost perfect and highly effective. The enemy military was defeated, casualties were low and the objectives were met. The peace was not planned for  and we ended up in another war where many, many more people on both sides died and the results of which we are still waiting to see if it was worth it. Politically the strategy is still up in the air and its effectiveness is up for debate. Even though we maintain talking relationships with many of the Persian Gulf countries, the effects of 9/11 undid much of what the Gulf War accomplished.

A Typical Day


This schedule is posted at the National Infantry Museum and is there to show what a typical day in boot cam would look for a member of the US Army. Nowadays though it is called Basic Combat Training. A ten week course that is designed to take men and women that walk in off the street and turn them into soldiers.

Over the course of the training the individual learns how to work like a team and think like a soldier, which sometimes requires a lot of adjustments on their part. Not everyone is cut out for it, but those that succeed embark on a career that is frankly thankless and dangerous.

The ten weeks are divided up into three phases.

Red Phase: The focus is on learning teamwork. This phase comes after their initial reception and starts teaching them the basics of training and field work.

White Phase: Among other skills marksmanship and rappelling are taught in this phase. Recruits are exposed to many new skills and abilities that will serve them during their career.

Blue Phase: Building on everything that has come before the recruits are exposed to more advanced weapons and push themselves to their physical limits.

Passing through all these phases and they have learned the skills needed to be effective in and out of combat.  With such a harrowing schedule as laid out above it is amazing that anyone makes it out.  But with almost 1.5 million men and women serving in the US military, at least that many have found a way. Just for fun one day why don’t you try to follow the schedule and see how you do?