Monthly Archives: July 2014

Some thoughts on Military Traditions

SF Patch

For over 30 years this was all an SF man wore on his left shoulder — unless he was Ranger-Q’d. Vietnam SF soldiers did not get the SF Tab (they are eligible for its award, retroactively, but SF men of the 50s, 60s, 70s and start of the 80s didn’t get them at graduation).

Some military traditions come to endure for a very long time; they survive the rise and fall of units, complete service branches, and even nations and empires. Military units today conduct ceremonies and maintain traditions that date back at least to the Roman Empire.

Some of this is just transmitted in human experience, even through social and political revolutions. The French army today has some traditions that predate the revolution. The Russian army today, likewise has some traditions from the previous Soviet army, and some from the Tsarist army before that. And all are inheritors of some of the traditions of the Romans: unit standards or guidons, marching in ranks, saluting.

Then, there is the interesting comparison of the tradition that takes hold, and the tradition that fails to take hold. For example, when he was Chief of Staff, Rick Shinseki tried to get the US Army to celebrate an Army Birthday. He was mindful of the tradition of the Marine Corps Birthday, which has long taken hold of the Marine Corps, and is a reason (or an excuse, for those who need no reason) for Marines past and present to get together with their mates and celebrate their traditions of service. The imposed tradition of the Army Birthday never took hold; it was one more of the ideas you get when you not only invite the Good Idea Fairy into the conference room, you make him Chief of Staff.

Shinseki went on to head the VA, which is all you need to know about his traditions.

This weekend, we’re attending an event that is one of those organic traditions that has just grown, and has survived many decades, outliving some of the original instigators, even though it’s a very small tradition. It’s interesting because it’s unique, so far as we know, in the Special Forces and world Special Operations community.

The Team Dive started as an excuse for members of an Army Reserve Special Forces Team to get together on a non-drill weekend, catch up, and not incidentally do a dive for lobsters in the cold waters off the North Shore of Massachusetts. A number of dope deals were necessary to make this happen: they had to fix things with the Environmental Police, with the site of the dive, with the local authorities, and with the Revolutionary War fort that is absolutely closed to camping at all times, except when the Green Berets come, once a year. It’s all legal and all on the up and up (yes, the men have lobstering permits for that one weekend, and yes, they only take legal “bugs”). But it’s a minority group in the minority group, and many people who are not members went out of their way to make it the successful tradition it has now “always” been.

Some years the lobsters are plentiful. Some, they are scarce (and somebody takes the Drive of Shame to a fish market). The beer is always plentiful; as the old guys drink less, the young guys pick up the slack. The story telling is prodigious, and one of the things that makes old guys like us turn out is the grim knowledge that he who is not there to tell the story is certain to be the subject of discussion.

Nobody is sure when the Team Dive started; the best guess is sometime in the 1980s. There’s a 20-year anniversary, but it’s just the 20-year point of somebody finally keeping track. Since a typical military career is 20 years, and some guys were already retired when they came to the first one, there will be members from their 20s to their 80s, each eager to hear what’s up with the others, and to meet old friends and teammates that he hasn’t met yet.

What we think is unique is this event’s nature as a longitudinal event on a team scale. There are reasons a reserve team, not an active one, came up with this, but we know it took a lot of luck and survived many near-death experiences to be here for us today.

Your “outside” life doesn’t come in here, too much. We’ve had FBI agents and ex-cons sitting at the same table, carpenters and CFOs, teachers and technicians. Here, the stories are of night jumps and over-the-horizon swims, of violent injury and long recovery, of guns we liked and guns we respected, of the difficulty making commo when you knew the Russians could DF you in 10 seconds — and when they’d jam you sometimes, just to let you know they were on duty that night, too. There will be tales of Vietnam and Afghanistan and maybe Iraq, along with tales of the Last Good Deal in Oslo or Guayaquil or Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Some of the tales will be true, some will contain a germ of truth, and some, the listeners will listen politely to.

The tradition survived the retirement of the original members; it even survived the end of the Army Reserve Special Forces, the dissolution of the original team, ODA 111, A Co. 11th Special Forces Group, the erasure of their team house and the very street it was on from the map as the area was redeveloped. The men who served on the team when it was disbanded in 1994 found themselves, mostly, on the same new team in the Army National Guard, and so that team became the torchbearers of the tradition. By that time, someone had already figured out it was important to keep the old-timers in, and so team members from the 1960s to the 2010s were arriving from across the country last night.

Some will dive. Some will drink. Some will do both (in order, please. So far we have a perfect safety record and have one surface for every submersion).

If you wanted your team to have a team dive (or hunt, or whatever) you couldn’t just copy the way ODA 111 does it. You’d have to start, and let the tradition grow, and see where it wound up, which wouldn’t be where you expected. But it would be a good thing, as long as it did what traditions must do: percolated from bottom up, rather than be commanded from top down.

When is a Used Scope Worth $5k?

With a couple hours left to go, this scope is over $4,800 at the CMP Auction site. It’s worth a lot because it’s a rarity, of no small historical significance.

USMC Sniper scope2

Anybody can stamp “USMC Sniper” on a scope, but when Unertl did it, the scopes went to the Marine Corps scout-sniper program — he never sold one to the civilian world. So everybody who’s a fan of Marine snipers, whether they’re real ones like Carlos Hathcock or the fictional kind like Bob Lee Swagger, wants one of these scopes.

Many years ago they were rebuilt by US Optics, and stored. And they wound up at CMP. They have a mil-dot reticle.

USMC Sniper scope3

You’re on your own for a mount… but if you need this you can solve that little problem.

USMC Sniper scope1

CMP Auction here.

We want this so bad we can taste it, but then we’d need to build the whole gun, and we’re not Marines around here… better to let the authentic Marines have it, but we’d sure like to see (and shoot? Pretty please?) the gun when it’s built.

Now, we SF guys need a 1980-vintage M21 with Leatherwood ART II. Sooner or later.


The scope sold for exactly $5,000. CMP doesn’t have another scope auction scheduled at present.


Military Phonies in Politics

Ken Aden -- Special Forces phony, faker, fraud. The lesser of two weevils.

Ken Aden — Special Forces phony, faker, fraud, and 2012 Congressional candidate. The lesser of two weevils.

Today, a friend reminded us of Ken Aden, a 2012 congressional candidate in Arkansas who is a phony “Green Beret.” Aden actually managed to flunk out of SF school so spectacularly — three times, so at least he’s not a quitter — that the Command Sergeant Major of the school distinctly remembered him four years later. It was kind of sad, because Aden served creditably in the Army, he just didn’t succeed in SF, which is hardly a rare thing. What is a relatively rare thing is for a guy who did not succeed to go around claiming he did. Maybe that once was common, but nowadays everybody’s a couple of phone calls or emails away from authenticating just about anybody. Anyway, here’s the post on Aden if you want to pick at that scab. We don’t think he’s running for anything this year; he learned that lesson.

On the other hand, our post about him is so full of typos and grammatical screwups, we have to say, “No, really” about college degrees… sheesh. It was not our finest hour. Anyway, Aden threw in the sponge when his imposture was outed. He’s back in mind today because we have two guys, at least, running on their military records, when the military records haven’t exactly held up to scrutiny.

Ron Dickey, Congressional Candidate in Mississippi: SF Phony

Dickey has claimed to be a “Green Beret”. Here is an example of that claim. You may rest assured that there are many more such examples:

Ron Dickey SF phony

Dickey, whose full name is Flemron Earl Russell Dickey, has already won his contested primary for the Democrat nomination, and will be on the general election ballot 4 November 14. Is he really a Green Beret? Here are his real military assignments.

Ron Dickey real records

Dickey served honorably, completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training and assignments in Korea and at Fort Bragg. As you see, is only AIT was as a 94B, Food Service Specialist. In plain English, a cook. His SF claim hangs on this flimsy peg: he was assigned to HHC, 3rd Special Forces Group, and worked in the Group’s mess hall, where he prepared and served food for real Green Berets on a daily basis.

What the hell? Ron could claim he was a veteran, no problem. He could even say he was a support guy who worked for Special Forces, and we wouldn’t quibble. But normally, even cooks in an SFG’s HHC (or back in the day, support battalion or service company) are required to be jump-qualified, and Ron’s record shows no attendance at jump school, nor award of the parachutist badge. (Maybe it’s routine for some cooks at Bragg to be legs? All we know is that our cooks at 10th Group at Devens, and later in the Reserve and Guard SF units, were Airborne qualified).

Unfortunately, Ron’s false claims do not end there. He also claims to be a Desert Storm Veteran. He has made these claims broadly and in detail, and they are not supported by his records at all. Elements of 3rd Group did attend that party, but he did not.

Even before these false claims were exposed, Ron Dickey had an uphill fight against incumbent Alan Nunnelee, a Republican who retained his seat with 60% of the vote in 2012. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district R+16 in 2014; many Mississippi Democrats are gerrymandered into another district (the 2nd).

FMI: Guardian of Valor on Ron Dickey. This Ain’t Hell on Ron Dickey.  Stolen Valor Offenders Exposed on Ron Dickey. (They have scores of screencaps of his claims; GoV has them well-organized).

Senator “Dishonest John” Walsh: Thesis Thief, and Ethics Violator

Face of a Thesis Thief

Face of a Thesis Thief: Dishonest John Walsh.

While Ron Dickey’s phonyhood has mostly been an under-the-radar phenomenon, John Walsh’s problems have exploded into the national media with a story in the New York Times. Walsh is an appointed Senator; after 30 years as a part-time officer in the Montana National Guard and full-time Guard “technician,” he ran for Lieutenant Governor after retiring. When the Governor, Bryan Schweitzer, had a chance to name a Senator, after the President named incumbent Max Baucus to an ambassadorship, he thought the best chance of keeping the seat in Democrat hands in conservative Montana was to name someone with an unquestionable military background.

Unfortunately for him and his party, he thought Dishonest John was that guy.

The current tornado of news is animated by the discovery that almost all the substance of Walsh’s 2007 War College thesis was plagiarized. From the initial story at the New York Times:

But one of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

The Washington Post adds some specifics on Walsh’s thesis theft:

The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

One section of the paper is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

Walsh is ducking responsibility for the plagiarism, claiming that it was PTSD from his service as a safe-as-houses battalion commander in Iraq that forced him to plagiarize many sources, essentially adding up to the whole damned paper.

The War College has started an enquiry, according to a follow-up in the Times:

“It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism,” said the War College’s provost, Lance Betros, a retired brigadier general. “We are initiating academic review procedures.”

Dr. Betros said he made the decision after he and another member of the War College’s staff read Mr. Walsh’s 14-page paper and used an online plagiarism detection program to review the document.

The notification letter to Mr. Walsh indicates that an academic review board consisting of War College faculty members will meet no earlier than Aug. 15. Any student or graduate facing such questions is given 10 days after receiving notification to decide whether to appear in person or provide information before the board convenes.

Dr Betros told that Times that six War College graduates have had their degrees yanked for plagiarism since 1990 (and two more for other misconduct). It seems probable that as soon as two weeks from now, Walsh will be the ninth disgraced grad.

Montana’s other Senator, Jon Tester, who is not a veteran, defended Walsh, and indicated that military ideals of integrity were passé and immaterial. After all, Tester explained, “there’s no malice in this.” So, he cheated on a course, so what? Likewise, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee came out swinging for Walsh. “John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting” that people would call him on something like plagiarism, spokesman Justin Barasky, who is not a veteran, exploded, before going nuclear on Walsh’s election opponent, blaming him for the “smear” of Walsh that came about when the New York Times, a well-known tool of small-state Republican politicians, exposed Walsh’s plagiarism. 

But the plagiarism isn’t the biggest problem in Walsh’s military history, although it speaks resoundingly of his integrity. Because his political career is nugatory — the 2012 Lt. Governorship was his first office — he has cast his campaign largely in light of his military service — a service in which he not only, as has now been exposed, cheated to get ahead, but couldn’t stay there once he did.

For example, Dishonest John represents himself as a brigadier general in campaign ads, but while he wore the star on state orders, he never received Federal recognition for the promotion because of allegations of corruption in office, allegations that were proven credible. (Had he been cleared, he would have been federally recognized as a two-star Major General; instead, he had to retire as a Colonel). An Army IG investigation substantiated that Walsh had violated the DOD Joint Ethics Regulation; pressured subordinates to join and donate to a political lobbying organization he sought a position with; misused “his official title, position, and official photograph;” “improperly used his government position for private gain;” and misused Federal resources including computer systems and personnel.

The IG investigation came about because of a complaint from one of the subordinates Walsh targeted for pressure.

There’s also a question of how Walsh’s branch morphed so many times, from Armor at commissioning, to Ordnance, suddenly to Infantry prior to his deployment to Iraq — but that’s rather typical for a “political” Guard officer who is in favor in the state capital, as Walsh has been with Governor Bryan Schweitzer.


The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, a committed Democrat who could be expected to do what he could to protect Walsh, instead savaged Dishonest John’s “fact sheet” which included, among other things, a fabricated claim that he had “survived hundreds of IED explosions”:

Walsh survived hundreds of IED explosions while in a Humvee, he was targeted – by name – by Al Qaida in Iraq, and his unit endured hundreds of rocket attacks.

His unit might have, but he didn’t. In a separate story, the Post’s Aaron Blake, another typical Postie who wishes Democrats well, lit into the “fact sheet”‘s dishonest combat claims.

If surviving “hundreds of IED explosions” sounds unbelievable, that’s because it didn’t happen. Walsh’s campaign followed up with a correction (which they call a clarification), noting that he personally didn’t survive all those IED attacks.

“He survived an attack in October 2005, while his unit endured hundreds of both IED and rocket attacks throughout the deployment,” a Walsh spokeswoman said.

That’s a pretty glaring factual error, especially for a “fact sheet.”

Dishonest John has also tried to explain away his serial and pervasive plagiarism with a PTSD/TBI dodge, but if he’d been blow’d up enough to have a TBI, his records would show the Purple Heart medal, and they don’t; and, as Blake notes, he never mentioned PTSD until he was on the ropes for plagiarism.

Campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua “scolded the press” and insisted that Walsh’s Xerox-strength wholesale copying was a single “unintentional mistake.” Kessler gives Walsh a well-deserved Four Pinnochios here.



In this case, the media has actually done the military’s work by unearthing and exposing an unethical officer. No doubt another investigation or three will take place, but any way you look at it, we all owe Kessler, Blake and especially the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin a cold one for shining a light on one of the hidden Courtney Massengales.

Another problem with anonymous tips

stop snitchinOne problem with anonymous tips is obvious: the tipster may be Shannon Richardson looking for a blithe exit from a confining marriage to a “gun nut,” or the tipster may be a dope dealer or stick-up artist thinning the competitive herd. Of course, if you’re of the mindset that guns, not criminals, produce crime, paying criminals to snitch on gun owners must look positively brilliant.

Then, there’s the less obvious but always present danger of sliding into a Stasi society. Watch The Lives of Others for a cinematic indication of some of the things wrong with that, or read back numbers of Der Spiegel from the early nineties, when Germany’s main espionage problem was German on German, not red, white and blue.

And finally, there’s the completely non-obvious, except to anyone who has watched governmental organizations at work for any length of time, emergence of the classic Agency Problem (as in someone being the “agent” for a second person, and having misaligned interests; it has nothing to do with government organizations who call themselves “agencies,” except insofar as they, too, are prone to the Agency Problem). This happens when the rewards programs get hijacked by insiders, which always happens sooner or later.

An NYPD detective is jammed up, after having bent a city Gun Snitch program towards his own ends, rather than the citizen disarmament that was and is at the core of Operation Gun Snitch. The New York Times:

Amid the hundreds of tips on illegal guns that flow into the New York Police Department each year, there was something wrong with Tip No. 7590.

It came not from a concerned citizen eager to rid the city of a weapon, investigators found, but from a veteran detective assigned to the program, known as Operation Gun Stop, who fraudulently transformed himself into a tipster in order to collect a reward after a gun arrest had already been made.

The detective, John Malloy, was arraigned on an indictment Thursday in Criminal Court in Manhattan. He is facing six counts of felony forgery and five counts of offering a false instrument, also a felony, in addition to attempted petit larceny and official misconduct.

via New York Police Detective Charged in Scheme to Get Reward for Gun Tip –

Operation Gun Snitch rewards snitches, even if they’re crooked cops like Malloy, very well: the program, began in the “what’s so bad about a police state?” mayoralty of Rudolph Guiliani, pumped its rewards up to $1,000 per ratted-out gun under the “criminals aren’t the problem, guns are the problem” regime of Mike Bloomberg. (The data from the “criminals are my constituents, where’s the problem?” regime of Bill DeBlasio are not in yet, but they’re going to be interesting).  Bloomberg also sped up payment of the bounties: 72 hours from tip to cash, tipsters! And he did it all without reaching into his own bulging pockets, thanks to the generosity of the New York taxpayers.

The program also yields a lot of non-gun arrests, and a lot of raids on and hassles of people who presumably weren’t doing anything wrong (because they weren’t arrested). Here are some stats:

NYPD has received 574 tips, resulting in 288 arrests and the recovery of 133 illegal guns.

So, almost exactly half of the tips yield an arrest, but less than half the arrests — 23% of the total tips — yield a gun. Given that all guns in New York are illegal, unless people are calling in tips on the Lower Manhattan nomenklatura and their hired Praetorians, 77% false positives seems like it’s kind of weak. But then, there’s no downside for a false tip, and a potential thousand bucks for every right one. That’s a recipe for lots of calls — and, over time, declining hit percentages.

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws have Lawn Mowers

Mower bladeIn the “Sheesh, what a way to go” department:

Authorities say a 68-year-old central Florida man is dead after being trapped under a riding lawn mower that apparently fell off the back of a trailer while he was sitting on it.

The body of Michael Giles was spotted Sunday evening by someone who was passing by the area near Seville in central Florida.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes says Giles’ 2011 Ford pickup truck with a trailer attached was still running as it was parked along the side of a road.

Troopers believe Giles climbed onto the mower after parking his truck. It was not secured and may have shifted at some point.

Montes says the mower fell off the trailer, pinning Giles.

via Troopers: Man Found Dead Under Lawn Mower.

Steven King could have a bestseller with this, but the odds that it was a malevolent, demonically possessed 1957 Chrysler Lawn Rocket Grassmaster are considerably lower than the odds that it was just a stupid, preventable accident.

The fact of the matter is, homo sapiens sapiens is a fragile and flimsy animal, compared to our fellow creations, the beasts of the field and forest.  It takes less to kill one of us than to kill a bear, or deer, or cow, or dog. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to exercise caution in all we do, lest we too star in a posthumous headline.

Anything you do can get you killed, including doing nothing, so please take care out there.

O.S.S. Film: Seven Weapons of the Germans

This film is dedicated to the idea that the viewer may want to operate the principal infantry weapons of the German Wehrmacht. It describes them and walks through their operation, assuming a basic familiarity with their American counterparts and keying on the differences.

In retrospect, it’s clear the USA had the advantage in three weapons in particular, the basic infantry rifle (the M1 providing superior firepower to the Karabiner 98), the pistol (1911 vs. Pistole 08) and the hand grenade (the Mk.2 delivering far more killing and wounding potential than the Stielhandgranate 24). Submachine guns were a wash, although the German provision of higher quantities as the war went on was notable; and German and US mortars were broadly equivalent, except for the 4.2″ rifled mortar which has a complicated set of pros and cons versus its German 120mm smoothbore analogue. The Germans had the edge in machine guns by any reasonable measure.

While this film is dedicated to the idea that combat soldiers should be able to pick up and employ any foreign weapon in extremis, field results were uneven. In June 1944, many Allied paratroopers picked up German weapons to supplement their own firepower or replace lost or damaged weapons. This didn’t always work well.

In combat, all senses are at work, including hearing, and the very distinct sound of a German machine gun meant that the American that grabbed one found himself drawing American fire every time he lit up. There are quite a few such stories.

In Vietnam and some of the African guerrilla wars, a clue to the origin of fire was that American and most Western tracers of the 1960s were red, and Russian and Chinese ones were green. The average war-movie watcher would never see that (because real tracers can’t be used in movie making!) but the average combat soldier will never forget it.

Maniac with Gun, meet Shrink with Gun

1911_muzzleAn experience every concealed carrier prepares for, but no reasonable carrier wants, came to a Pennsylvania doctor Thursday, when, for reasons that are unclear (except that the guy is a certified nutball), a certified nutball opened fire on his caseworker and the doc.

The doctor pulled out his own firearm, and when the shooting was over, the doc was grazed, but standing; and the nutball was on his way to another wing of the hospital, where his three gunshot wounds (one in the arm but two in the torso) have been treated.

The suspect, Richard Plotts, of Upper Darby, Pa., was reported in critical condition after the shooting at 2:20 p.m. in an office at the Mercy Wellness Center of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said at an evening news conference.

The unidentified 52-year-old doctor shot Plotts three times and suffered a graze wound when the suspect returned fire, Whelan said at an evening news conference. Two guns were recovered.

Another doctor and caseworker tackled Plotts in a hallway and held him until police arrived.

Whelan said Plotts, who has a history of unspecified psychiatric problems, and his caseworker arrived at the doctor’s third-floor office about 2 p.m., Whalen said. Soon after, another staffer heard a loud argument and opened the door to find the suspect pointing a gun at the doctor. The worker then closed the door and call 911.

via Pa. doctor shoots patient who killed caseworker.

Unfortunately Plotts’s caseworker, a 53-year-old woman who has not been identified, was killed by Plotts’s shots. According to another story, Plotts was known to be combative.

The doctor who saved his life, and who knows how many others (possibly even nutball Plotts’s, because these nutballs’ shooting sprees usually culminate in self-destruction) may have lost his job in the process.

Hospital spokeswoman Bernice Ho described Plotts as a “victim” in a prepared statement, and condemned the doctor for violating Mercy Health Systems’ corporate weapons policy, which is to die in place in the 20 minutes it takes for a 911 call to turn into a cop on the scene.

Not everyone was as quick as Ho to blast the doctor. (Well, Potts was apparently all for blasting him, in his own way). District attorney Jack Whelan said the doctor, “from all accounts, would have acted in self-defense… his life was in jeopardy.” Police Chief Donald Molineaux was even more explicit in his praise for the defensive doctor:

I believe the doctor saved lives. Without that firearm, this guy (the patient) could’ve went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition.

Even after receiving life-threatening wounds, Plotts still tried to flee, but another doctor and caseworker tackled and disarmed him. They were also praised by the authorities.

It is as simple as this: will you take responsibility for your safety, or will you trust to luck or chance that no Richard Plotts will insert himself into your life? If the doctor had taken the advice of Michael Bloomberg or Shannon Watts he would be dead. Hell, even Bloomberg and Watts don’t take their own advice — they’re wealthy enough yto have paid bodyguards.

O.S.S. Training Film: the German Infantry Squad

By and large, all infantrymen of all nations from the era of cartridge firearms “went to the same schools.” But there are subtle national and organizational differences. This OSS-developed training film from World War II shows some of the peculiarities of German infantry tactics, as observed by American and Allied intelligence.

The OSS had a Field Photographic Branch that made a large quantity of such films, although few were in color; it was staffed, in part, with Hollywood talent on both sides of the camera. This particular film unfortunately appears truncated at both ends and we’re seeking a full version.

They mention the distinctive woodpecker sound of the MG34 (which has a rate of fire much faster than Allied weapons like the M1919, or the submachine gun carried by the German sergeant. However, they don’t call it out when it occurs. You can hear it in the soundtrack, which appears to be largely dubbed; it is the fast one, quite unmistakeable. An MG42 is about 1/4 still faster than that!

As noted by the narrator (whose voice sounds very familiar; is he one of the legions of actors who found wartime employment with Bill Donovan?), the German Wehrmacht devolved rather more command authority on sergeants than Allied armies, with the one most likely to do so being the American, and the least likely, the French and Russian, who then had little respect for NCOs. (The Russians would, in the end, achieve similar excellence by a proliferation of junior officers doing jobs the NCOs would do in the West).

German practice also was unusually fluid with respect to officer selection and promotion. An effective sergeant in 1940 might well have been an effective colonel in 1944. This happened across the German services, except for the surface ships of the Kriegsmarine, who hewed to older naval traditions. The only Allied forces that offered similar advancement to other ranks were the Allied air forces, although the US did not employ sergeant pilots at all once the war got cooking, and in the British service advancement to officer rank also depended on things beyond pure performance and leadership potential (such as perceived class).

The high flexibility of German tactics and excellent tactical leadership pushed down all the way to squad level is one reason that the Wehrmacht, man for man, outfought the much larger Allied armies until overwhelmed. Many German ideas (including the highly mobile general purpose machine gun, which enabled these flexible tactics) were adopted worldwide in, and after, the war. But the German Wehrmacht is still a wellspring of ideas for the military leader, even today.

It is tragic that such a fine force fought with such valiant tenacity in such a bad cause. But that, too, is part of the nature of war. We can admire the valor of King Leonidas and his warrior elite, without wanting to have been part of a nation that assessed every newborn for warrior potential and fed the rejects to the wolves; we can thrill to the story of Hannibal’s doomed audacity, while relieved that no one expects us to make human sacrifices to Baal; we can ride, through the magic of the written word, with Stuart or Mosby while having no truck with slavery.

In some way, the warrior and war experience is universal, and we can consider it apart from history’s judgment on the warriors’ society, a cruel, cold, dispassionate judgment that no society long can escape.

Gabriel and Savage’s Crisis in Command is a widely read professional book of the 70s and 80s that contrasted the leadership style (and results) of the Wehrmacht, with that of the United States Army in Vietnam, much to the detriment of the Americans.

Apart from the MG34, a couple of other weapons are called out in the video. The sergeant’s MP40, or, as the moviemakers call it, incorrectly, “Schmeisser,” was dismissed as a mere noisemaker, deadly only at close range.

And the Stiehlhandgranate 24 comes in for discussion. As they note, it was an offensive, concussion grenade, which served to injure personnel and destroy equipment by blast, not fragmentation (later in the war a frag sleeve was made that could be slipped over the sheet metal casing of the explosive end of the grenade).  It was an improvement of WWI grenades containing ammonium nitrate and tolite fillings inside a similar sheet metal, non-fragmentation can, and contained about a quarter-kilogram of TNT, about half the total weight of the grenade.

And the narration says, “Often six or seven of these potato mashers are tied together for a demolition charge.” The narrator is quite right; the Germans called this a Geballte Ladung, or “concentrated charge.” It was taught to engineers as well as infantry as an improvised anti-tank and anti-bunker tool.

The term geballte Ladung is also used colloquially where an English speaker would say, “a whole mess,” or perhaps, vulgarly, “a shitload,” of something.

Off Buying Guns

Sorry for limited gun content the last couple of days, been finalizing a deal to buy a small US WWII collection, all original stuff except, alas, for the M1 SMG, which is a recent Kahr-produced Short Barreled Rifle.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit we never owned a 1903A3 before. It was actually still part of SF Light Weapons training back when your humble editor stumbled through that evolution.

As far as the Kahr is concerned, we’ll see if it’s any good when the Form 4 clears, sometime around when the Sun goes nova at the rate ATF has been doin’ ’em. It’s a small fraction of the cost of buying one (and a small multiple of the cost of the one we’ve rented in Manchester from time to time). If we don’t like it, we’ll GunBroker it off.

We’re working on something others have worked on before us: trying to pin down what was the first submachine gun. The candidates are the Villar Perosa, which we discount on not being a shoulder-fired individual weapon; its individual-weapon offspring the OVP and Beretta M1918; and our original candidate for the honors, the German Bergmann MP.18. We only know the name of the designer of the Bergmann (Hugo Schmeisser). As is usual on any real quality post, it takes time to research these things, and not enough of the primary sources are digitized and online.

This is what Accountability looks like

What would you do if you were police chief, and video surfaced of your officers… doing this?

In most places, the answer comes down to “obfuscate and run out the clock.” It even shows in what people call this: defense lawyers and, God help us, “community activists,” call it “police brutality.” Even the most censorious and judgmental cops call it “excessive force,” recognizing that in police work, especially with intoxicated, noncompliant suspects, sometimes force is necessary, but a good man keeps a lid on it. These guys recognized no lid.

So, you’re the Chief, what do you do? Remember, too, you have to lead this department and every officer will want to know whether your actions show intolerance of bad behavior, or just a white shirt who doesn’t have any of his blue shirt’s backs. What do you do?

Here’s what Lee Bitomski, the Chief (he was #2 at time of the incident, but the then-Chief retired before it came to light) in the small, decidedly blue-collar beach town of Seabrook, New Hampshire, did, according to Seacoast Online:

The town fired two of its police officers and reprimanded two others Wednesday for their involvement in or failure to report an alleged police brutality incident that occurred inside the station.

Police Chief Lee Bitomske has previously described the assault of then-19-year-old Michael Bergeron Jr. as a “dark cloud” that was hanging over the department since station surveillance video of the incident went viral in January..

He and other officials said Wednesday, though, that the termination of officers Mark Richardson and Adam Laurent, the two-day suspension of Officer Keith Dietenhofer and the demotion of Lt. John Wasson, the three officers’ supervisor, may have “lifted” that cloud.

via Seabrook fires two police officers accused of brutality |

The two guys who were fired are Richardson, the big gorilla who slams the stoned kid’s face into the wall, and Laurent, the guy who pepper-sprays him after his second bounce off the wall and down. Dietenhofer and Wasson were complicit more in the non-reporting and cover-up of the incident, and Wasson, who before the incident was exposed was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant wasn’t just “demoted,” he rocketed all the way back down to Patrolman for his failure of ethical leadership in this case.

Dietenhofer was not fired, because his report was more a lie of omission than commission, but the report was critical enough of his integrity that he will have considerable difficulty testifying in cases contested by capable criminal defense attorneys.

Laurent’s stated reason for spraying Bergeron was interesting: he had observed that a person can’t spit after being sprayed, and Bergeron had been trying to spit on the cops. He didn’t do that any more after he got a face full of wall followed by pepper spray. But other facets of Laurent’s report and testimony are contradicted by the video, calling his credibility into question.

Richardson also faces criminal charges for assault while a police officer, which is a specific crime in New Hampshire. (Everybody holds cops to a higher standard, but the Granite State writes it into the law books).

Is that a perfect outcome? We don’t know. We have read the independent report (a very good technique for a small PD that’s too little and too tight to do its own internal investigation, by the way) and we’ll let you read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. The report does make it clear that Bergeron (the kid who dents the concrete-block wall with his face) was a problem suspect, alternatively cooperative and belligerent, but it also makes it clear that the officers were wrong, did wrong, and knew they did wrong. Here it is:


So is the outcome (one charge, two firings, one big demotion, one small suspension) perfect? Probably not. But we do think it’s about as good as you can expect from a government agency. Compare, for example:

  • Who’s been demoted and fired in the VA’s policies that scammed the taxpayers out of millions in undeserved bonuses, and led to the deaths of scores if not hundreds of deaths? Nobody and no one.
  • Who’s been fired in the ATF’s gunwalking operations, still not fully exposed, which provided thousands of powerful weapons to ATF pals in Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, guns that have gone on to be used in the murders of at least two US Federal Agents and literally hundreds of Mexicans? Nobody and no one.
  • And who’s been fired in the egregious case where an untrained cop on an untrained SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade in a 19-month-old baby’s crib? Nobody. No one. (Aside: in that case, the baby’s come home, having relearned to walk after suffering from burns, a coma, and possibly some degree of permanent brain damage — something you’ll only learn in the English press as our guys are too busy pitching in on Hillary!’s book tour).

The key failure, and the key problem, of representative government and particularly of law enforcement in the 21st Century is Accountability. 

Bergeron, the suspect, asked to play this video at his trial. The judge said no, so after the trial was over he put it on YouTube, where it went viral — and ultimately unleashed this investigation, and these consequences. Truth wants a way out. And everybody knew the truth of it.

Officer Dietenhofer said as he recalled his thoughts about the incident that he was concerned
about Bergeron after he was sprayed with OC, also thinking “oh, shit, that must have hurt”
referring to the slam against the wall.


A wall, by the way, has a lot of utility as a weapon. You just have to use it when your use of force is justified. Officer Richardson, the 6’6″ 270-lb cop who applied the wall to the face of the 6’2″ 145-pound Bergeron, gets to make that argument to a jury of his peers soon. We would not exchange places with him.

We recognize it’s hard to make hairsplitting decisions about use of force when some mouthy kid is trying to spit on you, and full of beer (or drug) muscles and the associated belligerence. But that’s just when you have to do it. It’s not fair at all, but there it is.

Now, you might wonder what happened to Michael Bergeron, the belligerent teenage suspect who got his belligerence knocked out of him that night in 2009, and went on to post the video that started a couple of misfit cops on their way to a more suitable career. We wish we could report he went to MIT and is a research chemist, but you probably know that’s not coming — any research chemistry he ever did was of the recreational pharmaceutical variety.

Presently, he’s doing 3 1/2 to 7 in state prison for burglary. One supposes you could argue that the cops beat him into criminality, but what are the odds? More likely, he’s living proof that sometimes a second chance is wasted on a guy.


This post has been updated from its original posting. We replaced the image-based .pdf of the Seabrook report with an OCR’d version that allows you to select and copy text. We haven’t checked the OCR, but it’s usually pretty good with the program we use. -Eds.

Update II — we added some links to Bergeron’s unrelated criminal cases. He appears to be a career burglar (or maybe more comprehensively, a career druggie who supports his habit with burglary).