About Us
Mission Statement
Rules of Conduct
Remember Me

Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 08/09/2022 12:25:45

Good Morning.

Given the size of our hammer, we are always finding nails. As a result, there will always be veterans. Much of the world is dragged along into "our wars", but today we're going to take a look at something slightly different.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for months. After a brief burst of reporting, like many of our domestic wars, the news has faded into what I would call "background noise". Every now and again something percolates to the surface, is reported for a day or two, then fades away.

One thing that doesn't seem to get a lot of reporting is the number of casualties. The refugee crisis is real, and that has been consistently in the media. But we really don't know what the actual soldiers are doing.

The Pentagon, of course, always has ways to find out what's going on. I don't know if this will fall into Vietnam-esq 'Body Count', but it's being reported this morning that perhaps as many as 80,000 Russian troops have become casualties.

Russia is believed to have had 70,000 to 80,000 troops killed or wounded in fighting since it invaded Ukraine in February, a top Pentagon official confirmed Monday.

The figure, which has not previously been made public, may not be precise but is "in the ballpark" as Russia remains locked in a war with the western-backed Kyiv government, Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for personnel, said during a public press briefing. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed Sunday on social media that 42,200 Russian troops have been killed.

The estimated losses show the Russian military may be making steep sacrifices as it executes an invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin that has included failed logistics and supply systems, as well as the bombing of civilians. The Russian assault continues but has now mostly bogged down in a brutal artillery war in the east.

"After all, more than 40 million Ukrainians are fighting. The stakes are existential for them. They are fighting for the survival of their country. I'll also say the Russians are taking a tremendous number of casualties on the other side of the equation," Kahl said. "There's a lot of fog in war but, you know, I think it's safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 [thousand] or 80,000 casualties in less than six months."

That includes both killed in action and wounded, Kahl said. It is unclear how many casualties Ukraine has suffered in the fighting because it does not report totals, but an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told western media that losses could top 200 per day.

Putin had intended to topple the Ukraine independent government in Kyiv within days of the Feb. 24 invasion and install a friendly regime, but instead encountered growing resistance as the U.S. and other nations have armed Ukrainian fighters with increasingly effective weapons, from shoulder-fired missiles to drones to advanced artillery systems.

Russia has guarded its losses in Ukraine. Its defense ministry stopped reporting Ukraine military casualties in March and the country began requiring next of kin to apply for compensation benefits at military offices rather than with civilian services to obscure the troop deaths, according to Reuters. But Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, told the UK media in April that Russia was suffering “significant losses of troops.”

The Russians have made incremental gains in the past couple of weeks amid intense fighting fueled by the flow of foreign weapons, Kahl said. That fighting has centered around the Donbas, a region where Russian-backed forces have been fighting Kyiv since Putin suddenly annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014.

"That [Russian casualty] number might be a little lower, a little higher, but I think that's kind of in the ballpark, which is pretty remarkable considering that the Russians have achieved none of Vladimir Putin's objectives at the beginning of the war," he said.

We can argue the Russian aggression all we want; despite wearing the 'wrong' uniform in this case - all the casualties "were some mother's sons". Ukraine does not reveal casualty figures, but the story notes "up to 200 per day", so in the 166 days of fighting, that could be approaching 34,000.

It truly is not our war - but some day it will be finished, for better or for worse. Slavic attitudes towards caring for veterans remain unknown to me, but it is likely in the years ahead they will also face a suicide crisis not unlike the one that continues to plague the US military. We've reported extensively here at AAV on the ongoing, feeble efforts to do something about it. There is yet another call for more window dressing. I don't know if this would help, but it certainly won't hurt, either.

For the second straight year, all seven former Department of Veterans Affairs secretaries are calling on Congress to designate a Sunday in November as a national day to raise awareness about suicides among the veteran population.

The secretaries sent letters last week to lawmakers urging them to approve a resolution officially naming the Sunday after Veterans Day as "National Warrior Call Day" to encourage all veterans and the general public to reach out to a veteran, either by phone or a meetup.

This year, the date would be Nov. 13.

"With its simple mission imploring Americans -- but especially active-duty service members and veterans -- to connect with someone who has worn or is currently wearing the uniform and let them know they care -- Warrior Call can foster greater connectivity, compassion and better outcomes," the secretaries wrote.

At the urging of the former secretaries last year, Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Elaine Luria, D-Va., proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to recognize "Warrior Call Day."

It was approved by the House of Representatives but removed during final negotiations over the bill. This year, the group is hoping to get a resolution through the Senate, where it is being shepherded by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., with support from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

"Support for our troops shouldn't end when they return home -- but it doesn't always take a new federal program. Sometimes all you need is a call from a friend, family member, or battle buddy," Cotton said in a press release.

The idea behind a Warrior Call is to reduce isolation, which is associated with suicide. According to the VA, 6,261 veterans took their own lives in 2019, nearly 400 fewer deaths by suicide than the year before after nearly a decade of steady increases.

The veteran suicide rate, when adjusted for age and gender, was 26.9 per 100,000 persons in 2019, nearly 50% higher than the rate for all adults in the U.S.

In 2021, 642 service members, including active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members, died by suicide.

And ending today with a fascinating story from the history books. It is August 9; you know what happened 77 years ago. Not going to debate the merits of that action here, but we will take a look at who was the only person to eyewitness all three atomic blasts.

More than 600,000 men and women worked on the Manhattan Project nationwide, but only one of them bore witness to all three major atomic blasts in 1945 that led to the end of World War II.

Lawrence Johnston was aboard B-29 Superfortress bombers tending to instruments measuring the power of the world's first nuclear explosions in the "Trinity" test in New Mexico, as well as for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which prompted Japan's surrender and brought the war to a close.


In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb had been hoisted atop a tower in in what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, now part of the White Sands Missile Range, for the test that Oppenheimer christened "Trinity."

Oppenheimer was in a bunker about five miles away and had ordered all others beyond a select few to be at least 25 miles away, including Johnston and Alvarez. Nobody knew for sure how powerful the blast would be.

Alvarez was "mad as socks about that," Johnston said. He convinced Oppenheimer to let him commandeer a B-29 and took Johnston with him to work instruments measuring the force of the blast.

"We saw this big flash, and then we saw this column rising, the first mushroom cloud," he said. "I had developed all of the recording equipment that recorded the pressure wave."

Then, it was off to the island of Tinian in the Northern Marianas chain with Alvarez to prepare for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They were aboard a B-29 called the "Grand Artiste" that flew in formation with the B-29 called the "Enola Gay" that dropped the "Little Boy" atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

Johnston was again aboard the Grand Artiste when another atom bomb called "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, but Alvarez did not make that flight.

"Alvarez said, 'You will be the only one who saw all three of the A-bombs go off.' That made me oh so happy," Johnston said.

He returned to the States and completed his Ph.D. in physics in 1950. He would become an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and later worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center as head of the electronics department.

He was a professor at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, until his retirement. He died in Idaho in 2011.

And ending on a personal note - TriSec got older yesterday. But today Javi is 21!

5 comments (Latest Comment: 08/09/2022 15:57:21 by TriSec)
   Perma Link

Share This!

Furl it!