Michael's Dispatches

The Army ain’t Dumb (It’s Crazy)


03 December 2011

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

From World War II, we’ve heard reports that the enemy shot at Red Crosses emblazoned on medical vehicles, tents, and helmets.  The Japanese were said to specifically target Red Crosses.  The Germans were reported to do it from time to time.  American troops in Europe and the Pacific sometimes covered the Red Crosses to avoid being hit.

World War II should have been enough to teach us a lesson.  But the Army seemed dumb.  There was a repeat in Korea.   A retired military man forwarded a link to this Korean War video.

Notice at the 4min57sec mark, our troops are hiding a Red Cross.  How many of our people were shot to pieces in WWII and Korea before they started covering the symbols?

Then our people fought in Vietnam.  Our Dustoff helicopters sported Red Crosses and were shot down.

Dumb learns from pain.  Insane just keeps bashing its head against the wall and expecting different results.

Fast forward past Iraq wherein people kept shooting at our Red Crosses.  Today the enemy is doing the same in Afghanistan.

The Marines, Air Force, and British did not and do not sport Red Crosses in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Army needs intervention.

As we move into 2012, after a decade of war in Afghanistan, the Army continues an insane policy that been insane for about seventy years.  The policy has existed long enough to retire and draw Social Security.  Dumb policies don’t get smarter with time.

Meanwhile, the Army has redoubled efforts to send unarmed helicopters sporting Red Crosses into battle.  In Afghanistan, crosses often are seen as evil symbols.

Today, when you question the Army about the policy, they first try deception.  They say they are following Geneva Conventions.  This is untrue.  Curiously, when the Army says this, they imply that the Air Force, Marines and British are breaking the Geneva Conventions.

The US Army is allowing troops to die on Afghan battlefields.  It’s not just Soldiers who suffer.  Army helicopters also rescue Marines, Air Force and Navy personnel in Afghanistan.  The unarmed helicopters cause serious delays in medical evacuations, while exposing crews to greatly increased dangers.

This policy is wrong. 

Caring people are taking action:



The Honorable Chuck Grassley

Dear Senator Grassley:

Senator Kyle was recently contacted by a constituent regarding the Army “Dustoff” MEDEVAC helicopters situation in Afghanistan. This constituent request was in response to Michael Yon’s reporting of the need to take the Red Crosses off the Dustoffs and allow personnel on them to be armed in order to protect themselves and our wounded from insurgent attack. [Please see: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/golden-seconds.htm]

On October 21, 2001 Senator Kyle responded to the constituent’s concerns by sending a letter to the Department of the Army.  With all due respect to Senator Kyle now is not the time for polite letters from Senators or to try and follow SOPs from the Senate to Departments within our federal government. Now is the time for Senators to demand an immediate response and fix of the situation from the Department of the Army.

As your constituent and as the wife of a Marine who was at the Pentagon on 911 I implore you to support Senator Kyle and to bring together all your colleagues from the Senate in resolving this matter post haste.

Moreover, I encourage you not to listen to the Officer desk jockeys at the DOD who have no knowledge of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan; but instead to directly contact Senior Officers on the ground in Afghanistan, their NCOs and Michael Yon [a very well respected former member of the Army and international photo journalist] to clarify any questions that you may have.

America’s military does not leave its wounded or dead behind and we should not let our wounded die due to DOD bureaucracy and ego.

This is critical situation with a simple fix.


Jordan Schneider
CC: The Honorable Tom Harkin

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 10 years ago
    As a concerned American and a Soldiers' Angel, it grieves & infuriates me that our Army is sending these unarmed Red-Crossed helicopters into harm's way..it's as if they are committing them to suicide.
    I pray to God that somebody in high places who knows what's REALLY going on, will change this stupid & UNSAFE policy.
    I believe in many aspects of the Geneva Convention, but on the other hand, we are dealing with terrorists who have no respect for the rule of law, rules of engagement or decency, WHATSOEVER.
    The goal of our Military is to bring back as many live & unharmed Soldiers as they can.....this is accomplishing the exact opposite.
    As much as I live & breath and am eternally thankful for what was accomplished on the "original cross", these red ones need to come off and they need to arm-up.

    God bless our Troops!!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Johhy G · 3 years ago
      When it is required that any general officer MUST utilize a Red Cross marked mode of transportation from a jeep to a cargo plane then you will see the Red Cross disappear without a trace. :lol:
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Rammar · 10 years ago
      Some people are just so stuck in their ways that they don't realize that the are making mistakes. All their concerned about is following tradition.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stoney DeVille · 10 years ago
    I just wrote Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to help stop the madness. Thank you Michael!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    William Harlan · 10 years ago
    Now we know why they separated the Army and the Air Force way back when, I don't know how much more stupid the Army can get! I am also surprised that they have let you continue to stay, when you have to be the biggest thorn in the Army brasses side of late.
    Also I suppose there is no chance that you could inbed with the Marines or Navy Seals.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank D · 10 years ago
    I bet if we put some Washington politicians and high ranking military personnel in those helicopters the Red Cross would come off in a flash. They don't care its not their ass!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    thad lucken · 10 years ago
    have a nephew in benning just commissioned and heading to the grunts. decided i would send him the family's copy of robin moore's green berets book. but first had to read it again for the umteenth time. every page screams about the idiocy of higher and how easily we are played by the locals. underlined the line about how the job is to put up with that crap.
    maybe if you told them that the crosses are "offending the muslims" they may be manipulated in removing the target from the planes. amazed me that the target on the old dragon range was red cross and we had to close the range as medevacs were coming on over us to land at madigan..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JBD · 10 years ago
    I guess I am way to cynical for the people around here. I apply the cui bono principle and get an extremely ugly answer.

    Many many years ago somebody in the Army noticed that it cost a lot of money for medical care for severely injured soldiers. That same money could buy more bullets that might keep the other soldiers alive. Thus began the tradition of making rescue vehicles of any sort into targets. This may have happened back even earlier than the American Civil War. I remember seeing pictures of horse drawn field ambulances with crosses painted on them. (The pictures show dusky gray vehicles with white by comparison crosses.) Were they targeted then or were soldiers "gentlemen" in those days? Probably soldiers were told not to target the other side's ambulances because that increases costs for the enemy. Sometime in history this cost benefit analysis got lost and our enemies started using the thoughtfully provided targets. And nobody in our Army noticed who cared to increase the Army's non-productive war costs.

    Unfortunately nobody in the Army has really thought through the equation. I know if I were a soldier out in the thick of things I'd be a lot more fearless and determined attacking the enemy if I knew I was most likely to survive if I got hit by most things the enemy could throw at me. That is why the other services maintain their dustoff vehicles' anonymity, I suspect. They see a force multiplier here whereas all the army seems to see is greater costs and fewer bullets.

    I think we see here a start of a definitive analysis indicating that the other services have it right, especially when fighting an enemy who views paradise through any killed kafir, wounded or not.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Dineen · 10 years ago
    Ignorant is as ignorant does. I guess this was not studied or discussed at the various command colleges, especially of the US Army. Get it done now. With the Chairman Joint Chiefs now being Army, you think this would not take any time to get it done.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    hortinone · 10 years ago
    But remember, the American military is the arm of evil imperialism and to suggest there's any difference between the US military and the "minutemen" they fight is mindless jingoism. /s

    Sadly - and for some, literally unbelievably - this same Michael Moore mentality that sees neocon cabals in every shadowed corner is directly related to why the Army is forced to fly with the Red Crosshairs on its noncombat support vehicles. This mindset does not see war as a struggle with an enemy whom one has determined must be conquered, but an apologetic necessity whose goal is to push in a general direction without too greatly resembling the frowny bits in postmodern college textbooks.

    With perhaps a few militias following some halfway honorable local warlords, our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan are barbarians. It's a testament to the commitment, competence, and good nature of our military that they've managed the successes they've had when so many people in influential positions at home are philosophically opposed to the very concept of barbarism.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chad · 10 years ago
    This is the Army's take on the Red Cross:


    The Geneva Convention does require vehicles used in the transport of wounded to be marked but that marking may be camoflagued if required by the tactical situation.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Steve 2 · 10 years ago
      Explain how the Genevea Convention has anything to do with the Taliban. The Taliban would laugh at the very idea... The Army is deliberately putting PC above the lives of US soldiers. Why?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Chas C-Q · 10 years ago
      The Geneva Conventions are binding only on their signatory nations, and any one of those is entitled to the benefit of them only so long as it continues to abide by them.

      Those combatant militaries -- faced against a non-signatory group (like Muslim insurgents), or against those who do not abide by the Conventions (like Muslim insurgents) -- but who nevertheless behave in the presence of their enemies as though the Conventions apply in that case, are actually doing a disservice to their fellow signatories and to the Conventions themselves. What, after all, is the point of having such agreements if a combatant may routinely violate them while expecting that they will be applied to himself?

      The Geneva Conventions (as is often said of the Constitution of the USA) are not a suicide pact.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon · 10 years ago


      The Geneva Conventions make no requirement that would bind our Dustoff helicopters from taking off the crosses and putting on the guns. By implication, the Army is saying that the Air Force, Marines and British all are violation the Geneva Conventions.

      The Army is deceiving the public. This is about power and who controls the helicopters. The Red Crosses are a crucifix to ward off change.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
    Folks, This reminds me of the early days of WWII when the US Army Air Force stuck with the anti-shipping tactic in the Pacific of using B-17s bombing from high altitude using the Norden bombsight. The Japanese just waited till the bombs were released and went into tight S-turns. Missed every time. The only Japanese warship to be sunk was a destroyer stopped to pick up survivors from a Japanese merchant ship near Guadalcanal. When they pulled the Japanese destroyer captain out of the water, he kept muttering over and over "By a B-17!" What was worst and probably cost tens of thousands of American lives and extended the war by 6 months was the US Navy's torpedoes that use magnetic fuses that "was suppose" to explode the torpedo as it ran under a ships hull breaking its back. Only it never worked. But the US Navy powers that be insisted the problem was in proper training. It took almost a year and a half for the US Navy to admit it was the torpedoes and not the sailors that was causing the problem.

    Jack E. Hammond
    • This commment is unpublished.
      SDN · 10 years ago
      Six months? try 18 months to fix the three overlapping problems: First, the torpedoes ran too deep, so the magnetic exploder wasn't brought within the ship's influence; then there were the magnetic exploders not working (which is why the Brits and Germans abandoned them early); and finally the contact exploder wasn't sturdy enough to handle striking at an angle between 45 and 90 degrees. To quote Blair in Silent Victory:"All of these defects were found and fixed in the field -- over the strenuous objections of the Bureau of Ordnance."
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
        Dear SDN,

        It was pathetic how the trigger pullers (or in the USN sub force I guess Lever Pullers) got the USN to accept that their was a problem with the impact exploder -- ie the USN said the captains were just missing and not being aggressive enough. A chief petty officer in Hawaii stated give me a torpedo firing tug (ie for testing torpedoes it had one tube on the bow) some of the Mk-14s and a case of Johnny Walker. That Chief got a bunch of brave or dumb sailors to go out with him and they kept firing torpedoes at this cliff till one was a dud and for that case of whiskey they swam out and retrieved the unexploded (which could still explode) torpedo and bring it back and they discovered the pin was made of two soft a material that would bend if the impact angle was to shallow.

        Jack E. Hammond
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon · 10 years ago
      Jack -- now that is an interesting anecdote.

      The more you learn about the Army, the more you respect it on some levels. On other levels, you learn to mistrust its every breath. It produces and nurtures a great deal of professionalism, and it also produces and nurtures backstabbing, pettiness, and a "me first over country" mentality among some. The best Americans I've ever met have been in the military, but we cannot deny there are some bad actors in big positions.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Jack E. Hammond · 10 years ago
        Dear Michael,

        First SDN reply is spot on. Second none of your articles mention the fight over replacing the M4 carbine. Everyone wants the think replaced. Most want the HK416 which looks and fires like the M4 without the troubles. All SpecOps had them before the Pentagon ordered all not in direct combat to turn them in. Now the US Army is spending over a 100 million testing again. As one US Army general (General Page) in charge of infantry weapon purchases stated in the 1990s: Takes a Day and Forever to get a new weapon to the field. Jack
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stosh · 10 years ago
    It sounds to me like you're basically arguing against a professional standing army - which is basically a permanent self interested group of government workers with little civilian input or interest in American society at large. What a huge huge difference from the citizen soldiers of WWII.

    I agree with you on this one, especially after reading the milblog commentary on your helicopter articles. I can only characterize the milbolg response as childish, smugly insider obsessive and contemptuous of others not in the oh so very special in group.

    This is extremely dangerous for our Republic. This unfortunate cast of mind is of course best exemplified by the great and good walks-on-water Patreaus who wanted to strip an American preacher of his Constitutional Rights to make his own job easier. Typical D.C. insider careerist thinking - me first, country last.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thrasymachus · 10 years ago
    There is a certain strain of thought in America that doing what is regarded as ethical or moral behavior is an end in itself, even if it results in harm to you or people on your side. This strain of thought is stronger in the Army than it is in the other services.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tom Perkins · 10 years ago
      Too bad it is neither more ethical nor more moral than sending armed unmarked helicopters for Medevac.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brendan Doran · 10 years ago
    No Micheal, the people in the Army who continue with this policy just don't give a damn, because their skins are
    not in the game. That and the ratio of bureaucratic idiots in the Army is higher than the other services, due to a
    deliberately over-strength Officer Corps.

    Bring the pain, when it gets bad enough, the Green Machine may change.

    Brendan Doran
    Vorgon poet hater.

    The Vorgon's aren't evil, they just run things.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rick B · 10 years ago
    "Art. 6. Medical aircraft, that is to say, aircraft exclusively employed for the removal of wounded and sick and for the transport of medical personnel and equipment, shall not be attacked, but shall be respected by the belligerents, while flying at heights, times and on routes specifically agreed upon between the belligerents concerned."

    To my mind, if you arm the dust-offs, they are no longer exclusively employed for transporting wounded, and therefore the Convention no longer applies. I'm sure the professional lawyers could have a field day with this, but it seems fairly simple. With regard to NATO STANAG 29 1 in reference to camouflage, that seems to only refer to facilities, and not transport.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Steve 2 · 10 years ago
      "but shall be respected by the belligerents,"

      It's the Taliban... Don't you see the flaw in your reasoning? It's Muslims who worship death and revile the very idea that they or one of their own could refrain from destroying a vehicle with a cross on it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jerry · 10 years ago
    From my own experience in WWII I will swear to the fact that the Germans fired at medics wearing red crosses on their helmits. The medic who treated my wounds during a firefight was shot in the head and killed. The red cross on his helmit made a wonderful target.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Travis · 10 years ago
    Wow, I didnt know that this was going on for so long, but that is awful.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Viki · 10 years ago
    As a Navy Corpsman, I understand the need to mask any sign distinguishing you as medical; it can save your life. However, once you cover up that symbol, take it off, or pick up a weapon and fire at the enemy without any direct threats to your patients, then you are no longer protected under the Geneva Convention (the only exception being capture without any violations). Obviously the Middle East does not share our treaty, and yes, it is insanity to expect their ideations to change. Those helicopters are desperately needed out there to medevac personnel who otherwise would not stand a chance. But to say they are implying other services are breaking the treaty by not advertising their status as medical, or accusing the Army of deception, is just ignorance. In a different war, with a country that supports the treaty, it would be a completely different story and all medical personnel would be better off displaying the red cross; to attack medical personnel is a war crime.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barney T. Villa · 10 years ago
    Looking forward to you visit to California. Be safe and thank you along with all of our Troops you encounter for making our lives safer!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Gorman · 10 years ago
    The Army is not crazy. The reason they keep doing the same old thing over and over is because the individuals getting injured and killed are NOT Majors and above, the policy makers. The jerks in the Pantagon are not being shot at or in any danger. If cars with Army license plates were being blown up in Washington within one day the system would be changed. It is ALWAYS the disconnect between the frontline guys and girls and the policy makers that makes for stupid policy decisions or the lack of any decision. Look how long it took to up amour humvees and other vehicles. When the big shots are being subjected to combat you will see the insanity stop.
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