• Damon Winter/The New York Times


    Between Boredom and Terror

    From the frontlines of America’s war in Afghanistan a Yale graduate turned Army warrior reflected on his experience in letters home. Now he’s put those letters together and they reveal a man comforted by the trivial and questioning why he is there.

    If war is the true oldest profession, then perhaps the soldier’s letter is the origin of the form. The particular constructs and constraints of a military campaign—necessary separation from loved ones, daily news and hardships, hours of tedium that must be filled, not to mention the prospect of death—combine to create perfect letter-writing conditions, and average soldiers have been communicating existential insights large and small since the moment they became literate.

    Collections of such letters can be revealing. Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson’s slim volume What They Fought For is filled with nuance, as Union and Confederate soldiers provide eloquent arguments about the need to preserve the republic, the dangerous precedent of succession, and the horror of having one’s land invaded. War Letters, a collection of American military correspondence from the Civil War through the conflict in Bosnia, was compiled by Andrew Carroll and became a New York Times-bestseller when it was published just prior to 9/11. Carroll’s soldiers and war-caught civilians display a remarkable consistency, writing about love and faith and minutia in equal measure.

  • DOD

    Frontline Memories

    An Army Ranger’s Battle in Grenada

    Stephen Trujillo was a combat medic with the 2d Ranger Battalion during the invasion of Grenada. Here is his first hand account of key moments in the war.

    Stephen Trujillo was a combat medic with the 2d Ranger Battalion during the invasion of Grenada. He was decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in action, and was cited by President Reagan during the 1984 State of the Union Address. Trujillo later served in Special Forces, and with DEA Operation Snowcap. The following excerpt is from a forthcoming book about Operation Urgent Fury and life in the Rangers.

    I clench my static line, hanging on to it with my back muscles screaming beneath the weight of my parachute, weapons and rucksack, the stench of vomit in my nostrils. I look out a porthole in the side of the aircraft to relieve my nausea, and see endless ocean waves, grey in the twilight of the rising sun. We fly in Air Force C-130 Hercules, four-engined transports configured to carry paratroops, dipping and swaying in low-level flight fifty feet off the whitecaps to evade the radars of Soviet intelligence. The jumpmaster on the right side of the bird opens the doors two minutes out from a hot drop zone on the airfield at Point Salines, Grenada, and hot air blasts inside. The jumpmaster hangs out the hatch in the slipstream, a hand on each side of the open door, checking the outside of the aircraft. I retch, choking down bile. We are late, jumping well after dawn on October 25, 1983, in an invasion that will be known as Urgent Fury. I am a 23 year-old Army Ranger, aging quickly. I volunteered to be here.

  • Stephanie Himango/NBC, via Getty

    Uniform Failure

    The Army’s $5 billion Waste

    After spending $5 billion on a heavily-criticized universal camouflage pattern, the Army is looking for a new design that’s estimated to cost another $4 billion. By Caitlin Dickson.

    In 2004, the Army decided to scrap the two traditional camouflage uniforms that had long been used by the military—one meant for woodland environments, another for the desert—and claimed to have come up with a universal pattern that could be worn anywhere and blend in with any environment. The $5 billion dollar experiment with the universal pattern is over as the Army is phasing out the uniform after less than a decade of use. But many soldiers and observers are wondering why it took this long and cost this much to replace an item that performed poorly from the start during a period when the money could have been spent on other critical needs, like potentially life saving improvements to military vehicles and body armor.

    Less than a decade after the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, was introduced the Army is back to the drawing board, set to announce a new camouflage pattern and standard uniform to be worn by the more than million members of the active duty and reserve forces.

  • US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta listens during a Pentagon press conference on September 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Paul J Richards / AFP / Getty Images )


    Panetta Sued Over Military Rapes

    Jesse Ellison reports exclusively on a suit alleging the secretary and his predecessors violated civil rights.

    Daniele Hoffman was 17 years old when she met the recruiter for the National Guard who she says eventually attempted to rape her. The child of a single mother, Hoffman says the man “became the fatherly figure in my life.” She signed up for service both to “give back to my country and to make him proud. I wouldn’t have joined if it weren’t for his influence.”

    But then, she says, the recruiter began to touch her inappropriately, make physical advances, and eventually attempted to rape her, warning her not to tell anyone by saying, “I gave you everything you have, and I can take it all away.”

  • Bettmann / Corbis

    In Memoriam

    The 15-Year-Old Marine

    Dan Bullock was 14 when he signed up with the Marines—and 15 when he died in Vietnam. By Michael Daly

    Among those we should remember on Memorial Day is Dan Bullock, who was just 14 on the September day in 1968 when he strode into a Marine Corps recruiting station with an altered birth certificate.

    At a time when the nation was stunned by the Tet offensive in Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, this teen from Brooklyn retained a very clear goal.