Don’t like yelling in formation? Well, you can blame one soldier from World War II for all those early morning sing-alongs.
Pvt. Willie Duckworth was a young soldier at Fort Slocum, New York in May, 1944, whose unit was dragging their feet during a march. To pep his brothers up, he began calling a chant to hep the men keep in step and to give them more energy.
The chant was an instant hit on base. The next year, the Army worked with recording engineers to make a V-Disc, a special recording distributed during World War II to aid morale. It was known as the “Duckworth Chant,” on base, but it was recorded and distributed as “Sound Off.”
Many of the traits of today’s calls are apparent in this first cadence. There is a back and forth between the caller and the formation, the lines are catchy, and Jody even makes an appearance (at 2:15 in the video above).
Dick Lohry, the nephew of Army Pvt. John P. Sersha, took a moment to touch Sersha’s casket Tuesday after a planeside honors ceremony. (Photo: Aaron Lavinsky – Star Tribune)
The remains of a World War II veteran – who left the U.S. to serve his country 72 years ago – have been exhumed from an anonymous grave at the United States Military Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, in Belgium, and brought back to the family and land that he died to protect.
Army Private John P. Sersha will be buried in his hometown of Eveleth, Minnesota today with full military honors — just in time for Memorial Day.
Army Pvt. John P. Sersha
A railroad worker, John P. Sersha, was drafted into the military in 1943 and inducted into the Army at Fort Snelling later that year. He received his training in Texas, and then joined the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, Company F, of the 82nd Airborne Division in Maryland.
On September 23, 1944, he and his company landed in Holland during Operation Market Garden – the unsuccessful mission where the Allies attempted to capture several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands. He had been entrenched in Kiekberg Forest with his company for just four days when he and two other ‘bazooka men’ were sent on an assault mission behind enemy lines. They were never seen again.
Fields of Honor – a website that gives a face to the names of the U.S. WWII soldiers buried in Belgium and the Netherlands – posted this account in its database:
Private Sersha among its ranks first saw battle when it landed near Nijmegen on 23 September 1944. Operation Market Garden had been launched on the 17th, but it took till the 23rd when the elements of the 325th were sent to Holland to join in the battle. The 325th was inserted in the frontline south east of Nijmegen, in the forest-covered hills and valleys facing the Reichwald. Between 27 and 30 September, the 325th was involved in the Battle for Kiekberg Forest. The area was full of steep hills and valleys. Opposing the 325th was the German 190th “Hammer” Infantry Division. Men of this division had infiltrated the forest and were building up in order to attack towards Nijmegen. Private Sersha was MIA during the fighting in the Kiekberg Forest.
Sersha’s family spent decades looking for closure. Three years after the war ended, the remains of two soldiers were discovered in Keikberg Woods by a local woodsman. One of the bodies was identified – and while the other was thought to be that of Pvt. Sersha, the American Graves Registration Command could not 100 percent confirm this and thus did not inform the surviving family. They laid the body in an anonymous grave marked: X7429, and Sersha’s name was later inscribed – along with 1721 others – on the Netherlands Wall of the Missing.
Wall of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery.
In the 1980’s Sersha’s brother Paul – now 97 years old – searched for those who could possibly shed light on the last months of his presumably deceased brother’s life. He was able to track down a paratrooper with whom he served, but no new information came of the connection.
In 2005, Sersha’s nephew Richard Lohry picked up the quest. According to his interview with Fayetteville Observer, he was only 11 months old when his uncle had disappeared behind enemy lines, but still wanted to learn more about his Uncle John. His grandmother kept a photo of her son in her home. “I was drawn to that photo for years and years,” Lohry told the paper.
In an effort to preserve and honor his life, Lohry, a pastor, began collecting whatever he could find on his uncle, which was very little information. Finally, a couple who attended his church found a photo that had taken in 1994 while visiting the Netherlands American Cemetery. It just so happened to be the exact panel that bore his uncle’s name. Inspired by that photo of the wall, he gave a sermon that Memorial Day titled: “God Never Forgets”. Lohry had renewed hope in his search.
Memorial Stone in honor of Pvt. John Sersha placed in Virginia, Minnesota
In 2013, a memorial stone sponsored by Sersha’s family was placed in Virginia, Minnesota near the family home. The installation ceremony caught the media’s attention. One day later, a family member received a call from Germany. Army sergeant Danny Keay, tracked down the relative from an article he had read online. According to Timberjay.com, Keay had put together information from Sersha’s “Individual Deceased Personnel File” with information from a file of a set of unknown remains. That bit of information was a big first step in a lengthy, but rewarding process in determining who this unknown soldier was.
Two years later, after completing a slew of paperwork that included matching dental records and solving a height discrepancy – Lohry, with the help of U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, requested that the Secretary of the Army grant permission to exhume the body in grave marked “X7429.” Nine months later, the request was approved. On December 16, 2015, the body was exhumed and flown to Offutt Air Base. They conducted series of lab tests including matching the DNA of Sersha’s brother Paul and Lohry, his nephew.
Members of a Minnesota Army National Guard Honor Guard retrieved the casket of John P. Sersha during a planeside honors ceremony on May 24, 2016.
This final step would serve to cross one name off the long list of the missing. The results were clear. The remains of John Sersha – an uncle, a brother , and a son – that were missing for 72 years could make a final journey home.
On Jan. 4, 2016, that World War II Veteran’s tireless nephew now had the honor of delivering the investigation results. Mesabi Daily News published part of Lohry’s letter. He wrote:
“…. this is great news. My first contact with you was in April of 2013. By then, I had already been working on a history of John’s military services since spring of 2005. And it was not until November of 2013 that we even knew that John’s remains may have been found back n 1948. It’s been a long road indeed, and now I am happy to say:
John: You haven’t been forgotten — we’re coming to bring you home!
On May 24, 2016, members of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Honor Guard received the flag-draped casket during planeside honors. Members of Sersha’s family, including his 97-year-old brother, Paul was there for the emotional moment.
According to Star Tribune, visitation for John Sersha is scheduled on Friday, May 28th 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bauman Family Funeral Home, 516 1st St. S., Virginia, Minnesota with services to follow starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 306 2nd St. S., Virginia, Minnesota.
If you’ve ever been driving on a long road trip, you might know the horrifying feeling of being drowsy and nodding off behind the wheel — even for a moment.
Your heart drops into your stomach when you realize what happened. Now imagine waking up in an F-16 flying straight to the ground while approaching supersonic speed.
A trainee pilot conducting basic fighter maneuver training with the Arizona Air National Guard suffered G-LOC, or gravity-induced loss of consciousness, while in a roll. The student hit 8.3 Gs and passed out.
The Air Force released this newly declassified video from the aircraft’s heads-up display on September 13th, which shows the plane’s Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System kick on to save the pilot, who was still unconscious after 22 seconds.
The video is harrowing as the worried instructor repeatedly yells at the pilot, almost begging him to recover.
According to Aviation Week’s Guy Norris, this is the fourth save from the Auto-GCAS since it was introduced to the Air Force in 2014. The computer uses pre-programmed terrain info against a prediction of the plane’s trajectory. The GCAS autopilot takes over when the prediction touches the ground.
In this case, the GCAS took over at just 8,760 feet. The student then wakes back up and retakes control at 4,370 feet.
An Army Howitzer is now firing a 5,000-miles per hour, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon, an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.
Overall, the Pentagon is accelerating developmental testing of its high-tech, long-range Electro-Magnetic Rail Gun by expanding the platforms from which it might fire and potentially postponing an upcoming at-sea demonstration of the weapon, Pentagon and Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
Firing from an Army Howitzer, the rail gun hypervelocity projectile can fire a 5,000-mile and hour projectile at enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft,vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.
“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters.
Pentagon weapons developers with the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, are working to further accelerate development of both the gun launcher and the hypervelocity projectile it fires. While plans for the weapon’s development are still being deliberated, ongoing work is developing integration and firing of the projectile onto existing Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns or Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (a mobile platform which fires 155mm artillery rounds).
The Strategic Capabilities Office, a high-level Pentagon effort, is aimed at exploring emerging technologies with a mind to how they can be integrated quickly into existing weapons systems and platforms. Part of the rationale is to harness promising systems, weapons and technologies able to arrive in combat sooner that would be the case should they go through the normal bureaucratic acquisition process. In almost every instance, the SCO partners with one of the services to blend new weapons with current systems for the near term, Roper explained.
Part of the calculus is grounded in the notion of integrating discovery and prototyping, being able to adjust and fix in process without committing to an official requirement, Roper said.
Roper further explained that firing the HVP out of a 155m Howitzer brings certain advantages, because the weapon’s muzzle breach at the end of its cannon is able to catch some of the round’s propellant – making the firing safer for Soldiers.
“Its design traits were all based with dealing with extreme electromagnetic fields – that projectile could be fired out of an existing weapon system. Its whole role is to just keep the hot gas and propellant from rushing past. You don’t want it eroded by the hot material,” Roper explained.
The goal of the effort is to fire a “sub-caliber” round that is aerodynamic and able to fly at hypersonic speeds. We can significanly increase the range and continually improve what powder guns can do, he added.
“We’ve been looking at the data and are very pleased with the results we are getting back,” Roper said. One Senior Army official told Scout Warrior that firing a Hyper Velocity Projectile from a Howitzer builds upon rapid progress with targeting technology, fire-control systems and faster computer processing speeds for fire direction.
When troops are deployed, they soon find themselves missing the comforts – or tastes — of home. MREs can get old, and even when fresh food is available, it just doesn’t compare to what troops are used to.
A Texas National Guard unit deployed to the MidEast realized that very quickly.
According to a report by Todd Starnes, those troops were facing a serious letdown every Sunday night, which for them was “Chicken Tender Night.” The chicken at the undisclosed military base was just not up to the troops’ specs.
“Every Sunday is chicken tender night – which is one of the highlights of every week,” a National Guard first lieutenant identified as Jessie, wrote to Starnes. “With this being said, the chicken is okay at best,” he added.
The troops hit on the idea of using BBQ sauce to help address what Jessie would describe in a Facebook post as “overcooked and bland chicken tenders.” However, when forward deployed, refrigeration became an issue, as most bottles of BBQ sauce instruct people to “refrigerate after opening.”
Two weeks later, on Chicken Tender night, the deployed Texas National Guard unit got a delivery: two cases of sauces, one of the requested BBQ sauce, the other of Chick-Fil-A’s signature “Chick-Fil-A” sauce.
“Who would have ever thought you would see Chick-fil-A sauces in Iraq. It was our pleasure and honor to send you the BBQ and CFA sauces, and what a miracle that they actually arrived on Chicken Tender night!” Jason Driscoll of Chick-Fil-A posted on the local restaurant’s Facebook page after Jessie shared the story of the sauces arriving.
Bravo Zulu to Chick-Fil-A for rescuing our troops’ taste buds!
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Sailors spell out #USA with the American flag on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in honor of the nation’s upcoming Independence Day weekend.
Sailors run after chocks and chaining an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).
Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to conduct a high altitude high opening (HAHO) jump from a CH-53 Super Stallion during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, North Carolina.
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, watch the sunset as the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima sails through the Suez Canal.
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron increases altitude shortly after takeoff at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Armament Flight perform an inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon 20mm Gatlin gun at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, help load a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter onto a United States Air Force C-17 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, for transport to Fort Bragg, N.C.
A Soldier, assigned to 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, conducts explosives-detection and bite training with his working dog, Andy, on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct a patrol during Exercise Marne Focus at Fort Stewart, Ga.
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)
Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.
The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.
In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.
C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.
But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.
“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”
Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.
In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.
Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.
To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.
As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.
Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.
It came right down to the wire, but as expected, one of the competitors for the Army’s $580 million program to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9 handgun has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.
Austrian handgun maker Glock — one of the finalists in the XM17 Modular Handgun System program — filed its protest over the selection of Sig Sauer Feb. 24, according to the GAO. No details were released with the protest filing.
The protest was first reported by the Army Times.
It is not uncommon for finalists in a program of this scale to file a protest, experts say. And with the Army forecasted to purchase up to 290,000 handguns — not to mention buys from other services following on the Army’s heels — the XM17 program is one of the most high-profile weapons buys in the past decade.
But it’s surely a disappointing blow to New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer, who submitted a version of its P320 modular handgun and was tapped as the winner in mid-January. As is typical in these types of high-stakes contracts, Sig was tight lipped when asked for comment on the protest.
“Sig Sauer looks forward to providing our U.S. service members the very best tools to ensure mission accomplishment, but we have no comment related to the MHS contract at this time,” said Sig Sauer marketing director Jordan Hunter in an email statement to We Are The Mighty.
According to the GAO, government auditors have until June 5 to issue a ruling on whether the award complied with government contract law. The program is suspended until the GAO makes its ruling, officials say.
While Sig Sauer has offered the commercially-available P320 modular handgun since 2014, few have seen Glock’s submission. Glock has no commercially-available modular handgun that can change caliber and frame size using different parts.
But Glock handguns are increasingly popular among U.S. service members, with most special operations troops being issued Glock 19s and the Marine Corps phasing out its MARSOC 1911 pistols in favor of Glocks.
For years, SEALs carried Sig Sauer P226 handguns, but even that community is moving toward issuing Glocks.
In March 2016, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned against the service executing a costly, time-consuming program like the XM17 for something as simple as a new handgun.
“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Milley said. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”
Israel’s Arrow missile defense system managed to get its first kill. This particular kill is notable because it was a Syrian surface-to-air missile.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, Israeli jets had attacked a number of Syrian targets. After the successful operation, they were targeted by Syrian air-defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles.
Reportedly, at least one of the surface-to-air missiles was shot down by an Arrow. According to astronautix.com, the system designed to kill ballistic missiles, had its first test flight in 1990 and has hit targets as high as 60 miles up.
Army-Technology.com notes that the Israeli system has a range of up to 56 miles and a top speed of Mach 9. That is about three times the speed of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane.
The surprise, of course, is that the Arrow proved capable of killing the unidentified surface-to-air missile the Syrians fired.
Surface-to-air missiles are much harder targets to hit than ballistic missiles because they will maneuver to target a fighter or other aircraft.
Furthermore, the SAM that was shot down is very likely to have been of Russian manufacture (DefenseNews.com reported the missile was a SA-5 Gammon, also known as the S-200).
Most of the missiles are from various production blocks of the Arrow 2, but this past January, Reuters reported that the first Arrow 3 battery had become operational.
While the Arrow 2 intercepts incoming warheads in the atmosphere, the Arrow 3 is capable of exoatmospheric intercepts. One battery has been built so far, and will supplement Israel’s Arrow 2 batteries. The Arrow 3’s range is up to 2,400 kilometers, according to CSIS.