The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.
On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.
From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.
The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.
And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.
An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.
Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.
Spoiling for a fight
The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.
The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.
What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.
Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.
But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.
The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight…” To many, that means people who have faced death have seen what’s most important in life, but for myriad reasons too many veteran experiences are left out of the history books, lost in the annals of time.
The Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is an amazing medium for the men and women of days gone by to share what those days were like. Those who survived the world wars have mostly gone on to live long, full lives. Given the proper forum, they enjoy looking back and from their recollections important lessons emerge.
Here are some of the best recollections and advice from the AMA forum. While they share their stories, they also share their advice for not going gentle into that good night.
1. Tom, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who received a Purple Heart and helped liberate Rome:
“War is hell. Bring our boys back from the Middle East.”
“The younger generation [who aren’t veterans] has a hard time appreciating the rigors of war because we have an all-volunteer military.”
“We were a generation strained in a very specific way. The depression had a huge influence on my life and still plays a role in who I am. I think people were more prepared for hardship back then than they are today. That being said, some of the service members today have been at war for over ten years. And they are volunteers. We were not tested like that.”
“Just be a simple soldier. Don’t lazy, sleepy or aggressive. Follow the orders of the day.”
“I never met the guards or saw them again, but I forgive them.”
“The worst thing was the death march itself and then the food in the camp. Just rice and salt. We used to try and get the leaves of edible plants and cook it. Some people were so hungry they would sweep up grasshoppers and eat it.”
“I only know that what I fought for was justified.”
“Have plenty of rest, sleep well, and eat everything that is given to you.”
4. Don McQuinn, an 84-year-old Korea and Vietnam Veteran:
“Somebody asked earlier about what did you take away from the Marine Corps. What I learned is that you can stop me, but you can’t beat me. I’ll be back. And when somebody bets on you like that, all the cards on the table are face up. And I had to succeed. There wasn’t any option. Pretty simple.”
“I appreciate the thanks, it was my privilege to serve.”
“The toughest were the Chinese. The nastiest were the North Koreans. The most dogged were the Vietnamese.”
” Vietnam was the hardest. Going away. No definition of ‘the enemy.’ Incredible misunderstanding by the American public and press.”
5. Michael Mirson, 94-year old Soviet soldier, captured by the Nazis, Escaped to the United States:
“I believe in working hard and honesty.”
“In the Soviet army, they were very poor. Very little food, the boots were poor, and the discipline was not good. We walked in the Caucasus Mountains with blisters on your feet. You could barely walk, and had to go so slow. Officers on horseback would come by with a whip and say “comrade, you’re walking too slow, you must walk fast. You must walk fast for this country and for Stalin.” Once someone fought back against an officer, and was shot. This scared us into keep walking, no matter what.”
“I really learned how to survive. I truly learned how to take care of myself and others. I always tried to help my friends. I learned how to come together to help people, and how other people can help you.”
“It just always seems to be the same story, the fighting story. When people lived in caves, they fought with stones. Now they fight with planes and drones.”
6. Hubert Buchanan, Vietnam POW in Hanoi Hilton who returned to Vietnam meet his captor years later:
“In hindsight it was unwise to get involved in Vietnam, but given that time and history it was understandable that the U.S. got involved. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, I think it was a bad idea to get involved at all.”
“He was just a villager who got the credit for capturing me. It’s illogical to go from the particular to the general. For example, I don’t blame the Vietnamese people. If people were bombing my country I might try to capture the bombers.”
“He was very excited to see me, and it turns out he received a certificate from the government that said something like “village hero” … all in all, it was a “war is war” type of encounter.”
When asked if the Vietnamese were skilled fighter pilots: “I was shot down by a Vietnamese fighter pilot. What does that tell you?”
7. Norm, a 97-year-old ANZAC WWII Veteran, Fought at Papua New Guinea:
“I just want to be able to help people and see the smiles on their faces when the job is finished. Having something to do each day keeps me going.”
“Have respect for your elders, be honest, talk to people who have good manners and treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself.”
“I couldn’t understand the Japanese at the time. I was offered to go to Japan after the war but I said no. I couldn’t understand the things that the Japanese had done in the war.”
“It was a matter of “if you didn’t get them, they’d get you”. So I didn’t really sympathize with them.”
“It’s been hard to let go.”
“I hope that all wars are finished. I hope they realize that no one gains from war.”
8. Dick Cole, 98-year-old WWII Air Corps Vet and James Doolittle’s Co-Pilot during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo:
When asked what he wants for his birthday: “More Time.”
“[Jimmy] Doolittle was a great, great man and I am honored that I was able to serve under him.”
“One quick story most people don’t know is that he has a hunting cabin we would all go meet at. He always insisted on doing the dishes.”
“The hardest part of the Doolittle Raid was Looking at that black hole when we had to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”
“Most memorable part was when my parachute opened.”
“Just to live your life to the fullest. Enjoy it!”
“You get so much advice when you have lived as long as I have.”
“I sometimes think that we are the biggest threat to ourselves because of the foolish things we do. There is no ruler anywhere that has any control over good or evil. They all do what they think is best for them in the long run.”
“Always help people, however you can.”
11. Harry Snyder, a WWII Normandy and Battle of the Bulge Veteran:
“The average German soldier was like the average person. If he was captured, I could talk to him. They seemed like ordinary people you could find anywhere. The SS were the bad guys, the real killers. They were responsible for the death camps and the killing of innocent people. You couldn’t interact with them… you treated them like dirt.”
“She’s a great cook. You can’t go wrong for that, marry a great cook.”
“When we are attacked without provocation, either militarily or by terrorists. Then I think then we are justified to go to war.”
“When the war in Europe ended, we were going to be sent to Japan. Not to occupy, but to invade. Then, President Harry S. Truman dropped the bomb. Thank God for the other Harry. He saved a lot of us from going over there. I didn’t feel bad for the Japanese; I feel they got what they deserved. The President saved a lot of us from getting killed.”
When you think about the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that the United States Navy operates, it’s natural to immediately think of them launching fighters to carry out strikes against the enemy. Over the years, history has proven that carriers are very good at that. However, instead of orchestrating combat in the sky, one Nimitz-class carrier ended up carrying American troops into battle.
Now, the use of American carriers to carry troops isn’t entirely outlandish. At the end of World War II, some carriers, including USS Enterprise (CV 6), took part in Operation Magic Carpet, the returning of GIs en masse from overseas. It’s easy to see why – a carrier transports up to 5,000 sailors and Marines, only about 3,200 of which are crew. The remaining 1,800 are in the air wing. If you were to eliminate some of that air wing, you’d quickly create capacity for other personnel.
In 1994, the United States was preparing to invade Haiti to remove a military junta that had taken power in 1991. The plan involved getting special operations and light infantry troops into Haiti. The problem was, there weren’t many good bases on the island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti accounts for half. The other half of the island, owned by the Dominican Republic, didn’t have much in the way of usable bases, either – after all, P-51 Mustangs were still that country’s front-line fighter at the time.
The Eisenhower sailed from Norfolk, hauling 56 helicopters and 2,000 troops. Army UH-60 Blackhawks and other choppers were very quickly parked on the ship’s flight deck. The good news was that this arrangement never had to be tested in combat – a delegation that included retired general Colin Powell and Jimmy Carter convinced the Haitian regime to vacate peacefully. The 10th Mountain Division entered without a fight via helicopters launched from the carrier’s deck.
Even without facing combat, the Eisenhower had proven that carriers can be very versatile instruments of national policy.
One goal of textile research and development effort is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made solely from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.
“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant; no topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system. We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”
Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype, wool-blend uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the field assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.
“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material.”
FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The RD team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.
Each soldier received three wool-blend uniform prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.
Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.
Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.
Initial results suggest the majority of the soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.
Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.
“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool, Winterhalter said.
“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed,” Winterhalter said. “The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country.”
The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.
NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this RD effort, Winterhalter said.
The best snipers in the world meet up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina each year to fight for top bragging rights and to learn from each other.
Twenty-five sniper teams from the U.S., Ireland, Singapore, Kazahkstan, and other allied nations competed in 21 tough events during the 2016 U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition, which took place Mar. 20 to 25.
Each event tests snipers’ professional and tactical skills and is based on actual combat experiences. The competitors conducted day and night shoots in a tactical environment at ranges from a few dozen feet to over 3,000.
“The competition is combat-oriented on things that have been used on deployment,” Master Sgt. Jason Brown, a Special Forces Sniper Course instructor and an event coordinator during the 2014 competition told an Army journalist. “Because of this, it tests the competitors on tasks that will help them complete their missions down range.”
Snipers have to prove they can stalk through the bush and fire a variety of weapons to win. And the competition is fierce, most units send their best sniper and spotter teams to earn top honors. They have to be masters of sniper techniques.
One of the best things about this competition and others like it is that when top-tier snipers from friendly militaries get together, they trade tips and secrets on how to be effective. The cadre running the event can also see skills they can teach to future students.
“It brings all the snipers together from all over the world, which gives them a chance to communicate on what they are doing in training to become better snipers,” said Brown. “This helps the SFSC committee because most of the competitors are from the Special Operations Forces Regiments and it allows us to see how well they have been trained by us and how well they are conducting their own training once they have completed ours.”
Special Forces Association-Chapter 62 with The Special Forces Charitable Trust sponsored the competition and funded prizes such as rifles, optics, and other high-quality, essential equipment.
Green Berets swept the podium as 3rd Special Forces Group took the top spot in 2016 and two other Special Forces groups took second and third.
The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence Sniper Course instructors ran the annual U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition.
1. The combatants from Little Big Horn are still fighting.
The U.S. Army’s “Soldier’s Creed” calls for troops to never quit, never accept defeat. Apparently Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his men got the message 127 years before the Soldier’s Creed was written, because they’re still fighting the lost Battle of Little Bighorn.
2. A Revolutionary War general rides through Pennsylvania trying to find his missing bones.
We’ve previously discussed Maj. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the fact that he’s buried in at least two places. Wayne died while touring military defenses in Pennsylvania and was buried near Lake Eerie. When his son came to recover the body twelve years later, he found that Lake Eerie had preserved the body.
Since the younger Wayne only had room for his dad’s skeleton, he had the flesh boiled off and then moved the bones across the state in a cart. The story goes that he lost a few pieces along the way. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s ghost still rides the trail, trying to recover the bones his son scattered like some kind of sick Johnny Appleseed.
3. An Air Force base’s security headquarters has a helpful ghost nurse.
Look, few people particularly love military police and security forces, but they provide a needed service. It’s sort of rude to put their headquarters in a haunted building, but that’s what happened at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.
Building 34 used to be the base hospital, and supposedly a nurse still roams the halls and tries to do her job. No word on how many sleeping staff runners have been woken up with ectoplasm IVs, so we have to assume more than 20.
4. A group of fiery monks protect the Alamo.
After Santa Anna’s forces finally captured the Alamo, Mexican forces had to decide what to do with it. They decided to raze it to the ground in an effort led by Gen. Juan Jose Andrade. Andrade sent a colonel who attempted to complete the mission, but came running back, babbling about ghost monks.
Andrade went to destroy the chapel and remaining fortifications himself with a cannon and torches. When the general and his men arrived, they took aim at the chapel doors. Six monks with flaming swords walked out of the walls of the chapel. As they and other spirits began hurling fireballs at the Mexican soldiers, the general ordered a tactical retreat.
5. USS Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy fleet.
The USS Hornet saw extensive service in World War II and the Vietnam War, and so it’s no surprise that a couple of ghosts may have decided to make it home.
It has a reputation as an extremely haunted place though. Visitors to the museum regularly report seeing officers in their blue uniforms or a sailor wearing his dress whites. (No one knows why an eternal spirit would decide to spend his time looking like the Cracker Jack mascot.)
The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.
No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.
His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”
The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.
Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.
The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.
“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”
In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.
Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.
Look, we’re not here to judge, and they don’t appear to have ever used their military affiliation to boost their movies. But since the connection is now out in the open, we thought we’d suggest a few themed movie titles they could use, as well as some good names if any of his military colleagues want to help out his company.
Plaid fabric is fairly innocuous. It’s been borrowed by all sorts of groups in America, from hipsters to lumberjacks and punk rockers to professors.
But, in the 18th century, it was the semi-official uniform of Scottish rebels branded as terrorists by the Protestant King George II.
King James II and his wife, Anne, before they were violently deposed and forced to flee to France and exile.
The problems started in 1688 when Catholic King James II was overthrown by a Protestant rebellion. In his absence, who, exactly, would be the legal holder of power in England was thrown up for debate. Would the Catholic king, who had cast away the Seal of the Realm while fleeing to France, or the Protestant William III and his wife, Mary, be the true authority of England?
“Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the world’s hardest pandering claimant to the English throne in 1745.
Boasting Scottish blood, Charles decided to start his campaign in Scotland in 1745. The Parliament of Scotland had initially acquiesced to the rise of Queen Mary and King William III, but the Scottish, as a whole, still supported Catholic rule. And Scotland had been angered by a series of acts by London and the Crown during the early 1700s, including the dissolution of the Parliament of Scotland.
The ploy worked, and many Scots, especially Highland Scots, decided to support the invasion, creating the Jacobites, as they were known. But, some Lowland Scots supported Mary and William, leading to fighting in Scotland even before Charles began his push south.
Soldiers of a Highland Regiment just before the Jacobite uprising. After the uprising, soldiers serving the British crown could continue to wear patterns like this, but it was banned for nearly all others.
The Highland Scots, often wearing their traditional garb made with tartan fabrics, delivered a number of victories to “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (Think Braveheart clothing but The Patriot weapons).
But popular support for Charles and the House of Stuart dried up the further the Jacobites marched south, and so they were soon forced to start pulling back north with his largely Scottish forces.
This led to the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, where Charles and the Scots attempted to score a defensive victory against government forces led by the Duke of Cumberland. Both sides were bogged down in the mud, but greater numbers on the Protestant side allowed them to pin down Scottish fighters with some units while others maneuvered. Their artillery advantage played a large role, as well.
Battle of Culloden, where a Jacobite uprising supporting a Catholic claim to the British throne was ended by government forces.
But the real brilliance of the Protestant attack came in how they ordered men to attack with bayonets during hand-to-hand fighting. Rather than fencing with the man directly in front of them, as was normal, the men were ordered to thrust into the exposed right side of the enemy adjacent to them.
Charles fled the country, never to return. But the Scots he left behind found themselves in the unenviable position of being stuck in the kingdom they had just rebelled against.
They were branded as terrorists and insurgents, and many of those who took part in the rebellion were hunted and executed. Meanwhile, their traditional fabric had been outlawed for general wear. Only highlanders who joined the British military were allowed to wear tartan fabrics, and usually only in Scottish units.
Oddly enough, its popularity had greatly grown among Lowland Scots who had fought against their tartan-wearing brethren. They collected tartan patterns like souvenirs of their fathers’ victories over the Catholics.
Finally, the Protestant aristocracy embraced the pattern after King George IV visited Edinburgh and led a tartan procession of Highland chiefs through the Scottish city.
Now, of course, its popular around the world, but known as plaid in the States. Scottish clans reclaimed their historic patterns or generated new ones that would be tied to families forever. It’s no longer the fabric of a military rebellion. It’s just a cool pattern, often woven of warm cloths, like flannel.
In fact, the rebellious nature of the pattern has been so degraded that one of the most recognizable and broadly used tartan patterns is that of the the Royal House of Stewart, the royal family of England which defeated the 1745-1746 Jacobite Rebellion and then outlawed the fabric for almost 40 years. Oddly enough, it’s very similar to the “Jacobite” pattern worn by the rebels.
So, enjoy your flannel, but maybe tip a Scotch whisky over for the tartan-wearing warriors in the sky while you do so.
Summer blockbuster season is almost officially over (The Atlantic claims it stretches from March to Labor Day), and with that, we here at We Are the Mighty have been talking about our favorite movie soundtracks. Of particular interest are our favorite songs from war movies.
This list was nearly impossible to cull down, because many of the best soundtracks are instrumental compositions (which are great), but don’t exactly scream “turn me up!” So we collected a series of songs (many from Vietnam movies) that are sure to either make you sing along, dance, or cry.
10. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” Nancy Sinatra – “Full Metal Jacket”
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” with the line “Me love you long time” from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”, made RR in Vietnam seem way more entertaining than it probably was.
9. “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding – “Platoon”
There’s just something about this song that makes you wanna roll one and kick back on a dock somewhere.
8. “California Dreaming” The Mamas and Papas – “Forrest Gump”
Speaking about rolling one…
7. “Get Around” Beach Boys – “Good Morning Vietnam”
We couldn’t have a list of our favorite songs from war movies without a little Robin Williams. In “Good Morning Vietnam,” Robin Williams’ character boosts morale much like Robin Williams did on his many USO tours.
6. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Bobby McFerrin – “Jarhead”
“Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir!” Classic.
5. “Brown Eyed Girl” Van Morrison – “Born on the Fourth of July”
Though Van Morrison never intended to release this song on an album when he recorded it, we’re sure glad he did. The Grammy’s were, too, as the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.
4. “Miracles” Coldplay – “Unbroken”
You can’t possibly listen to this song and watch this video and NOT immediately want to watch this movie.
3. “There You’ll Be” Faith Hill – “Pearl Harbor”
I know battle hardened Marines who cry during this. It’s the military version of crying after Old Yeller.
Except for all the beer and BBQ, Vietnam isn’t anything like America for an FNG…and other lessons to be learned from Forrest Gump.
1. “Sgt. Mackenzie” Joseph Milna Mackenzie – We Were Soldiers
This haunting melody perfectly captures “We Were Soldiers” final battle in la Drang Valley.
As the story goes, the singer, Joseph Milna Mackenzie wrote the song just after his wife’s death. He stared at a picture of his grandfather above his fireplace and was overcome with wonder about his grandfather’s final moments before he died on the battle field in WWI. The song, according to Mackenzie, suddenly came to him.
Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.
At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.
Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.
The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.
Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.
The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.
The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.
“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”
In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.
Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.
If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.
Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.
“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.
“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.
As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.
“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.
“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”
Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.
Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.
“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”
“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”
Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.
“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”
Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.
But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.
“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”
Military budgets can contain some surprising items. These six pieces of gear probably raised some eyebrows when they were purchased.
Skateboards were tested during Urban Warrior ’99 for potential use in detecting booby traps and avoiding sniper fire. Documents from the exercise don’t discuss how the “urban combat skateboard” was to be employed, but the boards never made it to full fielding.
The ultra-lightweight combat vehicle is currently in testing with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, but earlier versions have already seen combat with special operations troops in Afghanistan. The vehicles are easily delivered by air and can be used by paratroopers to quickly move around a drop zone, allowing them to mass forces for an assault, quickly move crew-served weapons around the battlefield, and evacuate wounded troops to a casualty collection point.
Quite a few modern militaries use ski troops, including three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The training and equipment allows the service members to move quickly in winter, mountain, and arctic environments.
6. Children’s toys
When Allied paratroopers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, they needed a way to identify each other in the dark behind German lines. Military planners came up with brass versions of a common children’s toy, the cricket noise maker. Troops would click the noisemaker while near an unknown person in the dark. If the other person responded with a click or code word, the soldiers knew each other as friendly.