Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II - We Are The Mighty
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Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.

It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.

Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps. 

Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard. 

Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard. 

Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain. 

All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve. 

On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees. 

The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.  

At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship. 

A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet. 

According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out. 

The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men. 

Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men. 

Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest. 

American Legion archives painting by Dudley Summers

Of the 902 men, only 230 survived. 

Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.

On this Four Chaplains Day, we remember.

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24 military movies to watch over Fourth of July weekend

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


Few things have the power to transport people like the cinema.

Who can forget Robert Williams’ “Good morning, Vietnam” or Marine Corps DI Hartman’s memorable quotes?

The following list is of our favorite military movies to watch over Fourth of July weekend.

“The Longest Day” (1962)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
20th Century Fox

“The Longest Day” tells the story of heroism and loss that marked the Allies’ successful completion of the Normandy Landings on D-Day during World War II.

The film stands out due to its attention to detail, as it employed many Axis and Allied D-Day participants as advisers for how to depict the D-Day landings in the movie.

“Lawrence Of Arabia” (1962)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Columbia Pictures

Based on the exploits of British Army Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence during World War I, “Lawrence of Arabia” tells the story of Lawrence’s incredible activities in the Middle East.

The film captures Lawrence’s daring, his struggles with the horrific violence of World War I, and the incredible British role in the foundation of the modern Middle East and Saudi Arabia.

“The Great Escape” (1963)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
United Artists

“The Great Escape” is based on a novel of the same name, which was a nonfiction account of a mass escape from a German prison camp in Poland during World War II. The film follows several British German prisoners of war as they try to escape from the Nazis and make their way back to Allied-controlled territory.

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
MGM

Extremely loosely inspired by true acts during World War II, “The Dirty Dozen” tells the story of 12 Army convicts trained for a nearly impossible mission deep in Nazi-occupied France before D-Day, and the film follows their exploits in training and beyond.

“MASH” (1970)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
20th Century Fox

“MASH” is a black comedy set on the frontlines of the Korean War. The story follows a group of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital officers as they carry out their mission against the bleak backdrop of the seemingly ceaseless conflict miles from their position.

“Patton” (1970)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
20th Century Fox

A movie documenting the life and exploits of General George S. Patton.

A wartime hero of World War II, the film covers Patton’s exploits, accomplishments, and ultimate discharge.

“The Deer Hunter” (1978)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Universal Pictures

“The Deer Hunter” follows the story of a trio of Russian-American steelworkers both in Pennsylvania before their service and during the Vietnam War.

The film, which stars Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for best picture, best director, and best supporting actor for Walken.

“Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Screen grab

Featuring an all-star cast (Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, “Apocalypse Now” is a modern adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness.”

Set in Vietnam in 1970, the film shows to what depths men will sink during wartime.

“Das Boot” (1981)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Neue Constantin Film

“Das Boot” is a German film depicting the service of German sailors aboard fictional submarine U-96. The story has been lauded for personalizing the characters during World War II by showing both the tension of hunting ships, as well as the tedium of serving aboard submarines.

“Top Gun” (1986)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’ (1986) Paramount Pictures

Starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, “Top Gun” follows Cruise as he attends the Top Gun aviation school. An aggressive but extremely competent pilot, Cruise competes throughout his training to become the best pilot in training. The film was selected in 2015 by the Library of Congress for preservation due to its cultural significance.

“Platoon” (1986)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Orion Pictures

“Platoon,” featuring Charlie Sheen, depicts the horrors and difficulties of the Vietnam War. The movie both shows the difficulty in locating potential insurgents in a civilian population, as well as the strains and struggles war can place on brothers-in-arms.

“Good Morning Vietnam” (1987)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Touchstone Pictures

Loosely based on a true story, “Good Morning Vietnam” is a comedy-drama starring Robin Williams as a radio DJ in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Williams earned an Academy Award for best actor.

“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
YouTube/Jimmy Jammz

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket” follows two new recruits as they enter bootcamp during the Vietnam War. From depicting the struggles of training to the savagery of war, “Full Metal Jacket” remains a timeless classic.

“Glory” (1989)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
TriStar Pictures

Featuring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman, “Glory” follows the US’s first all African American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for his performance.

“The Hunt For Red October” (1990)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Youtube/ArousingAdmiration

Based on Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel, “The Hunt For Red October” is set during the last stages of the Cold War.

The film stars Sean Connery as a rogue Soviet naval captain who is attempting to defect to the US with the Soviet Union’s most advanced nuclear missile submarine.

“Schindler’s List” (1993)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Universal Pictures

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson, “Schindler’s List” tells the true story of how businessman Oskar Schindler evolves from seeing Jews as nothing but human chattel to doing his best to save as many Jews from Nazi death camps as possible during the Holocaust. The film, based on a true story and painfully told, won the Academy Award for best picture.

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
DreamWorks

Directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Tom Hanks, “Saving Private Ryan” showcases both the brutality of World War II while also paying tribute to the amazing courage and honor that each person can rise to. The movie won Spielberg an Academy Award in 1999 for best director.

“Three Kings” (1999)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Warner Bros.

Featuring Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and George Clooney, “Three Kings” shows a stark depiction of life on the ground in Kuwait and Southern Iraq following the end of the Gulf War.

The movie depicts the brutality that Iraqis faced from the regime of Saddam Hussein after trying to rise up against the government at the end of the war.

“Black Hawk Down” (2001)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
YouTube screenshot

Directed by Ridley Scott, “Black Hawk Down” follows the tragic exploits of US special forces that were sent into Somalia on a peacekeeping mission in 1993. The movie won the Academy Award for best film editing in 2002.

“Jarhead” (2005)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Universal Pictures

“Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, depicts a realistic look at the mix of drudgery and tension that exists for soldiers in a war zone.

The movie spans from the late 1980s through the US involvement in the Gulf War.

“Downfall” (2005)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
YouTube/tofumary2

“Downfall” depicts the end of the European stage of World War II from inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. The movie depicts Hitler’s final days as he, and his fellow high-ranking Nazis, realize the futility of their position in the war and the end of the Third Reich.

“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” (2005)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Samuel Goldwyn Films

“Tae Guk Gi” follows the tale of two South Korean brothers during the start of the Korean War. Drafted into combat, the older brother continuously volunteers for the most dangerous missions in exchange for his little brother’s safety. But, as the movie depicts, such constant violence takes the toll of all involved.

“Letters From Iwo Jima” (2006)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Letters From Iwo Jima” tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. The film is a companion to Clint Eastwood’s film “Flags Of Our Fathers,” which also tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima but from the American perspective.

“Beasts Of No Nation” (2015)

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Netflix

Released on Netflix, “Beasts of No Nation” is based on a book of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Set in an unnamed West African country, the film depicts the horror of civil war and the use of child soldiers.

The film is told from the point of view of the child soldier Agu, played by Abraham Attah, as he attempts to survive and is forced to fight in the war.

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The vulnerability of US Navy ships to computer hacking is scarier than you’d think

The collision of guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a tanker near Singapore was the fourth accident involving ships from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in less than a year.


Two of the incidents — collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald earlier this summer — have left a total of 17 sailors dead or missing, more than the 11 service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

After the McCain collision, the Navy relieved the commander of the 7th fleet “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to the Navy.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Honoring the seven Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision at sea. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III

The service also planned a temporary halt of operations around the world and to launch a fleet-wide review in search of systemic issues that could have contributed to the most recent incidents.

The Navy is known for its thorough and unsparing reviews, which have been undertaken in the aftermath of each incident, and analysts are already pointing to internal issues, as well as high operational tempos in heavily trafficked waterways, that could be related to the mishaps.

But the number of accidents involving warships in the western Pacific — during “the most basic of operations” — has stirred concern that outside factors are affecting the ships and their crews.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) oversees operations from the bridge wing of the ship. Navy photo by Patrick I Crimmins.

“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances” when transiting the Strait of Malacca, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway the McCain was approaching, Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy.

“I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues,” said Stutzman, who is now chief intelligence officer for cyber-intelligence service Wapack Labs.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted on August 21 that there were “no indications right now” of “cyber intrusion or sabotage.” But, he added, the “review will consider all possibilities.”

 

The admiral said the McCain’s collision with the tanker was the second “extremely serious incident” since the Fitzgerald’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in mid-June. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred “gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at.”

Experts have downplayed the likelihood of such attacks on US warships, noting that infiltrating Navy guidance systems would be very hard to do and instead citing human negligence or error as likely causes. Others have dismissed the likelihood of state-directed attacks on ships at sea, noting that such efforts would be a misuse of resources, strategically unwise, and generally harmful to maritime conduct.

But recent high-profile cyberattacks around the world have brought new attention to the security of maritime navigation, which is highly reliant on computer networks.

The US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack or deceive, and there’s no sign satellite communications were at fault in the McCain’s collision. But there is technology out there to misdirect GPS navigation — typically through a process known as “spoofing” that leaves the system thinking it is somewhere it’s not.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock after sustaining significant damage. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams.

The software and electronic gear needed to spoof a GPS system has become easier to get in recent years, particularly for private or nonstate actors.

In 2013, a team of graduate students led by Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and satellite-navigation expert, were able to spoof the GPS on an $80 million yacht, directing it hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting the change.

In late June, GPS signals for about 20 ships in the eastern Black Sea were manipulated, with navigation equipment on the ships, though seeming to be functioning correctly, saying the ships were located 20 miles inland. An attack on thousands of computers later that month also disrupted shipping around the world.

Global commercial shipping is more vulnerable to such attacks and cargo ships are more exposed — the number of them plying the high seas has quadrupled over the past 25 years. And causing a collision by hacking or hijacking a commercial vessel’s GPS is seen as increasingly possible.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
The crowded seas of the Strait of Malacca. Photo from Safety4Sea.com

Most commercial and passenger ships use the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to locate other ships and avoid collisions. But the AIS has weaknesses, and hackers could in theory send out a signal claiming to be a phantom ship, affecting navigation decisions by other ships in the area.

Dana Goward, former chief of Marine Transportation Systems for the US Coast Guard, said hackers could go after the unsecured navigation system on a commercial or private ship while simultaneously jamming a Navy ship’s guidance systems. Or they could misdirect the commercial ship’s guidance system, sending the ship off-course.

In the aftermath of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, the demands facing the US Navy, and the Pacific fleet in particular, have gotten renewed focus. Greater operational demands on fewer ships have cut into time for rest as well as time dedicated to training (and the nature of that training has changed as well).

In light of such demands, experience suggests that in high-traffic areas mistakes by humans manning the ships remained a likely culprit, said Goward, a former Coast Guard captain. “It’s a difficult environment to be in and human error is always present,” he told USA Today.

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New petition aims to honor alleged USS Fitzgerald hero

An ongoing petition on Change.org is seeking at least 15,000 signatures to convince Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley to name DDG 127, an as-yet unnamed destroyer, after Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary L. Rehm, Jr., who allegedly gave up his own life while attempting to rescue six sailors in a flooding compartment on the USS Fitzgerald.


According to the family, they were told the story of Rehm’s death by the Navy, which also told them that the sailor successfully helped 20 other sailors escape before perishing while attempting to save the last six men in the compartment.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

The Fitzgerald was struck by the ACX Crystal, a Philippine container ship, on June 17. The much larger Crystal impacted the Fitzgerald almost squarely on the sleeping berths, causing massive damage to the area where a number of sailors were resting.

The Navy has not yet completed its investigation of the incident, but Rehm is thought to have gone into action right after the collision. The fire controlman helped get the first 20 sailors out and, despite knowing that the hatch may be closed to save the ship if the flooding continued, returned to the compartment to search for six sailors still trapped inside.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
(Photo U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

As the water rushed in, the rest of the crew was forced to close the hatches while Rehm was still inside.

DDG 127, the ship which petitioners hope will be named after Rehm, is an Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer like the Fitzgerald. The guided-missile destroyers can fire a variety of missiles against everything from land targets to aircraft to submarines to other ships and even missiles in flight.

Other Arleigh-Burke vessels have been named after everything from politicians, such as the USS Winston Churchill, to a group of five brothers killed in a single battle in World War II (USS The Sullivans), to other sailors who gave their lives to save others.

The Fitzgerald is named for Lt. William C. Fitzgerald, an officer who began his career as an enlisted sailor before graduating from the Naval Academy. He later gave his life to cover the retreat of civilians and other sailors under attack by the Viet Cong on Aug. 7, 1967. The ship’s motto is “Protect Your People.”

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio. Rehm was one of seven Sailors killed when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal. The incident is under investigation. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Rehm’s actions, if proven during the Navy’s investigation, surely upheld the ship’s traditions and motto.

Readers can learn more about the petition and add their signature here. It had 11,149 of a necessary 15,000 at the time this article was written.

The other six sailors who died in the June 17 crash were Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25; Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23; and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24.

The remains of all seven sailors killed in the crash were recovered from the flooded berthing compartment.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Tech. Sgt. Jason Umlauf, a 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal craftsman, sweeps an area with a mine detector during exercise Northern Challenge 16 in Keflavik, Iceland, Sept. 19, 2016. The exercise focused on disabling improvised explosive devices in support of counterterrorism tactics to prepare Partnership for Peace, NATO, and Nordic nations for international deployments and defense against terrorism.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder

Staff Sgt. Dale Rodgers, a 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion craftsman, examines an afterburner during an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine check at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 26, 2016. An F-16 engine in full afterburn utilizes a thrust of 32,000 pounds to propel the aircraft into flight.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado

ARMY:

A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V at 7th Army Training Command’s Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. Exercise Allied Spirit includes about 2,520 participants from eight NATO nations, and exercises tactical interoperability and tests secure communications within Alliance members and partner nations.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman

U.S. Soldiers of Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment provide ground security for an AH-64 Apache while conducting a sling load operation during Exercise Allied Spirit V at 7th Army Training Command’s Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. Exercise Allied Spirit includes about 2,520 participants from eight NATO nations, and exercises tactical interoperability and tests secure communications within Alliance members and partner nations.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Rachel Wilridge

NAVY:

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 5, 2016) Seaman (AW) Brice Scraper, top, from Dallas, and Petty Officer 2nd Class (AW) Alex Miller, from Monroe, Michigan, verify the serial number of a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9M, attached to an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 on the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The CATM-9M is the training counterpart to the AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

ARABIAN GULF (Oct. 4, 2016) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) load ordnance onto an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

A U.S. Marine carries his gear and prepares to board the USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) via landing craft utility boats Oct. 4, 2016 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Norfolk, Virginia as part of a disaster relief assessment team of approximately 300 Marines and sailors. The Marines and sailors are from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and will assist in providing damage assessment and information to disaster relief coordinators and leadership in determining the U.S. role in providing possible humanitarian aid in the region in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a reported Category IV storm that hit the region Tuesday.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment watch as a CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) approaches during an exercise at Fire Base Burt, Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 1, 2016. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen, from units across the Pacific Northwest, carry a large American flag down Fourth Avenue during Seattle’s 67th Seafair Torchlight Parade, July 30, 2016. Dating back to the 1950s, the Torchlight Parade remains one of the longest running annual events in the Seattle area.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanner King, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Boston, is underway aboard a 45-foot response boat during a security escort in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 21, 2016. The station’s crew escorted the Norwegian-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF SUEZ Boston into a terminal in Boston.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

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Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will be allowed to stay in the Army after the service reversed its decision to kick him out. Martland was being forcibly discharged over a 2011 incident in which he confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.


Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland (Photo: Duncan Hunter)

Late Thursday night, Martland won the fight against the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which gives the boot to soldiers with black marks on their records. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the Green Beret’s performance history and pulled his name from the QMP list.

Martland admitted that Capt. Dan Quinn and he assaulted the Afghan official during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play” — an Afghan practice where young boys in sexual slavery are often dressed up as women and forced to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but experienced a rebirth after the Taliban’s ouster by NATO forces and U.S. troops were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. When the Afghan confessed to raping the boy and beating the child’s mother for telling local authorities, Quinn “picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his official statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”

The line removed from his Army record read: “Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member. Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”

Hundreds of veterans and other concerned citizens wrote letters and started petition drives in Martland’s defense. Even actor and Marine veteran Harvey Keitel got involved and urged California Congressman Duncan Hunter to intervene.

Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and San Diego-area congressman, immediately came to Martland’s defense, calling the Army’s actions “totally insane and wrong,” and adding that Martland’s case “exemplifies the problems with the Army.”

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Martland (second from left) during a visit with General David Petraeus

An Army spokesman confirmed to Fox News that Martland will no longer be forced out.

“In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,” Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said.

Quinn, now a civilian, said, “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks.”

“I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,” Martland told Fox News.  “I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, did for me.”

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This is the amazing way the Navy rescues trapped submariners

The crews of submarines around the world face the very real and terrifying possibility that their submarine could fail and become stuck at the bottom of the ocean. While a surface vessel that suffers a mechanical failure at sea can be reached by most other surface vessels, something special is needed to rescue crews thousands of feet under the surface.


That’s why the Navy has the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System, a three-part system that can reach a distressed submarine stuck 2,000 feet beneath the surface and recover the submariners inside. The SRDRS can be deployed anywhere in the world within a maximum of 72 hours.

Many civilian and military vessels can carry the SRDRS and the system can be rapidly installed on any appropriate ship, known as a “vessel of opportunity.” Once an appropriate vessel is identified near the rescue site, the SRDRS is flown, driven, or shipped to a port where it can meet the vessel. The Undersea Rescue Command, which operates the SRDRS, is stationed near both a port and a C-5 capable airfield so the unit can rapidly deploy anywhere in the world.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
The Atmospheric Diving System 2000 allows divers to quickly reach 2,000-foot depths and return without needing to decompress. Photo: US Navy courtesy photo

When the Navy crew and the system arrive at the submarine site, a diver wearing the Atmospheric Dive System 2000 is lowered to where the submarine rests on the bottom of the ocean. The ADS2000 allows a single sailor to dive to the sub and inspect it. If the diver sees signs that the crew are still alive inside the hull, he’ll signal the surface to let them know to launch the rescue mission. He’ll also begin removing any blockages or debris near the submarine’s hatches.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
The pressurized Rescue Module Falcon is raised from the water after an exercise near San Diego, California. Photo: US Navy Mass communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexia M. Riveracorrea

Next, the remotely-operated Pressurized Rescue Module, the Falcon, is lowered into the water and descends to the submarine. When it reaches the sub, it links with the hull on the sub and seals a skirt around the hatch. Then, it pumps air into the skirt, creating an open tube with breathable air. The sailors are then able to climb from their submarine to the PRM through the air chamber. Sixteen sailors can be carried by the PRM at once.

Once 16 sailors are safely aboard the PRM, it delivers them to the 32-seat Submarine Decompression Chamber where they are able to remain at their previous pressure until they reach the hyperbaric systems on the surface vessel. This prevents the decompression sickness they would face if they simply rushed to the surface.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
A U.S. Navy sailor sits in one of the Navy’s two 32-seat submarine Decompression Systems. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom

Meanwhile, the PRM returns to the submarine to rescue another 16 sailors. Because the PRM has a tether that provides it power from the surface, it can ferry survivors from the submarine around the clock until it has rescued everyone. The Navy’s previous system, the Mystic-class Deep Submergence Resce Vehicles, used batteries that required charging between rescues.

The Mystic class of vessels was developed after the loss of the USS Thresher and her crew.

For distressed submarines at lower depths, usually 850 feet or less, the Navy can deploy the Submarine Rescue Chamber Flyaway System instead. The SRCFS is a diving bell that is lowered to the submarine via a cable attached to the sub by a diver. Sailors climb into the chamber and are raised to the surface.

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Donald Trump just got an endorsement from a bunch of generals and admirals

In the 2016 election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has struggled to get solid backing from some influential groups that many believe are part of the typical GOP constituency.


But on Tuesday, he received an endorsement he didn’t seem to have to fight to earn.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Retired general-grade officers, some 88 in all, wrote in support of a Trump presidency in an open letter that was published on his campaign website. The letter was organized by Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow and Rear Adm. Charles Williams and includes four four-star and 14 three-star generals and admirals.

They argue that Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the wrong choice for a strong military and that a Trump White House would restore American ranks.

“As retired senior leaders of America’s military, we believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world,” the letter reads, arguing against supporting Clinton.

And Trump was happy to have the senior former military leaders’ backing.

“It is a great honor to have such amazing support from so many distinguished retired military leaders,” Trump said in a statement on his website. “Keeping our nation safe and leading our armed forces is the most important responsibility of the presidency.”

Clinton has received some endorsements from former general officers, including former Marine Gen. John Allen, who was instrumental in helping bring down al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar Province.

But the letter comes at a time when former flag officers are coming under fire for their overt political support. In a letter to the Washington Post, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said retired officers made a “mistake” by speaking at political conventions.

The former top military leader criticized retired Gens. John Allen and Michael Flynn for breaking the tradition of retired generals remaining apolitical.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey answers a reporter’s question during press briefing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“Politicians should take the advice of senior military leaders but keep them off the stage,” Dempsey wrote. “The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference. … And our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines should not wonder about the political leanings and motivations of their leaders.”

It’s not yet known what effect general officers backing Donald Trump in such force will have. With Election Day just nine weeks away, Trump pulled ahead of Clinton by 2 percent in the latest CNN/ORC poll.

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The critics are lining up against the VA’s PTSD pot study

Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.


“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Logo courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project.

VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.

Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.

He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.

“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”

Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.

“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.

The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.

Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.

“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Photo from public domain.

Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.

“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”

About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.

Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.

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7 tips for getting away with fraternization

So, you’ve got a fever and the only cure is a consensual adult relationship that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice? It happens.


And by the way, it can happen among friends, but for this article, we’re going to talk about sexual or romantic relationships.

Related video:

Paraphrasing here from the Manual for Courts Martial: Fraternization in the military is a personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member that violates the customary bounds of acceptable behavior and jeopardizes good order and discipline.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

That’s a mouthful, but it boils down to the intent of guidelines for any relationship among professionals: The appearance of favoritism hurts the group, and, with the military in particular, could actually get someone killed.

Also read: 13 Hilarious Meme Replies To Our Article About Dating On Navy Ships

But we’re only human, right? It’s natural to fall for someone you work with, so here are a couple of tips that can help keep you out of Leavenworth:

1. Don’t do it

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

Seriously. Cut it off when you first start to feel the butterflies-slash-burning-in-your-loins. Flirting is a rush and it’s fun and NO.

Hit the gym. Take a break. Swipe right on Tinder. Do whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.

2. Be discreet

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

Okay, fine, you’re going for it anyway. We’ve all been there (nervous laughter…).

People are more intuitive than you think. Don’t give them any reason to suspect you and your illicit goings-on. Be completely professional at work. Don’t flirt in the office. Don’t send sweet nothings over government e-mail (yes, it is being monitored).

3. Keep it off-base

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

Don’t be stupid, okay? Get away from the watchful eyes all the people around you who live and breathe military regulations.

4. Square away

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

The thing about military punishment is that you are usually judged by your commander first. If you do get caught, you want people to really regret the idea of punishing you.

Be amazing at your job — better yet, be the best at your job. Be irreplaceable. Be a leader and a team player and a bad ass. Set the example with your physical fitness and your marksmanship and your ability to destroy terrorism.

Be beloved by all and you just might get away with a slap on the wrist…

5. Plausible deniability

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

I would never tell you to lie because integrity and honor are all totes important and stuff, but…

If lawyers can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually engaged in criminal activity, you could be spared from a conviction.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that you both happened to be volunteering at the same time. It was for the orphans…

How could you have known that you both like to spend Christmas in Hawaii?

It’s not your fault Sgt. Hottie wanted to attend a concert in the same town where your parents live, right?

6. Talk it out

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

If you can’t have a mature conversation with this person about how to conduct yourselves in the workplace or how you’d each face the consequences of being discovered, you really shouldn’t be getting it on.

You are both risking your careers and livelihoods because of this relationship — don’t take it lightly.

And whatever you do, treat each other with honesty and respect — you’re all you have right now.

7. Don’t go to the danger zone

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

I know you know this, but here’s the thing: REALLY DON’T DO IT (PUN INTENDED) WHILE IN A COMBAT ZONE.

This is life and death. Remind yourself why you chose to serve your country. Pay attention to the men and women around you who trust you and rely on you to protect them.

LOCK IT UP. You’re a warrior and you have discipline.

Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know.

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This video of a dropping mortar round is the best prank footage you’ll see all week

Pranking your buddy in war has been a pastime of bored soldiers since Gen. George Washington slipped Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s hand in warm water while he slept. (Arnold got back at him by selling the plans to West Point’s defenses).


A Middle Eastern fighter got in on the action by dropping a – hopefully fake – mortar round next to his buddy while the other guy was focused on his smartphone.

Check out the action (and the phone junkie’s hilarious reaction) in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhn0u7E2nFI

(h/t Funker 530)

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This WWII tank crew laid waste and inspired the movie ‘Fury’

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Photo: US Army


The 3rd Armored Division landed in Normandy on June 24, 1944 with years of training but no combat experience. Over the next 11 months, the division would be part of the fiercest fighting in Europe during World War II. One tank crew in the division would kill 12 tanks, 258 armored vehicles and self-propelled guns, and 1,000 German soldiers in only 79 days. They also captured 250 German prisoners in the fighting.

The colorfully-named tank “In the Mood” was an M4A1 Sherman led by Staff Sgt. Lafayette “Wardaddy” G. Pool. His driver was Cpl. Wilbert Richards, the assistant driver and bow gunner was Pfc. Bert Close, his gunner was Cpl. Willis Oiler, and Tech. 5th Grade Del Boggs was the loader.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

In the Mood first saw combat at Villers-Fossard on June 29, 1944. 3rd AD was ordered to attack German positions to give the nearby XIX Corps a chance to straighten out their front lines. During the battle, In the Mood was credited with killing 70 German soldiers and three armored vehicles before it was destroyed by Panzer fire. The crew survived and christened a new Sherman as “In the Mood.”

In another engagement, In the Mood and the rest of 32nd Armored Division stumbled into a group of tanks from the 2nd Panzer Division and were forced to defend themselves at close range. When the rounds stopped flying, the tank crew had successfully killed two armored cars and two enemy tanks as well as a number of German dismounts.

In the Mood took its own hits in the fighting and was destroyed three times. The first tank to bear the name was destroyed at Villers-Fossard. The second was destroyed by friendly fire from a P-38 on August 17, 1944. Finally, the third was destroyed on September 15.

Just south Aachen, Germany, the 3rd AD was attempting to cross over the German border. In the Mood took a hit from a German Panther tank. Pool tried to maneuver the tank out of trouble, but the tank was struck by another shot from the Panther and flipped over into a ditch. Pool was blown out of the commander’s hatch and suffered a massive cut in his leg from shrapnel.

Pool’s leg was amputated and his service in the war was over. He returned to the U.S. for nearly two years of rehabilitation followed by a short period of civilian life. He eventually rejoined the Army and fought his way back to 3rd Armored Division where he became an instructor. He retired from the Army on September 19, 1960.

For his service in Europe, Pool was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, and the French Croix de Guerre with gold star. His nickname, “Wardaddy,” was used for Brad Pitt’s character in the 2014 movie “Fury.”

NOW: This first-person video shows what tankers see while blowing targets away

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Recounting the death of Osama bin Laden, five years later

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.

In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.

What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
President Barack Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.

Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:

“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”

It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.

On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.

In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.

A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
President Barack Obama makes a point during one in a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is pictured at right. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.

As Director Clapper said:

“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”

The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.

Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.

President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

Watch:

 

After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.

The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.

I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.

Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.

I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.

Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:

“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”

The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.

The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.

The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.

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