Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator - We Are The Mighty
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Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

In 1945, Sid Shafner, a member of the U.S. Army with the 42nd Infantry Division, liberated Marcel Levy from Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. This month — just over seventy years later — the two met again.


Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsored the Denver, Colorado resident and his family on an eight-day trip to Israel and Poland as part of it’s “From Holocaust to Independence” delegation to Poland and Israel. The World War II veteran was honored at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony for his helping to set approximately 30,000 prisoners free. Marcel Levy was one of those who is alive today as a result of the Allied Forces’ heroic and compassionate efforts.

In an interview with ABC, Peter Weintraub, president of the organization who sponsored the trip, said the two men met for the first time when Shafner’s convoy was stopped near Marcel Levy who asked that Shafner and his men leave their route and help the prisoners – to which they agreed. The two men became friends.

On May, 10th at an Israeli military base, Levy, 90, who walks with a cane and Shafner, 94, who is in a wheelchair – had a reunion filled with tearful embraces that was captured on camera. Weintraub told ABC that Levy told Shafner, “Everything I have today, all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, is due to you, Sid.”

This was the first time the organization reunited a survivor with his or her liberator.

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This is how a Predator can make the world a better place

When a senior al-Qaeda terrorist (or one from the Islamic State or Boko Haram) gets blown to smithereens, it makes the world a better place. An MQ-1 Predator drone made that happen late last month when its AGM-114 Hellfire missiles killed a senior al-Qaeda leader by the name of Farouq al-Qahtani.


Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
A MQ-1B Predator from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom here July 9, 2008. Through the use of advanced capabilities, focused doctrine and detailed training the predator provides integrated and synchronized close air combat operations, to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)

According to a report by BBC News, al-Qahtani was hiding out in Kunar Provine, Afghanistan when the Predator carried out the strike on Oct. 23. Al-Qahtani’s death was confirmed by the Pentagon on Nov. 5. The Daily Caller reported that documents captured during the 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden mentioned al-Qahtani as a well-known figure, who was known by the alias Furuq al-Qatari.

“We have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari,” one operative of the terrorist group wrote. The United States admitted Oct. 28 he was the target of a drone strike.

Read More: The US just droned 2 of the top terrorists in Afghanistan

Predator and Reaper drones (also known as “Predator Bs”) have killed a number of high-ranking terrorists. Here’s some of the “greatest hits” that the MQ-1/AGM-114 Hellfire combination has pulled off:

Anwar al-Awlaki: A high-ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki was involved in the attempt to use an underwear bomb to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and had been in contact with the perpetrator of the November 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. He also preached at the mosque that was attended by at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki died on Sept. 30, 2011.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
An MQ-9 Reaper, also known as a Predator B, comes in for a landing. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi: Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi was one of the suspected masterminds of the attack on USS Cole in October 2000. The strike carried out in November 2002 that killed him and five other al-Qaeda operatives was the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle was used against a senior terrorist.

Hakimullah Mehsud: The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed on Nov. 1, 2013. During his tenure, the Pakistani Taliban carried out the murder-suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in 2010 and the shooting of Malala Yousefzai on Oct. 9, 2012.

Baitullah Mehsud: The founder of the Pakistani Taliban and the immediate predecessor of Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on Aug. 5, 2009. Under his leadership the Pakistani Taliban had carried out the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

Not a bad start. Hopefully, there will be many more.

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This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online


Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.

Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.

“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.

Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.

“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.

“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”

A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012.  Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.

“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”

When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.

Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.

“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.

“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”

These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.

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5 military perks that will help you win at service life


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

We did not join the military for the fabulous pay — if money were the only motivator, we’d all go somewhere else.

Related: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:

“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.

Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

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19 awesome images of the massive RIMPAC exercise going on right now

Countries that border the Pacific are taking part in a massive exercise called “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC.” Dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of people are practicing their warfighting skills in RIMPAC.


Military photographers and videographers have been sending out hundreds of excellent photos and videos from the exercise this year, and here are 19 of the best of what they’d captured:

1. Marines and U.S. allies attacked the beaches of Hawaii in a simulated amphibious assault

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
US Marines conduct an amphibious assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

2. Once the Marines hit the sand, they flooded out of their vehicles and got to work

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
US Marines land on the sands of Hawaii during a joint exercise beach assault with the Japan Self Defense Force. (GIF: US Marine Corps Cpl. Natalie Dillon)

3. Marine attack helicopters flew overhead and provided support to the guys on the ground

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367 protects US Marines during a beach assault as part of Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

5. Ashore, infantry Marines prepped for the hard fight to the island’s interior

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
US Marines move their mortars forward during a beach assault in Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)

6. At training areas past the sand, the Marines practiced assaulting buildings and bunkers

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
US Marines participate in an amphibious assault on Bellows Beach, Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Royal New Zealand Navy Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn)

7. They even went to firing ranges to practice making stuff blow up

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
US Marines operate in Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii July 20, 2016. (GIF: US Marine Corps Cpl. Isaac Ibarra)

8. Out at sea, the Navy got in the action with a large formation of 40 ships that included some surprising participants …

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Forty ships and submarines sail in close formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

BTW, if you want to see hundreds of photos of these 40 ships sailing next to each other, just click on this link. Literally hundreds. There are different angles and close-ups on dozens of the ships available.

9. … like the Coast Guard’s USCGC Stratton …

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
USCGC Stratton steams through the Pacific (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

10. … and a Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark got in on the action of Pacific Rim. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

11. Onboard the Peace Ark, doctors and other medical personnel practiced treating patients and responding to humanitarian crises

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Chinese medical personnel aboard the hospital ship Peace Ark treat simulated injuries during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy)

12. Another Chinese ship, the multirole frigate Hengshui, fired on targets to display its proficiency

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
The Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui fires its main gun at a towed target during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Senior Capt. Liu Wenping)

13. Under the waves, a New Zealand dive unit had to locate an 18-foot shipping container and assist in its recovery

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: New Zealand Defence Force Photographer Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn

14. A Canadian team found and interrogated an underwater wreck during their training

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Canadian divers held their training at an underwater range on July 17, 2016, as part of Rim of the Pacific. (GIF: Canadian Forces Combat Camera Master Corporal Christopher Ward)

15. Forces from four allied countries land on a “captured” beach on a Royal Australian Navy landing craft

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
A Royal Australian Navy landing craft transports Australian, New Zealand, Tongan, and US forces to a Hawaii beach on Jul. 30. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

16. Military vehicles laid down beach matting to prevent other vehicles from slipping on the loose sand. The matting can be laid down in combat to allow tanks and other heavy vehicles to assault towards their objectives quickly

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
An LX-120 front end loader lays down beach matting during Rim of the Pacific 2016. The matting makes it easier for follow-on vehicles to cross the loose sand. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

17. Royal Australian combat engineers cleared the way inland for allied forces by searching out mines and other simulated explosives

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Royal Australian Army Sgt. Connor Chamney syncs his mine calibration equipment Jul. 30. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William Holdaway)

18. Air Force F-22 Raptors and a tanker aircraft assisted with the exercise, allowing the Air Force to improve its interoperability with the U.S. Navy and foreign militaries

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Three US Air Force F-22 Raptors refuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory A. Harden II)

19. The Mexican Navy sent small craft to southern California to practice working with U.S. Navy riverine craft, the small boats that patrol rivers and other tight waterways

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
A Mexican Navy coastal patrol boat practices tactical maneuvers during a mission with the US Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 in Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan A. Nelson)

RIMPAC takes place on most even-numbered years and has been held 25 times since 1971. America’s traditional allies in the Pacific usually attend, but some rivals like Russia and China are common guests as well.

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Wounded Warrior Project reportedly accused of wasting donor money

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden | U.S. Army


The charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, is facing accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to a CBS News report.

Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.

According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.

Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.

“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.

About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.

Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News’ interview requests for Nardizzi, but instead sent Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules, who denied there was excessive spending on conferences.

“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.

Kules added the charity did not spend $3 million on the Colorado conference, but he was not there and was unable to say what it did cost. He also told CBS News that the charity does not spend money on alcohol or engage in any other kind of excessive spending.

 

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These battleship vets bring the USS North Carolina back to life through combat stories

The USS North Carolina was what they called a “fast” battleship, designed for long range shooting matches with other ships of war. She was faster than any other ship in the U.S. fleet when she was built.


“I was 17 when I came aboard this thing,” says James Bowen, a World War II veteran and USS North Carolina sailor. “I saw that thing and said ‘Nothing can hurt me on that thing.’ So I think of this as my second mother.”

“It brings back a lot of memories, if you walk around the ventilators,” says Louis Popovich, another USS North Carolina veteran. “It’s amazing how you can be reminded of an area by breathing some of the air.”

By the end of WWII, submarine warfare and aircraft carriers made the more expensive heavy gun warships like North Carolina all but obsolete. The last use of a battleship in combat was in Desert Storm, but by then they were firing Tomahawk missiles. Slowly over the next 50 years, the battleships of WWII were decommissioned one by one.

The North Carolina was opened to the public in 1963 and is now moored at Wilmington, N.C, where those interested in hearing more stories from the men who fought aboard her can visit.

While the ship will be there for the foreseeable future, the veterans’ firsthand stories will not. An estimated 430 WWII veterans die every day and by 2036, they will all be gone — but not forgotten.

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‘Hunter Troop’ is Norway’s all-female special operations unit

Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.


“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Graduates of the course are expected to conduct special reconnaissance missions and are trained on parachute operations, weapons, survival, and patrol skills, according to the Norwegian military’s recruitment page for the unit.

Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.

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Obama just gave President-elect Trump a powerful new weapon in the War on Terror

With just weeks left on his presidency, Barack Obama created an organization to expand the reach of the executive office in the fight against terrorism.


According to the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe, Obama created an organization within the existing Joint Special Operations Command they describe as a “new multiagency intelligence and action force.”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
(DoD Photo)

Related: SEAL Team 6’s plan to surrender and 7 other amazing JSOC tales

Called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force” – and dubbed “Ex-Ops” in the Pentagon – it takes the JSOC targeting model and expands it to a global scale, bypassing regional combatant commanders, answering to the Special Operations Command, to expedite the U.S. efforts to attack global terror networks, the story says.

Previously, methods used to target and kill individual terrorists or small cells involved deploying a unit under SOCOM command to regional combatant commands, who would direct the SOCOM assets. The new changes under the Obama administration will, in practice, elevate SOCOM to a regional combatant command.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The Post cites anonymous sources who say the new task force is the “codification” of the U.S. military’s best practices honed over the past 15 years in the War on Terror.

Some fear that elevating SOCOM authority and allowing its mission to bypass existing commanders will cause friction between commands, but reducing layers of authority and red tape is the purpose of the Ex-Ops mission.

“Layers have been stripped away for the purposes of stopping external networks,” a defense official told the Washington Post. “There has never been an ex-ops command team that works trans-regionally to stop attacks.”

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These are Hollywood’s 5 most awesome military spouses

As any career military person knows, the job is next to impossible without support on the homefront. And making that support happen isn’t easy.


So in honor of #MilitarySpouseAppreciationDay (let’s get it trending, people), WATM presents our choices for 5 times Hollywood did right by military spouses (considering Hollywood’s ability to get it right, period, of course):

1. Madeleine Stowe as Julie Moore in “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

Madeleine Stowe portrays Julie Moore, wife of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the commander of the Army unit that finds itself in the middle of the first major battle of the Vietnam War. Stowe does a great job of showing Julie’s support for her husband’s career choice (while making sure he gets over his bad self from time to time) and strength when the word of casualties starts returning stateside.

2. Sienna Miller as Taya Kyle in “American Sniper”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
(Photos: Warner Bros.)

“At its essence, this is a human story between two people: one of whom is doing these extraordinary, unimaginable things so far from home and the other who is trying to hold her family together,” Miller said. “And having met Taya [Kyle] I felt a responsibility to do it justice.”

3. Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager in “The Right Stuff”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Chuck (Sam Shepard) and Glennis (Barbara Hershey) enjoy a quiet moment before he risks life and limb attempting to break the speed of sound. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Barbara Hershey’s tough and sexy portrayal of Air Force legend Chuck Yeager’s wife Glennis is only a minor part of the movie, but her peformance is pitch perfect in terms of capturing what kind of woman it takes to be the wife of a military man who willingly rides into the jaws of death on a regular basis. Signature line: Chuck (played by Sam Shepard) looks at Glennis and says, “I’m fearless, but I’m scared to death of you.”

4. Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw in “Top Gun”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

Carole Bradshaw knows how to party and keep her man’s focus where it belongs (“Take me to bed or lose me forever”) as well as take care of the homefront while her husband “Goose” is out there feeling the need for speed. And she’s the model of sorrow and strength after he dies while ejecting from an out-of-control F-14.

5. Debra Winger as Paula Pokrifki in “Officer and a Gentleman”

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Paula (Debra Winger) with Zach (Richard Gere) right before he carries her out of the factory and into life as a Navy wife. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Okay, Debra Winger doesn’t play a military spouse in “Officer and a Gentleman,” but she does play a girlfriend who is about to become a military spouse, which is a very important part of the process. Marital success rates notwithstanding, the cities around training bases have bred more military wives than anyplace else, and Winger’s portrayal of the fetching Paula accurately captures how and why that happens.

 

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Friendly fire kills 18 US allies

At least 18 members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike that mistakenly targeted them in Syria’s Raqqa province.


In a statement released on April 13, U.S. Central Command said 18 SDF fighters died in the air raid south of the city of Tabqa on April 11. The attack was believed to be hitting members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (IZEIN ALRIFAI/AFP/GImages)

SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions, mostly fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” CENTCOM said.

“The coalition’s deepest condolences go out to the members of the SDF and their families. The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”

The coalition added it is assessing the cause of the friendly fire attack.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 13 at least 25 other SDF fighters were killed in clashes against ISIL in the suburbs of Tabqa.

The incident occurred as U.S.-backed Syrian forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, as they move in from the city’s north.

SDF captured the strategic Tabqa airbase from ISIL in March. The airbase is 28 miles west of Raqqa,

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This Japanese pilot led the attack on Pearl Harbor then moved to the US

Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.


Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.

It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

He later wrote:

“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”

See Also: The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.

He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.

When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer  a few years later.

He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Mitsuo Fuchita with Jacob DeShazer and family after WWII ended.

After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.

Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


NAVY

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (July 14, 2015) LT Christopher Malherek, assigned to the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, prepares to land a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft during a routine training flight for the squadron’s advanced readiness program.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Porter/USN

MIAMI, Fla. (July 14, 2015) Steel Worker 1st Class Jesse Hamblin, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT-2), makes a vertical fillet weld on a half inch steel plate.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight/USN

MARINE CORPS

Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/USMC

FOG BAY, Australia – Australian Army soldiers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and U.S. Marines, assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, work together during an amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11, 2015.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Sgt. Sarah Anderson/USMC

COAST GUARD

Cutter Cypress sits front and center during a practice session for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: USCG

Two adults and two children were found alive following an extensive search by Coast Guard crews off the coast of South Carolina. The four did not return as scheduled from a fishing trip, and were found this morning clinging to an ice cooler. More on this case: http://goo.gl/GCRulc

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: USMC

 AIR FORCE

C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing await training missions at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Barry Loo/USAF

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, waits as Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron complete a final check of the aircraft’s weapons before taking off on a combat sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 14, 2015.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/USAF

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off at Jungwon Air Base ROK, during Buddy Wing 15-6.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson/USAF

ARMY

Army engineers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Iron Brigade), employ a M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) during a breaching exercise, at Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Spc. Gregory T. Summers, 3rd Armored B/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, fires a Polish RPG-7D rocket-propelled grenade alongside a Polish paratrooper from the 6th Airborne Brigade during live-fire training, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, at Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Capt. Spencer Garrison/US Army

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Command, conduct night land navigation during a Sapper Leader Course prerequisite training exercise on Camp San Luis Obispo Military Installation, Calif., July 15, 2015.

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator
Photo: Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/US Army

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: Watch civilians mangle the official title of the Afghanistan War

 

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