The Indian Air Force’s Pathankot Station in Northern Punjab, very near the border with Pakistan, was attacked in the early hours of January 3, 2016.
Six terrorists from a Kashmir-based separatist group, heavily armed and dressed in Indian Army uniforms, breached the base walls and moved 400 meters into the base before being stopped by Garud Commandos. A raucous small arms battle ensued as the attackers opened up on the Indians with AK-47s and grenade launchers. The battle lasted until 4:15 pm on January 5th, ending with the death of all six attackers, six Defence Security Corps troops and one Indian Air Force Garud commando.
Garuds are the Special Forces of India’s Air Forces. Tasked with airfield seizure, reconnaissance, air assault, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, combat search and rescue, as well as air base defense, they are akin to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force operators or the British Special Air Service.
Corporal Shailabh Gaur was part of a three-man team deployed outside the high value asset area of the air base. One of his teammates immediately took three bullets, so Shailabh took over his position. Fighting for nearly half an hour, Shailabh took 6 bullets in his abdomen but kept returning fire. Reinforcements would not arrive until a full hour after the initial contact between the terrorists and commandos.
The three man team prevented the attackers from entering the part of the base housing the aircraft and kept them from surprising other IAF personnel who might not have been as capable in their response. Shailabh was medevaced to a nearby hospital where he under went surgery for bullet wounds and ruptured intestines.
Marine Gen. James Mattis is something of a legend in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines, and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991, and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle.
One day before beginning the assault into Iraq, on March 19, 2003, every member of 1st Marine Division received this letter, written in Mattis’ own hand.
In the letter, he tells them, “on your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.” He conveys a sense of staying together and working as a team, writing, “keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit.”
He finally signs off with the motto of 1st Marines: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”
An Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber taking part in a training exercise with South Korean forces was threatened by the Chinese while in international airspace.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the threat came while the Lancer was over the East China Sea. China set up an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea in 2013, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The B-1B Lancer carried out its training mission despite the threat. The United States and South Korea are carrying out Foal Eagle, an annual joint exercise held with South Korea. The exercises have long been protested by North Korea. According to a DOD release from earlier this month notes that over 30,000 American and South Korean troops are taking part.
China has had a history of harassing American aircraft and naval vessels in the South China Sea, including the 2001 EP-3 incident, when an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback fighter. The Chinese pilot was killed in the collision, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing. The crew was held for ten days by the Chinese.
While the South China Sea is a well-known flashpoint, the East China Sea is also the location of maritime disputes, including one between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
Some aircraft are practically motion picture stars unto themselves — see the Grumman F-14 Tomcats of Top Gun. Perhaps the most prolific military plane on the silver screen is the B-17 Flying Fortress of countless World War II films. Then there’s the F-35 stealth fighter, which has had a disastrous movie career up to (and including) getting ripped apart by The Incredible Hulk.
The A-10 Warthog’s movie career is more subtle. Its on-screen appearances are in supporting roles that reflect its status as America’s best close-air support aircraft. The low- and slow-flying A-10 is tough, durable and anti-glamorous. Its design is utilitarian — and not pretty to look at.
Really, it’s a flying 30-millimeter Gatling gun with an armored frame built around it and an enormous compliment of missiles and bombed slung underneath the wings. When directors need something that flies and can blow up objects on the ground, the Warthog is a reliable character.
Not that the A-10 has always done well on screen.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Warthog made its first appearance — from what we can tell — in this Denzel Washington-led drama which served as Hollywood’s opening exploration of the Persian Gulf War. While not a classic and (at times) a bit maudlin, Courage Under Fire is a weighty and serious meditation on the inherently confusing nature of combat and the unreliability of eyewitnesses.
Washington portrays a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Medevac Huey commander Capt. Karen Walden, played by Meg Ryan, during combat with Iraqi troops. The White House wants to award her the Medal of Honor, but there are questions about what happened in the moments before her death — which may implicate another soldier. The investigation also forces Washington’s character to confront buried trauma in his past.
The A-10s are only in the film for a brief few seconds, where they napalm the West Texas desert which stands in for the Iraqi battlefield.
We have mixed feelings about this film. To be sure, Jarhead is a good movie — although Marine veterans will point out errors in detail. It’s a mood picture that gets at the feeling of being in the Marines while the movie Marines do things real ones would never do. The film deserves praise, but it’s not perfect.
Jarhead is heavily adapted from the 2003 book of the same name by Marine veteran Anthony Swofford, who served during the Persian Gulf War. In the film version, the Marines advance into Iraq when they see five A-10s flying past them. “Warthogs, baby! Those things are fucking tank killers,” one Marine shouts. “That shit’s a fucking monster!”
Pumped up at the sight, he falls out of formation, which triggers two of the planes to turn around and attack the unit. Note that none of this ever happened. In the book, Swofford references an A-10 strike on a Marine LAV during the Battle of Khafji, which killed 11 U.S. troops. There was no Warthog friendly fire attack on Swofford’s unit in real life.
The scene also flubs several other details. Listen closely.
Fans of the Transformers franchise are more familiar with A-10s appearing in toys depicting shape-shifting alien robots from the 1980s. The A-10 does not turn into a robot in the 2007 Michael Bay ode to military hardware pornTransformers, but they do arrive for a battle with Scorponok.
It’s easy to see why — the Pentagon provided an unprecedented level of support for the film, helped rewrite the script and provided (paid) uniformed extras. The A-10 scene was even filmed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands, New Mexico testing range, which stood in for an Egyptian village.
Don’t expect 100 percent accuracy with sound effects and combat tactics — but the aircraft are real. Remember that the Pentagon doesn’t concern itself so much with unerring accuracy in movies. It cooperates with studios as a recruiting tactic (the military prefers films that have a generally positive take on the institution) and to boost morale for service members and their families.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
It’s a compliment to the A-10’s durability that director McG included it in his post-apocalyptic take on the Terminator franchise. Skynet has nuked the planet and the Resistance relies on the slow-flying planes for close-air support owing to their (relatively) low maintenance requirements.
But the results are … mixed. The United States built the Warthog to destroy Soviet tanks in Europe, so it seems like a perfect fit for striking back at the metal-boned terminators. But when the planes appear in the film, they’re easily shot down by Skynet’s air defenses.
Pentagon watchers will recall that the A-10 is at a center of a heated debate between Congress and the Air Force regarding the future shape of American air power. Terminator Salvation, in a way, illustrates the argument for scrapping the Warthog.
Proponents of retiring the aircraft argue that the A-10 is only useful when the enemy can’t shoot back, as the Warthog is too visible and slow to survive over a battlefield featuring sophisticated radars and surface-to-air weapons, like the kind fielded by Russia and China. Advocates for keeping the aircraft note that the U.S. military largely fights insurgencies and hybrid enemies, which the A-10 is well suited to combat owing to its ability to loiter for long periods.
OK, true, Terminator Salvation is just a movie. But we can expect robotic armies — with sophisticated sensors to boot — to slowly become an emerging reality over the 21st century. Arguably, they’re already here … if you include drones.
Iron Sky (2012)
The absolutely ludicrous Nazi-sploitation film Iron Sky by Finnish director Timo Vuorensola features a President Sarah Palin (portrayed by Stephanie Paul), a soundtrack by Slovenian industrial band Laibach and an invading fleet of Nazi flying saucers launched from a secret moon base.
That’s on top of the space-battleship USS George W. Bush … and a cameo by A-10 Warthogs (digital, of course).
We could complain about the Warthogs acting as the first line of defense in an air battle. The A-10 can carry air-to-air weapons but is a dedicated ground attacker. But this is a movie about Nazis invading the planet from the moon. At the least, you’d want to fight back with everything you’ve got.
I have seen this movie against my better judgement. (I’m a Laibach fan.) But I couldn’t finish it, and would not recommend it. I’ve put up with a lot of schlock-filled action movies — but I have my limits.
Man of Steel (2013)
We’ve previously observed that the U.S. Air Force gets its ass royally kicked in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters fly en masse toward the invading Kryptonian forces of General Zod only for them to do more damage to the civilian population than the enemy. Same goes for the Warthogs.
Two A-10s feature briefly during the battle for Smallville but get blown out of the sky. The U.S. Air Force assisted the production of Man of Steel, which curiously features perhaps one of the worst on-screen performances by the American military in a film — although it’s a valiant effort considering the otherworldly enemy threatening the planet. That’s ultimately a job for Superman, with terribleconsequences for humanity.
Billionaire Paul Allen is known for founding Microsoft alongside Bill Gates, but after the events of the past week, he’ll also be known for helping to find an American warship missing since the end of World War II.
That vessel is none other than the storied USS Indianapolis, a Portland-class heavy cruiser which served the Navy for just under 15 years before being torpedoed on its way to Okinawa in July 1945.
The wreckage of the Indianapolis was discovered in the Philippine Sea, where it was lost upon completing a top secret mission to deliver parts for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima. On its homecoming voyage, the cruiser was attacked by a Japanese submarine, caught completely unawares.
At the time of its loss, the Indianapolis was, for all intents and purposes, a “ghost.” Due to the secrecy of its mission to run nuclear weapon components to the Northern Mariana Islands, it was left out of rosters and no return or deployment was scheduled on paper.
Thus, its whereabouts of the ship where wholly unknown to all but a handful of ranking officials and officers outside the vessel’s crew.
It sank rapidly in deep shark-infested waters, taking hundreds of its crew with it before they could escape the sinking ship. The surviving crew were left adrift at sea without rations or enough lifeboats to hold them. Further complicating matters was the fact that no Allied vessel operating in the area received the ship’s frantic distress signals, meaning that help was definitely not on its way.
The survivors were picked up four days later, entirely by luck. A Ventura patrol aircraft on a routine surveillance flight happened upon clumps of the sailors floating around the Philippine Sea, with no ship in sight. Of the 1196 crew aboard the cruiser, only 321 were pulled out of the water, four of whom would die soon afterward.
Exposure to the elements, starvation and dehydration were some of the primary causes of death for the survivors adrift at sea, as were shark attacks. In fact, rescue pilots were so desperate to get sailors out of the water upon seeing shark attacks happening in real time, they ordered the survivors to be strapped to the wings of their aircraft with parachute cord once the cabin was filled to capacity.
Over seven decades after the Indianapolis went missing, Paul Allen’s research vessel, dubbed the “Petrel,” found the lost ship in 18,000 feet of water, resting silently on the ocean floor. The search has been years in the making, and was ultimately successful thanks to advances in underwater remote detection technology.
This isn’t the first lost warship found by Allen’s team. In 2015, they were also responsible for discovering the Japanese battleship Musashi — one of the largest battleships ever built — sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The Indianapolis is officially still considered property of the U.S. Navy and will not be disturbed as it is the final resting place for hundreds of its deceased crew. Its location will henceforth only be known to Allen’s search team and the Navy.
The last few weeks have seen several new muzzle devices make their way into the marketplace. Comps, brakes, flash hiders — we’ve seen quite an array of ’em. Here are three that caught our eye.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember: at the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you that this is just a “be advised” — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
There are actually two of these: the GUNNER, a 3-port muzzle brake, and the FLAME, a triple prong flash hider. The two new devices follow in the footsteps of Faxon’s Loudmouth single-port brake.
The FLAME is described as being capable of “virtually eliminating” secondary ignition at the mouth of the muzzle, thus making muzzle flash nearly non-existent (their claim — we haven’t tested to verify).
The GUNNER, for its part, is designed to reduce recoil by 50%, making it ideal for competitive shooters. Both are designed to function with 5.56mm and .223 Rem. platforms. Both feature concentric 1/2 x 28 TPI threads, and both retail for $59.99.
Nathaniel Schueth, the Faxon Director of Sales and Product Development, had this to say:
“We are thrilled to be expanding the MuzzLok line of products with the GUNNER and FLAME devices. Both meet shooters’ objectives for versatility and recoil or flash reduction. The GUNNER and FLAME for 5.56 are just the first of many more devices to come using MuzzLok technology.”
GUNNER 3 Port Muzzle Brake:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 2.9 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.4 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
FLAME Tri Prong Flash Hider:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 3.36 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.6 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
2. LANTAC Dragon
The Dragon muzzle brake (officially the “Dragon DGN556B-QM”) shouldn’t be confused with their Drakon or other Dragon models. This one is manufactured to be GemTech QM compatible, making it their first to be designed for use with silencers.
This muzzle device is threaded in 1/2 x 28 for 5.56mm, but we’re reliably informed they’ll be building 7.62 and other versions soon. Unfortunately, despite putting out word of the Dragon over a month ago, it has yet to show up on their website, so we can’t give you an MSRP or any additional details.
All we can do is suggest you check ’em out online or follow their social media for updates (on Instagram @lantac_usa).
3. VLTOR Narwhal
The VLTOR Narwhal is described as a “mix of a brake and a flash suppressor [that] directs blast forward.” It uses an expansion chamber rather than a blast chamber, and as you can see is available from Rainier in a limited edition Stickman version.
“The VLTOR Weapon Systems VC-NRWL muzzle device gives a unique spin on utilizing gas and blast to help rifles function reliably as well as many other features. The muzzle device directs blast and sound forward and away from the shooter by pushing blast out in one direction. This makes the weapon more controllable and helps eliminate muzzle rise to keep the forend of the weapon on a level sight view.
While being an excellent muzzle device for any 5.56/.223 rifle, the VC-NRWL stands out in short barrel applications by allowing backpressure to be utilized for cycling as well as in situations of weak ammunition.”
Some other things to know – it comes with a crush washer, can be installed and clocked with a 1 in. open end wrench, is 3.04 in. long, weighs 5.4 oz. and is Made in the USA.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult tasks any aviator can face. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article quoted one Desert Storm veteran as saying that the stress really came “when I got back to the ship and started landing on the carrier in the dark,” rather than when he was being shot at by Iraqi SAMs.
How can that stress be eased? This is an eternal question – mostly because there are lots of variables. One carrier landing could be in daylight with clear skies and a calm sea. The next could be in the middle of a thunderstorm in pitch black darkness. A pilot has to keep all of that in mind, not to mention the fact that the carrier itself is moving.
Boeing, though, has been working on some new software for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers to make this most difficult and stressful of tasks a little less so. It’s called the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. The acronym appropriately spells “MAGIC CARPET.”
This system handles calculating the many variables pilots making a carrier landing have to deal with, allowing the pilot to make simpler adjustments as the plane heads in for a landing.
Boeing put out a video about MAGIC CARPET. Take a look at the future of carrier landings!
A series of troubling reports have been coming out from the U.S. military asserting that decades of U.S. military supremacy has eroded in the face of a resurgent Russia and a booming China, but the US Navy has conceived of some new technologies that they say can restore the U.S. to its former glory.
“We face competitors who are challenging us in the open ocean, and we need to balance investment in those capabilities— advanced capabilities — in a way that we haven’t had to do for quite a while,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement.
As it is, Russia and China can effectively deny US forces access to militarily significant areas, like Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.
In response, the U.S. Navy ran a “rigorous program of analytics and wargaming,” and came up with a bold new strategy to turn the tables on these rising powers—distributed lethality.
Simply put, distributed lethality means giving every ship, from the smallest to the biggest, a range of advanced weapons that can destroy targets dependably, accurately, and without interference from enemy missile defense.
In the future, ships “will be equipped with the weapons and advanced capabilities that it will need to deter any aggressor and to make any aggressor who isn’t deterred very much regret their decision to take us on,” Carter said.
In the slides below, see the new munitions the US Navy wants to put aggressive authoritarian regimes in check.
The Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk missile.
A Tomahawk missile launches from the USS Farragut.
The Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) missile has been around since the 70s, and has seen use in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but a new anti-ship version of the missile with a 1,000 nautical mile range could be deployed onboard Navy ships of all types within a decade.
In February of 2015, the USS Kidd fired a Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk variant that successfully hit a moving target at sea from long range, immediately drawing praise from top naval brass.
“This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work after the successful testing. “It can be used by practically by our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.
Length: 20 feet long
Weight: 3,000 pounds
Range: 1,000 nautical miles
Navy plans to acquire: 4,000 Tomahawks over five years for $2 billion
Watch the successful test of the newly improved Tomahawk missile. Keep in mind that to keep the cost of testing down, the missile was not meant to sink the ship.
“[Along with] our surface brothers and sisters, we got to get the long-range missile so we’re not held out by that A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) bubble and we have the stick to hit inside,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander, Naval Submarine Forces said.
The SM-6 Dual I
USS Dewey test-fires the Navy’s first SM-6 missiles, March 31. 2011 | U.S. Navy
The SM-6 interceptor may be the first missile capable of intercepting both ballistic missiles, which fall from the sky, and cruise missiles, which fly along the surface of earth, sometimes even snaking through mountains.
In the past, these two distinct types of missiles, ballistic and cruise, have required different missiles to stop them, but the SM-6’s advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities make it a useful defense against both types.
Length: 21 feet long
Weight: 3,300 pounds
Role in 2017 budget plan: $501 million to acquire 125 SM-6s
Watch the SM-6 intercept both a ballistic and a cruise missile.
“It’s the only missile now out there that has what we call dual-mission capability,” Raytheon program manager Mike Campisi told BreakingDefense.com.
“That allows the combatant commanders to have choice. Instead of having separate boutique missiles for each mission… they can put SM-6s,” Campisi continued.
AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile)
An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet on 12 August 2015 .
The LRASM is a precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile with a penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead. The Navy wants the LRASM to replace the harpoon, which has been in service since 1977, and is easily foiled by today’s modern defenses.
The LRASM on the other hand, is stealthy due to it’s angular shape, making it hard for enemies to detect. Also, in the case of electronic interference, the LRASM has advanced anti-jamming GPS guidance.
Additionally, the LRASM can be fired from ships and planes, like the F/A-18 pictured above.
Length: 14 feet
Weight: 2,100 pounds
Range: more than 200 miles
Speed: high subsonic
Navy plans to acquire: $30 million for the first 10 missiles
A Colonial Space Marine without a pulse rifle is like cake without candles; good, but not great. While a Space Corps has been proposed, it’ll be a long time before we see our science fiction dreams of sweet, sweet xenomorph murdering fully realized. In the meantime while we wait for the apocalyptic space future promised by 1980’s movies, there’s an opportunity to get your hands on an original prop of arguably the most iconic movie weapon in a generation: The M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens.
You’re going to have to pay a hefty price for the pleasure, however.
Where else but eBay can we find details on the original prop?
The item description features a decent breakdown of the parts used. Like many other movie props of the era, the M41A Pulse Rifle consists of actual firearm components intermixed with custom fabricated elements.
Aliens original hero Colonial Marine M41-A Pulse Rifle. (TCF, 1986) One of the most famous Sci-Fi firearms, the M41-A Pulse Rifle was featured heavily in James Cameron’s 1986 action sequel Aliens.
Designed by Cameron himself and constructed under the supervision of renowned armorer Simon Atherton at Bapty Armory, the Pulse Rifle is viewed by many as the pinnacle of Sci-Fi prop weaponry. This is an original prop Pulse Rifle that was originally constructed for and used in Aliens, and later re-built and re-used in Alien 3.
The prop is constructed around a WWII era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, which was originally modified to fire blanks for the production and has since been fully decommissioned. The Thompson is fitted with a custom-made pistol grip, and a custom-made extended barrel.
A SPAS-12 shotgun cage mounts below the Thompson barrel via a custom-stamped barrel shroud, simulating the grenade launcher. The grenade launcher features the original SPAS-12 pump handle, which was cut down for a different look in the film. It slides freely back and forth, allowing the pump-action loading of the launcher to be simulated. As only one version of the Pulse Rifle had a practical grenade launcher (actually a Remington 870 shotgun) fitted, this piece has a dummy grenade launcher filling the SPAS cage…
…The ends of the piece are capped with a custom-made steel shoulder stock, and a custom-made aluminum barrel cap at the front of the grenade launcher. The entire assembly is housed in a vacuum-formed ABS outer casing, which completes the unique profile of the prop. While all other components on the piece were used in Aliens, the casing was installed specifically for the production of Alien 3.
After Aliens, all of the Pulse Rifle props were struck back to their original firearm components, and most of the casings used were discarded as they were no longer deemed necessary. When the decision was made for Weyland scientists to carry Pulse Rifles during the climax of Alien 3, Bapty had to re-assemble the Pulse Rifles and were now lacking the outer casings. New outer casings were therefore manufactured by vacuum-forming over one of the original casings from Aliens, and the new ABS casing was fitted to the prop with bolts, brackets and custom-riveted plates.
The outer casing was originally painted black for use in Alien 3, as are all Pulse Rifle props in the film, but was later re-sprayed green by Bapty to return the piece to its classic Aliens form. The clip base is made from wood and is installed with a screw at the front of the casing. The Pulse Rifle is complete and in good film-used and weathered condition.
All of the moveable components-the shoulder stock, grenade launcher pump handle, and original Thompson selector switches and trigger-can be moved and positioned. This is a rare opportunity to own a masterpiece of film prop weaponry. Special shipping must be arranged through a federal firearms licensed dealer. $12,000 – $15,000
This famous prop is part of Hollywood Auction 89 – a live auction being held on June 28th at 14:00 PST. Details of each item up for grabs can be found on the auction page.
If you don’t have a spare $15k set aside for a rainy day, the game isn’t over quite yet. You can build a functional M41A for yourself, or for the less mechanically inclined, obtain an airsoft version.
As for us, we’ll stick to spending that kind of coin on actual machine guns, with a healthy side of late night Aliens screenings
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
Women in the military have only just begun to join combat jobs, but their influence on military service has been felt for decades. Some of their contributions changed the way we treat our veterans or even changed the way we live our lifes. They all advanced the cause for women becoming equal partners in service to their country. Here are the stories of six of these female military pioneers:
1. Grace Hopper – U.S. Navy, Creator of Modern Life
If you’re not familiar with the effects of the COBOL programming language, it can best be summed up by saying that the average American requires at least 13 uses of the code every day. It’s used for business transactions, things like placing phone calls, taking public transportation, or using credit cards. There are 200 times more processes using COBOL applications than there are Google searches. Every. Day. This language was developed by Grace Hopper in 1959 after she had already been in the Navy for 16 years.
Before “Amazing Grace,” computers only spoke to each other in binary, which humans couldn’t read or interact with. COBOL was an offshoot of the first programming languages, MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC. She also created the compiler, which changes source codes in the programming language to the computer language (often a binary code). She originally retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966 at the rank of Commander, but was recalled to active duty a number of times, promoted to Commodore in 1983 (then the Navy’s O-7), and was allowed to stay on active duty well beyond mandatory retirement, by special order of Congress. She died in 1992 at age 85.
2. Kit Coleman, First Female War Correspondent
The pen name of Canadian journalist Kathleen Blake, Kit Coleman covered the Spanish-American War for the Toronto Mail in 1898. She was the first accredited female war correspondent and was the first president of the Canadian Women’s Press Club.
The Toronto Mail sent Coleman to Cuba to write feature stories, not news from front line combat there. After receiving her accreditation from the U.S. government, she was authorized to follow U.S. troops. Male journalists tried to sabotage her and leaver her in Florida but she made it to Cuba anyway. her coverage of the aftermath of battles and the human casualties made her famous.
3. Valentina Tereshkova – Soviet Air Force, The First Woman in Space
Tereshkova was the first woman in space and is still the only woman ever to conduct a solo space flight. On her first trip, she orbited the earth 48 times over the course of three days. At the time, she was a decade younger than the youngest Mercury 7 astronaut, Gordon Cooper. With her 1963 flight, she logged more time in space than all American astronauts combined.
She kept a meticulous log and took photos of the Earth’s horizon, which were used to identify aerosol layers in the atmosphere. She would later become a prominent Soviet politician and goodwill ambassador. The Tereshkova Crater on the moon is named in her honor.
4. Linda Bray – U.S. Army, The First Woman to Lead U.S. Troops in Combat
U.S. Army Captain Linda Bray was leading a Military Police company in Panama during Operation Just Cause. The U.S. invaded the country to oust the dictator Manuel Noriega, ensure the neutrality of the Panama Canal Zone and uphold the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. Bray’s platoon was ordered to neutralize a canine unit belonging to the Panamanian Defense Force and prevent their communicating warning of the invasion. When her unit, the 998th Military Police Company, approached the dog kennel building, they instead found an arms cache and a unit of the Panamanian special forces.
She led her platoon in the ensuing firefight, killing three and taking one prisoner before being forced to withdraw. Her unit took no casualties. This action earned her the distinction of being the first woman to lead a U.S. military unit in combat.
5. Dr. Mary E. Walker, First Female POW and Only Female Medal of Honor Recipient
After graduating from Syracuse Medical College in Upstate New York, Mary Walker started a lucrative medical practice. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Dr. Walker, a dedicated abolitionist, offered her services to the Union Army. She treated wounded soldiers in the Washington, D.C. area, which makes Walker the first female surgeon in the U.S. military as well. She pulled wounded soldiers off the battlefields in the middle of firefights and often used her medical abilities to cross the lines, retrieving wounded soldiers while collecting information as a spy.
On one such occasion, she was arrested by Confederate troops as a spy and sent to a POW camp near Richmond, Virginia until she was exchanged for a Confederate major. After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor for her extended, heroic service to frontline troops. As of 2016, Dr. Walker remains the only female Medal of Honor recipient.
6. Nell Gwyn, Founder of the First Veteran’s Hospital
An actress and sometime prostitute in Shakespearean England, she came from some of the most violent slums of London. She would come to the entrances of theaters to sell oranges and hope for a part in a play. King Charles II met Gwyn while disguised and going about the theaters of London one night. She was with a high-born “customer” in one of the theater boxes that night. The man, Lord Buckhurst, recognized the king. She ended up spending a lot of time with the king and the public grew to like her.
She felt for the aging soldiers who fought for Charles and the monarchy in the relatively recent English Civil War. They were neglected and dying en mass. While most ladies at this time would use their pull with the nobility to get titles and money, Gwyn used hers to found Chelsea Hospital, the first hospital exclusively to treat and care for veterans.
On Dec. 4, 1950, Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, was leading a six-plane reconnaissance patrol over North Korea near the Chosin Reservoir. Marines and soldiers on the ground were conducting a fighting retreat and Navy aviators were covering their withdrawal.
The Korean and Chinese soldiers were well-camouflaged, so Brown’s flight of F4U Corsairs from Fighter Squadron 32 flew at low altitudes to try and spot the enemy infantry. The noise of the engines prevented the pilots from hearing ground fire, but muzzle flashes began blinking against the snow.
Immediately after the shots, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner, a friend of Brown’s and a member of the flight, spotted vapor streaming from Brown’s engine. Hudner radioed Brown, who confirmed that he was quickly losing oil pressure. 17 miles behind enemy lines, Brown was going to crash.
Hudner pointed out an open expanse of snow where Brown could land with relative safety, but the crash was still violent enough that the cockpit buckled in. Hudner worried that Brown was dead until he began moving. Knowing that Brown wouldn’t survive long in the extreme winter cold of the Korean mountains, Hudner crash-landed his own plane near Brown’s.
He jumped from his cockpit and rushed to Brown. He attempted to free his friend, but saw that his leg was pinned down by the instrument panel.
Hudner began alternating between trying to free Brown and packing snow around the smoking engine to keep it from bursting into flames. When he got a chance, he returned to his plane and requested a rescue helicopter with an ax and fire extinguisher.
When the helicopter arrived, Hudner and the helicopter pilot, 1st Lt. Charles Ward, continued to try and free Brown. It became clear that they would need more equipment, and Hudner asked his friend to hold on.
“I told Jesse we couldn’t get him out without more equipment, and we were going to get more,” Hudner told The New York Times in 2013. “He didn’t respond. I think he died while we were talking to him.”
Hudner and Ward flew back to the USS Leyte Gulf. A few days later, Fighter Squadron 32 decided that they wouldn’t be able to secure the crash site and recover Brown’s remains, so they conducted a napalm run to burn them rather than allow their capture.
Hudner and Brown had been unlikely friends. They met in the locker room of Fighter Squadron 32 in Dec. 1949, a year before the events at the Chosin Reservoir.
“Shortly after I joined the squadron, I was changing into flight gear and he came in and nodded ‘Hello,” Hudner said in The New York Times interview. “I introduced myself, but he made no gesture to shake hands. I think he did not want to embarrass me and have me not shake his hand. I think I forced my hand into his.”
Brown was the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who knew he wanted to be a Navy aviator since he was a child. He fought tooth-and-nail to overcome racial barriers and become one of the first African-American Navy officers and the first Navy’s first black aviator. Hudner was the privileged son of a Massachusetts business owner and a graduate of the Naval Academy.
The story of Brown and Hudner is the subject of “Devotion,” a new book by New York Times bestselling author Adam Makos. Hear Hudner tell the story in his own words in the video below.