Articles

The story of the last American to die in World War II


The last American to die in World War II was killed three days after the war was over.

After Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945 — what would be called V-J Day ("Victory over Japan") — the war in the Pacific ended just like it had started in 1941: with "a surprise attack by Japanese war planes," wrote Stephen Harding in Air & Space Magazine.

With just one other bomber alongside and no fighter escort, Army photographer Sgt. Anthony Marchione was flying in an Army Air Force B-32 Dominator bomber aircraft on Aug. 18 with a mission to take reconnaissance photos and ensure Japan was following the cease fire.

Consolidated B-32-1-CF (S/N 42-108471), the first B-32 built after modification to Block 20 standards. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But some in the Japanese military had other plans that day. The two B-32's were shot at by anti-aircraft and enemy aircraft fire soon after they got over Tokyo, and three airmen were wounded, including Marchione.

Japanese Emperor Hirohito had announced over the radio that his country had surrendered, but there were a number of military diehards who vowed to fight on until a formal document was signed (Japan's formal surrender was not signed until Sep. 2).

"When I got there, Tony was bleeding from a big hole in his chest," 2nd Lt. Kurt Rupke told Air & Space Magazine's Stephen Harding in 1997 (other eyewitnesses said Marchione was hit in the groin). "He was still conscious when I got to him, and I told him everything was going to be all right. He said 'Stay with me,' and I said 'Yes, I'll stay with you.' I did the best I could to stop the bleeding and I held him in my arms."

From Robert F. Dorr writing for the Defense Media Network:

According to government microfilm records, when the two B-32s reached Tokyo, anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on them. With flak bursts exploding at what appeared to be a safe distance, the bombers then came under attack from what the American side identified as Nakajima Ki-44 army fighters, known to the Americans as "Tojos" and by Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero naval fighters, dubbed "Zekes" in U.S. parlance. In fact, the Tojos were probably Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden, or "George," fighters.

According to Dorr, another soldier with Marchione remembered hearing unusual radio transmissions when the pilot of the damaged B-32 asked the other to slow down so it could keep up. One of the Japanese pilots said over the radio in English, "Yes, please slow down so I can shoot you down, too."

Marchione's crew when he was flying on B-24 Liberators (he is second from right)/Photo via Together We Served

The voice may have belonged to Lt. Saburo Sakai — an English-speaking Japanese ace who confirmed he participated in the engagement — though there is some dispute over whether he fired his guns that day, Defense Media Network reported. But he seemed to take credit for the B-32 shooting and rationalize it in this quote, captured in the book "Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45" by Henry Sakaida:

"What we did was perfectly legal and acceptable under international law and the rules of engagement. While Japan did agree to the surrender, we were still a sovereign nation, and every nation has the right to protect itself. When the Americans sent over their B-32s, we did not know of their intentions," Sakai said. "By invading our airspace they were committing a provocative and aggressive act ... It was most unwise for the Americans to send over their bombers only a few days after the surrender announcement. They should have waited and let things cool down."

Regardless of who fired the shots, there is no dispute over what happened before the B-32 landed safely back in Okinawa. Nineteen-year-old Sgt. Anthony Marchione succumbed to his wounds, the last of more than 407,000 Americans to die in World War II.

He is buried in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

NOW: Amazing WWII photographs you've never seen before >

How the 82d Airborne sent Putin a message at Saber Strike

The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It's America's fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.

During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.

With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army's Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Culture
Oriana Pawlyk

It's Official: The Space Force is now the 6th Military Branch

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to create a "space force" as a new, sixth military branch to oversee missions and operations in the space domain.

"We must have American dominance in space," Trump said during a speech at the National Space Council meeting, held at the White House on June 18, 2018. "I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense to immediately begin the process to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Alex Lockie

China threatens US bombers with anti-aircraft drills

Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.

China's drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.

Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.

Keep reading... Show less

4 workouts that burn the most calories per hour

Service members have busy schedules, so it can be challenging to carve out time enough to burn those calories. Most of us exercise for about an hour each time we put on our PT gear. Typically, those workouts consists of a multi-mile run alongside our squadmates.

After the PT session, many troops call it a day, but other service members are looking to get as jacked as possible as quickly as they can — which leads us to the burning question:

Which workouts burn the most calories in the least time?

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

Why Owen from 'Jurassic World' is one of the most accurate movie vets

Hollywood seems to have a skewed idea of veterans who return to the civilian world. They're either over-the-top action junkies, like John Rambo (in movies outside of First Blood), or they're a broken-down husk of who they once were, like, well, basically any character in any drama set after a war's end.

In real life, veterans are cut from the same cloth as everyone else. You've got your outstanding, Captain America-types, your aggressive Punisher-types, and just about everyone in between. But all of the characteristics of your everyday veteran can be seen clearly in Chris Pratt's character, Owen Grady, in 2015's Jurassic World.

Grady's service is barely hinted at in the movie. In the scene where Owen and Claire are trying to find her nephews, Claire implies that Owen could, simply, just track them down by their scent or footprints. Owen quickly (and hilariously) responds with, "I was with the Navy, not the Navajo."

This one line gives a whole new meaning to everything that he does throughout the film.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH
David Cenciotti

Watch this heart-stopping video of an F-16's low takeoff, high-G turn

On Jun. 17, 2018, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, WI hosted an airshow that included the display of the Air Combat Command's F-16 Viper Demo Team.

Piloted by Maj. John "Rain" Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force's premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as "Viper" in the pilot community.

Keep reading... Show less