While it was a clear message to North Vietnamese forces that American troops were moving away from just a support role for South Vietnam, the Marine landing was an administrative landing in friendly territory. The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines would not come under enemy fire in their initial foray into the country, according to Global Security.
Instead of encountering bullets, the Marines were greeted by welcoming South Vietnamese troops and pretty girls giving them leis of flowers.
“Nevertheless, a new phase of the Vietnam war had begun. About one-third of the Marine ground forces and two-thirds of the Marine helicopter squadrons in the Western Pacific had been committed to South Vietnam,” reads an official Marine Corps history of the service’s involvement in Vietnam.
It wouldn’t be long before U.S. troops were involved in major combat operations. In August, four Marine infantry battalions launched Operation Starlite in order to repel Vietcong forces from the area around the Chu Lai Air Base.
From The Guardian:
The landing was carefully stage managed. The troops were given a warm welcome by a delegation of smiling children and traditionally dressed Vietnamese women brandishing garlands of flowers. A sign held aloft read: “Welcome, Gallant Marines.” It was an incongruous beginning for the marines, and their mission – to defend the city’s air base during the Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against targets in the North – seemed straightforward. Nobody on the beach that day had any idea of the long and tortuous conflict that was to follow. By the end of the year, nearly 185,000 troops had been deployed as the war escalated. A decade later when Saigon fell and US soldiers made their final exit, more than 540,000 Americans had served in Vietnam – more than 58,000 were killed.
In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.
“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.
“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.
While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:
If you were a higher-up in the British Empire in the late 1790s, you were probably a little freaked out, and understandably so. You’d just said goodbye to the American colonies and watched the French populace rise up in bloody revolution against their monarchic government—and now French general Napoleon Bonaparte was seizing territory all over Europe and even beyond. You wouldn’t be crazy to think that the general had his eye on the British Isles next. But exactly how you expected the French armies to land on British shores… let’s just say the Brits let their imaginations run away with them a little bit.
For your viewing pleasure, we’ve collected a series of slightly bonkers popular engravings of imaginary invasion methods dating between 1798 and 1805, when the Napoleon’s troops seemed to be looming on the horizon.
Napoleon’s moving castle
This slightly histrionic plan from 1798 shows perhaps the most visually striking paranoid fantasy to come out of the period. In it, a massive windmill-propelled barge carries not only 60,000 men but also an entire castle across the English Channel.
Similarly relying on windmills for power, this illustration of an invasion raft described by a French prisoner of war (who we assume got a kick out of the credulous Brits) somehow makes even less sense than the barge above. It’s basically a fortress on a floating island. Not the most hydrodynamic contraption—and what happens if the water is choppy?
This… thing, part 2
Also from 1798 is this intricate engraving of the imaginary “Raft St. Malo,” which was likely based on the same false information as the last raft. It allegedly “was 600 feet long by 300 broad, mounts 500 pieces of cannon, 36 and 48-pounders, and is to convey 15,000 troops for the invasion of England. In the midst is a bomb-proof, metal-sheathed citadel.”
Oh look, a real boat
Dating to 1803, when hostilities broke out again after a hiatus, this print showing “A Correct VIEW of the FRENCH FLAT-BOTTOM BOATS intended to convey their TROOPS for the INVASION of ENGLAND” is a little more realistic. As the National Maritime Museum explains,
Unlike the earlier prints… with their monstrous and bizarre ‘rafts’ for transporting huge numbers of troops, this shows much more feasible vessels and appears to be based on much better founded information.
“My ass in a band box”
Not all Brits bought into the technological hype, however. The cartoon above shows a small-statured Napoleon on a donkey, sailing over to the British Isles in a decidedly non-threatening box labeled “Invasion.”
Balloons, ships, and a tunnel
Perhaps the craziest idea came from Napoleon himself, who imagined a three-pronged approach to invading Britain using hot air balloons, ships, and foot soldiers via a tunnel dug under the English Channel, as illustrated in this 1803 French engraving.
So what actually happened? None of the above. Urged on by fears of French innovation, the British government invested heavily in defense measures, including a number of forts and a massive naval blockade of the Channel. Napoleon’s attempt to piece together a big enough flotilla to break through the blockade ended up being a major flop.
The past year has been a busy time for the US Army.
US soldiers remained engaged in operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and took the lead in multi-national training exercises throughout the world. Army veterans received high honors during a memorial to the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, while one Afghanistan veteran received the Medal of Honor.
The Army compiled a year in photos to show what they were doing 2014.
These are some of the most amazing photographs of the Army from the past year.
In March, members of the US Army Parachute Team conducted their annual certification test.
The past year saw the first instance of the Spartan Brigade, an airborne combat team, training north of the Arctic Circle. Here, paratroopers move to their assembly area after jumping into Deadhorse, Alaska.
Elsewhere, in Alaska’s Denali National Park, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, hiked across Summit Ridge on Mount McKinley to demonstrate their Arctic abilities.
Beyond the frozen north, the Army took part in training exercises around the world. In Germany, members of Charlie Company trained Kosovo authorities in how to respond to firebombs and other incendiary devices.
Charlie Company also fired ceremonial rounds from their M1A2 Abrams tanks during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Latvia. US forces were in the country to help reassure NATO allies in the Baltic as well as provide training to Lavia’s ground forces in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Members of the US Army, Marines, and Alaska National Guard also participated alongside the Mongolian Armed Forces in the multi-national Khaan Quest 2014 exercise in Mongolia.
Even with the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan, US Army personnel are still active in the Middle East. Here, a soldier loads rockets into an AH-64 Apache during a Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise in Kuwait.
Linguistic and cultural training for the Army is also continuing. Here, ROTC cadets participate in a training mission in Africa through the US Army Cadet Command’s Culture and Language Program.
Here, an M1A2 tank drives past a camel during multi-national exercises in the Middle East.
This past year marked the end of US-led combat operations in Afghanistan. In this picture, US Special Forces soldiers fight alongside the Afghan National Army against Taliban insurgents.
Here, US Army soldiers go on a patrol in Sayghani, Parwan province, Afghanistan to collect information on indirect fire fire attacks against Bagram Air Field, outside of Kabul.
Throughout 2014 US Army Rangers engaged in constant training operations to maintain their tactical proficiency.
Here, Rangers fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise in California.
An MH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment provides close air support for Army Rangers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conducting direct action operations during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, California.
A Ranger carrying an M24 rappels down a wall during a demonstration at an Army Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Rangers took part in the grueling Best Ranger competition at Camp Rogers, Fort Benning, Georgia. Through a series of physical challenges, the event finds the best two-man team in the entire US Army.
US Army Medics also competed in the All-American Best Medic Competition, a series of tactical and technical proficiency tests.
Everyone in the army receives combat training, whatever their job may be. Here, Pfc. Derek Evans, a food service specialist, engages targets during a live-fire waterborne gunnery exercise
Training exercises allow the Army to maintain its readiness for all possible battlefield scenarios. In this scenario, MH-47G Chinook helicopter move watercraft over land or water to a point of deployment.
Soldiers were picked up by a Black Hawk helicopter as part of a survival training exercise called Decisive Action Rotation 14-09.
Here, a soldier from the California Army National Guard takes part in Warrior Exercise 2014, a combat training mission.
The Army National Guard had a busy 2014 responding to natural disasters. Here, members of the Washington National Guard’s 66th Theater Aviation Command respond to wildfires.
Members of the Oregon National Guard trained in firing the main gun of an Abrams M1A2 System Enhanced Package Tank during combat readiness exercises.
One member of the Army received the nation’s highest recognition for combat bravery. On May 13, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to former US Army Sgt. Kyle White for his actions in Afghanistan.
On May 28, newly commissioned second lieutenants celebrated commencement at the US Military Academy, at West Point, New York.
The past year also marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. To honor America’s role in liberating France from the Nazis, a French child dressed as a US soldier held a salute on the sands of Omaha Beach for 2 hours.
A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.
Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.
“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.
The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.
America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.
The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.
Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.
“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”
The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.
U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.
A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.
The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.
The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.
Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.
Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.
The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”
Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.
Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.
The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.
Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.
It’s hard enough to get motivated to do PT a few times a week. Try doing it when you’re missing a limb . . . or three.
That’s how former NFL player David Vobora found the inspiration to shift away from his lucrative training business and lend a helping hand — and add a little bit of inspiration — to vets and others who face the challenges of life-changing injuries.
Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)
Vobora left the NFL after five seasons when a severe injury scuttled his short career. He then started a personal training business helping serious athletes in Dallas, Texas, dubbed The Performance Vault.
But his life changed when he met former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five living quadruple amputee vets in the U.S.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘When is the last time you worked out?’ ” Vobora recalled. “He looked down at his prosthetics and said, ‘I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot, but I don’t have any arms and legs.’ ”
That got Vobora thinking.
Not long after his encounter with Mills, Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation, which aims to create custom workout programs for amputees that lies somewhere between basic rehabilitation and Paralympic training.
“I realized if Travis is in this position and can’t go to a typical gym … all of these veterans and civilians with physical disabilities — they’ve sort of been sidelined,” Vobora said. “Where do they go … that has this community to push each other?”
The Adaptive Training Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s featured in Starbucks Coffee’s “Upstanders” campaign, which aims to highlight inspiring stories of individuals who go above and beyond to inspire positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstart initiative uses video shorts, podcasts, and stories in hopes of raising awareness for causes like Vobora’s.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
When Eli Williamson returned from two deployments to the Middle East, his hometown of Chicago felt at times like a foreign battleground, the memory of desert roads more familiar than Windy City central thoroughfares. As he relearned the city, Williamson noticed a strange similarity between veterans like himself and the young people growing up in tough parts of Chicago. Too many had witnessed violence, and they had little support to cope with the trauma.
Applying the timeworn principle of leaving no soldier, sailor, airman or marine behind, Williamson co-founded Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), a national nonprofit focused on securing education and employment for our warriors. Williamson formed the organization based on “just real stupid” and “crazy” idealism: “You know what?” he says. “I can make a difference.” Since work began in 2008, with a measly operating budget of $4,674 to help pay off student loans, LNVB has eliminated around $150,000 of school debt and provided 750 transitional jobs, Williamson says.
“Coming out of the military, every individual is going to have his or her challenges,” says Williamson, who served as a psychological operations specialist and an Arabic linguist in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2007. “We’ve seen veterans with substance abuse issues, homelessness issues.” Additionally, at least one in five veterans suffer from PTSD, and almost 50,000 are homeless and 573,000 are unemployed.
Williamson started the group with his childhood friend Roy Sartin. They first met in high school, when they joined choir and band together. “I think we’ve been arguing like old women every since,” Williamson says. Both joined the U.S. Army Reserves while at Iowa’s Luther College and were mobilized to active duty during their senior year after the Twin Towers fell. Williamson finished his education at the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, while Sartin put his learning on hold.
Upon return, both struggled with crippling interest rates on their student loans. Sartin received a call from the loan company saying that he needed to make a $20,000 payment. “Although I had the funds, it was just enough to get myself back together. So, for me, the transition wasn’t as tough, but I was one of the lucky ones.” Williamson got a bill for $2,200 only 22 days before the balance was due. Desperate, he took to the streets playing music to cover the costs.
After talking with other vets, the two realized that many didn’t qualify for the military’s debt repayment programs. That’s when they started going out to financial sources for “retroactive scholarships” for our country’s defenders. And they sought employment opportunities for former military members to help cover the rest.
Jobs and debt relief for our nation’s warriors are the main focus of LNVB, but the group oversees several initiatives, including S.T.E.A.M. Corps, which pairs vets with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math experience with at-risk youth. More than 200 students have graduated from S.T.E.A.M., but Williamson, director of veteran affairs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, points to a more intangible benefit of his non-profit’s work: the ability for veterans “to articulate a larger vision of themselves … is our advocacy mission,” he says.
“Veterans can paint a vision for where our country needs to be, and the only reason we can do that is because you realize that you are part of something larger than yourself,” Williamson adds. “That’s a fundamental value that veterans can share, as they leave military, with the communities that they come back to.” For those who’ve just returned home from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, in other words, service is just beginning.
From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.
However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.
On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.
On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.
The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.
As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.
Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.
In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.
In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard had been turning away recruits for years during the Great Depression. But, the Seattle office found itself with seven openings in September of that year and admitted seven new men to the force. One of them was future Signalman First Class Douglas Munro who would go on to earn a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He is the only Coast Guardsman to earn the award to date.
Douglas Munro was born to American parents in Vancouver, Canada in 1919, but grew up in Washington State. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He volunteered for service aboard a Coast Guard cutter and was promoted. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Coast Guard to man certain positions on Navy ships, Munro volunteered for service on the USS Hunter Liggett.
Munro saw service on different Navy ships, gaining rank and changing commands until becoming a signalman first class aboard the USS McCawley. Meanwhile, U.S. military planners had their eyes set on Guadalcanal, a strategic island chain in the Pacific that was part of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was especially important because Japanese forces were building an airstrip on the island.
The Marines began their campaign on August 7, 1942. The airstrip was quickly captured but Japanese defenders maintained control of the westernmost portion of the island. A river separated most of the U.S. and Japanese territory. Repeated attempts by the Marines to cross the river were rebuffed by Japanese forces.
The Marines adopted a new plan, commanded by none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, for three companies of Puller’s Marines to land at Port Cruz, a position north of the Japanese forces, and push their way south.
Munro commanded the ships for the assault, and things initially went smoothly. The Marines landed with no resistance and quickly pushed 500 yards inland without major incident. After dropping off the Marines, all but one ship returned to the American base.
But the Marines had walked past hidden Japanese positions, and their counterattack was brutal. A friend of Munro was in the landing craft that remained at the beach. Then-Signalman Raymond Evans described what happened next in a Coast Guard video.
“In the meantime, all our boats had gone back to the base except the major had requested we leave one boat behind, for immediate casualties. And so I stayed, I elected to stay behind and I had a coxswain named Sam Roberts from Portland, and the two of us were laying to in this LCP. Unfortunately, we laid too close to the beach and the Japanese fired an automatic weapon at us and hit Roberts, hit all the controls, the vacuum controls on the boat. I slammed it into “full-ahead” and we tore out of there and I tore back to the, to the base, four miles, and when I got to the base, I pulled it out of gear, but it wouldn’t come out of gear, so we ran up on the beach, which is a long sloping sand beach. Ran up on the beach the full length of the boat before it stopped.”
Roberts died during a medical evacuation. Soon after Evans returned to the American base, word came down that the Marines at Port Cruz were to be evacuated. Puller headed out to sea to personally supervise the Naval artillery fire covering the evacuation while the Coast Guard hopped into their boats to go and pick up the Marines. Evans moved into Munro’s boat for the return mission.
When the Coast Guard arrived at the beach, it was clear that the Marines were in a desperate position. They had 25 wounded and were under heavy fire. The beach was only five to six feet wide from the water to the jungle, and the Japanese were using the jungle for cover and concealment while firing on the Marines.
All of the Coast Guard boats were made of plywood and were susceptible to enemy fire. To allow the other ships time to load Marines and move out, Munro and Evans began laying cover fire with the .30-cal. machine guns, the heaviest weapons the small landing force had. Under the cover of the Naval bombardment and the Coast Guard machine guns, the Marines were able to scramble onto the small craft.
When the other ships were clear, Munro and Evans began their own slog back to the American parts of the island. On their way, they saw one of the landing craft stuck on a sand bar. Munro again ordered the ship stopped to assist the beached craft even though the nearby shoreline was controlled by Japanese forces.
Munro, Evans, and an engineer managed to pull the ship back into the water so it could make good its escape. Once Munro’s craft was finally headed out, Evans spotted Japanese forces placing a machine gun. He yelled a warning to Munro, but the engines drowned out his yell. Munro was struck in the base of the skull by a single bullet and died before reaching the operating base.