In the wake of the Blue House Raid (where North Korean special forces infiltrated the DMZ just to kill South Korean President Park Chung-hee at home), the South Korean President launched a plan of his own. He ordered the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) to plan a retaliation. The KCIA conscripted 31 petty criminals and unemployed youth to train for a singular purpose: to assassinate North Korea’s dictator Kim Il-Sung.
They formed Unit 684 on the uninhabited island of Silmido in the Yellow Sea off of South Korea’s West coast. The training was so brutal, seven members did not survive. Unfortunately for the members of the 684, a thaw in relations occurred before their mission was launched. The entire mission was shut down.
In August 1971, members of Unit 684 inexplicably overpowered their guards, killing all but six, and made their way to the mainland. Once there, they hijacked a bus to Seoul but were stopped by the Army. Twenty members of the unit were shot or committed suicide with hand grenades. The survivors were tried and executed.
The South Korean government covered up any information regarding Unit 684 until the 1990s. They refused to divulge any information about the events even after a 2003 movie was released. South Korea did not release its files on 684 until 2006.
Civilians talk about feeling lost when vets start using military lingo, but even vets can get lost when talking to members from other services. Here are 8 things that are common between the branches but with wildly different names:
1. DFAC, chow hall, or galley?
Basically, it’s the cafeteria. While the Army and Air Force both officially use the term DFAC, or dining facility, most soldiers and Marines refer to it as the “chow hall.” In the Navy, it’s the galley. All services employ “cooks” in the kitchen. In the Army, the soldiers tasked to help the cooks are KP, kitchen patrol. In the Navy, cooks are assisted by “cranks.”
2. Article 15, ninja punch, captain’s mast
There are a lot of ways to get in trouble in the military, and the services have plenty of ways to describe it. While soldiers and airmen typically refer to Article 15s and nonjudicial punishment, Marines may call NJP a “ninja punch.” When Sailors get in big trouble, they can face captain’s mast, an Article 15 from the commander of the ship. Admiral’s mast is one step worse. Serious infractions can result in a “big chicken dinner,” slang for a bad conduct discharge.
3. Shammers, skaters and broke d*cks
When a sailor or Marine wants to get out of duty, they “skate” out of it. The Army equivalent is “shamming.” For all the services, shamming or skating by claiming medical issues can get you labeled as a “broke d*ck.”
4. Flak vest or body armor
When someone is wearing all their armor and equipment, they’re in “full battle rattle.” For the Army, this means they’re wearing their body armor. While Marines are likely to be wearing the same armor, they’ll grab their “flak.” The flak vest, as seen in most Vietnam war movies, was the predecessor of modern body armor.
5. Deck vs. ground
While the Army and the Air Force continue to use the normal words for ground and floor, the Navy and Marine Corps train their people to use the word “deck.” For pilots, the ground is the “hard deck,” something Top Gun apparently made a mistake translating.
6. Barracks mill, private news network, or the scuttlebutt
Rumors. The Army has a bunch of privates living in the barracks where they swap rumors like a knitting circle. Hence, “barracks mill” and “private news network.” For the Navy, their sailors congregate around water fountains referred to as the scuttlebutt. Eventually, “scuttlebutt” became the word for the rumors themselves.
7. Head and latrine
Sailors and Marines visit the head, and soldiers hit the latrine.
8. Hooah vs. Oorah vs. Hooyah
The services can’t even agree on how to grunt. The Army says “Hooah,” when they want to motivate each other, or really to say anything besides, “no.” The Marines prefer “Oorah” while the Navy says “Hooyah.” (The Air Force has no equivalent.)
And as you can see in the above GIF from a similar exercise, the fighters don’t need anywhere near a mile of road. The minimum takeoff distance for an F-18C on a flat surface is 1,700 feet, about 0.33 miles. The Finnish F-18 taking off in the video is using a downhill slope, letting it gather speed a little more quickly and get off the road.
The Air Force announced new policies on dress and appearance with regard to tattoos, as well as changes to service medical accession policy Jan. 9.
These changes result from a review of Air Force accessions policies directed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in 2016.
“As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified Airmen as possible we periodically review our accessions policies,” she said. “In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality. As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms.”
Authorized tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs will no longer be restricted by the “25 percent” rule, while tattoos, brands or body markings on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp remain prohibited. Hand tattoos will be limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand. The hand tattoo change ensures the ability to present a more formal military image when required at certain events and/or with dress uniforms. Current Airmen with existing hand tattoos that were authorized under the previous policy will be grandfathered in under the old policy standards.
A recent review of Air Force field recruiters revealed almost half of contacts, applicants and recruits had tattoos. Of these, one of every five were found to have tattoos requiring review or that may be considered disqualifying; the top disqualifier was the 25 percent rule on “excessive” tattoos. The new policy lifts the 25 percent restriction on authorized tattoos to the chest, back, arms and legs, opening up this population for recruitment into the Air Force.
Tattoos, brands and body markings anywhere on the body that are obscene, commonly associated with gangs, extremist and/or supremacist organizations, or that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination remain prohibited in and out of uniform. To maintain uniformity and good order and consistent with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” commanders will retain the authority to be more restrictive for tattoos, body ornaments and/or personal grooming based on legal, moral, safety, sanitary, and/or foreign country cultural reasons.
The new tattoo policy is effective Feb. 1, 2017. Further implementation guidance will be released in an addendum to the policy guidance.
The Air Force’s periodic review of medical accession standards and advancement of medical capabilities prompted policy changes with respect to waivers concerning common conditions that have routinely disqualified prospective Airmen from service: eczema, asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Waivers for eczema, asthma and ADHD currently constitute the highest volume of requests from Air Force recruiters. Additionally, current Air Force accession policy with respect to pre-service marijuana use is not reflective of the continuing legalization of marijuana in numerous states throughout the nation.
“We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.
While medical accession standards are standardized across the Services, the Air Force has modified some of its more restrictive service policy, or established specific criteria to streamline and standardize waiver processes to increase the number of qualified candidates entering service. These changes include:
• Eczema: Select candidates medically classified as having mild forms of eczema will be processed for a waiver. Certain occupational restrictions may be applied to secure personal and mission safety.
• ADHD: Candidates who do not meet the standard of never having taken more than a single daily dosage of medication or not having been prescribed medication for their condition for more than 24 cumulative months after the age of 14 will be processed for a waiver if they have demonstrated at least 15 months of performance stability (academic or vocational) off medication immediately preceding enlistment or enrollment and they continue to meet remaining criteria as outlined in Defense Department Instruction 6130.03.
• Asthma: The Air Force will use the Methacholine Challenge Test to provide an objective measure of candidates with an ambiguous or uncertain history of asthma. Candidates who successfully pass this test will be processed for a waiver.
• Pre-accession marijuana usage: The revised policy will remove the service prescribed numerical limitations on prior use of marijuana when determining accession qualifications. In accordance with DOD standards, a medical diagnosis of substance-related disorders or addiction remains medically disqualifying for service. Additionally, any legal proceedings associated with pre-service use will continue to be reviewed and adjudicated separately and may be disqualifying depending on the nature of the offense(s). The Air Force will maintain a strict “no use” policy. An applicant or enlistee will be disqualified for service if they use drugs after the initial entrance interview.
The waiver process changes are effective immediately. The Air Force continues to work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the other services to review existing medical accession standards to allow the highest number of qualified individuals possible to serve.
“Among the fundamental qualities required of our Airmen is being ready to fight and win our nation’s wars. These accession standards ensure we maintain our high standards while bringing more consistency to our policies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “As medical capabilities have improved and laws have changed, the Air Force is evolving so we are able to access more worldwide deployable Airmen to conduct the business of our nation.”
Technically, aeromedical evacuation has been around since World War I, bringing our wounded back home by way of aircraft. Present day, AE is still a critical component to getting injured troops back to safety.
AE crews, medics, and personnel outside the wire are expertly trained to care for combat-related injuries and conditions. With others’ lives on the line, it’s not surprising that the many-step process of evacuating a casualty of war has been refined to achieve the highest survival rate possible.
The injured are first examined by a medic, corpsman, or any medical personnel available to assess injuries. The medical personnel will continue to attend to the wounded until transportation arrives to transfer them to a higher level of care.
2. Patient movement
It is of utmost importance to quickly transport the triaged to the nearest hospital or Mobile Air Staging Facility (MASF). The only hardened hospital capable of caring for critical combat-related injuries for a longer period of time is Bagram AB, Afghanistan.
The means of transportation for moving a troop to Bagram AB is dependent on where they were injured. If the service member is injured just outside of base, then a Humvee is the obvious choice. If personnel are wounded at a Forward Operating Base, a Huey dust-off mission will be spun up to retrieve casualties.
Once patients are transferred to the hospital, they are stabilized by doctors working in the facility and their diagnosis is entered into a database, called Tra2ces. Tra2ces is relatively new and is one of the sole reasons why the wounded have been tracked so efficiently on their journey from the point of injury to back home with their families.
After patients are successfully entered into the tracking system, the next step is to continue moving back to the States. Tactical Airlift Command and Control (TACC) is responsible for scheduling all planes flying in- and out-of-country.
Depending on the injury, patients are categorized and listed in order of priority. In other words, the most critically wounded will top of the list and will typically be sent home first.
It is the responsibility of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT), specifically the admin mission controller, to assign a medical crew to take care of patients in flight. The crews have strict guidelines and must be current in all of their medical training. There is zero tolerance for sandbagging in this career field.
6. AE medical crews
The AE crew consists of three enlisted medical technicians and two flight nurses. The crews are given all patient information and medical equipment needed before mission take-off.
In the crew, each member has their own task and they work together to guarantee mission success. After all, they are caring for the most precious cargo — their fellow service members.
Before take-off, patients are moved from the hospital to the flight line. The Casualty Air Staging Facility (CASF) could be considered a tent hospital, located on the flight-line, close to the aircraft. Patients will be moved to the CASF in preparation and set up for the flight that will take them one step closer to home.
8. Mission launch
After medical and ground personnel load all patients onto the aircraft, they are flown to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where they can get more in-depth medical care for their injuries. Bagram AB simply does not have the extended-care capability to continually treat critically injured patients.
After a stay at Ramstein, patients are sent back to home base on another AE flight. All the while, AE medical crews are in the air with their patients, providing them with expert care, comfort, and, if needed, a hand to hold.
During tests that concluded on September 1, US Marine Corps F-35Bs proved their ability to multitask in the exact kind of way they would need to while breaching an enemy air-defense zone.
The Marines at Edwards Air Base, California, completed multiple tests of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles in complicated air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, but the highlight of the test involved a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.
An F-35B successfully dropped the 500 pounder and supported it with onboard sensors to hit a ground target while simultaneously shooting down an unmanned F-16 drone with the AIM-120.
“This was a phenomenally successful deployment that was made possible by the close coordination between the JSF Operational Test Team, US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and industry,” Lt. Col. Rusnok, the officer in charge of the testing said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
This test exemplifies the “multi-role” aspect of the F-35, functioning as a fighter jet and a bomber in the same moment. This test also likely means that the Navy, Air Force, and any other partner nations flying the F-35 variants will have this capability too.
Furthermore, it’s much like what future F-35 pilots could expect when breaching enemy airspace, in that they’d have to deal with multiple threats at once.
Should an F-35 be detected, which would be difficult, air defenses as well as fighter planes would immediately scramble to address the threat. So for an F-35, multitasking is a must and now, a proven reality.
Joe Galloway is best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War. Embedded with the 1st Cavalry Division, he was present at the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. His experience at Ia Drang served as the basis of his book “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.” On August 18, 2021, Galloway passed away at the age of 79.
A native of Refugio, Texas, Galloway got his start in the news industry in Texas and Kansas. While working for United Press International, he was sent to Vietnam to cover the development of the war in 1965.
Galloway was embedded with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. When the unit engaged with PAVN forces at the Battle of Ia Drang on November 14, Galloway caught a Huey to cover the engagement. During the battle, Galloway met the commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, Lt. Col. Harold ‘Hal’ Moore. The two men would become close friends as a result of their shared experience. Moore would rise to the rank of Lt. Gen. and co-authored “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” with Galloway.
The Battle of Ia Drang was a bloody one that lasted six days. Galloway himself recalled it as the “biggest battle of Vietnam, the bloodiest battle of Vietnam.” The fighting was so intense that he was forced to take part in it despite being a reporter. Galloway took up arms against the enemy to save himself and the soldiers around him.
Under heavy enemy fire, he even carried a badly wounded soldier to safety. “People died all around me. I had their blood on my hands. I carried dying boys. I carried ammo. I carried water,” Galloway recounted of the battle. “And I carried a rifle, and I made use of it.” For his actions at Ia Drang, Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star with V device for valor in 1998. He is the only civilian to receive a medal for valor from the Army during the Vietnam War.
Galloway’s experience at Ia Drang changed him. “I was somebody when I went to Vietnam. I was somebody else when I came out,” he said. Galloway went on to work for other publications after Vietnam. He covered the Gulf War and reported on two tours to Iraq. In 2006, he retired from journalism.
Galloway’s legacy is preserved in his book, but also in the movie that it inspired. The 2002 film We Were Soldiers features actor Barry Pepper depicting Galloway and Mel Gibson depicting Moore. In 2008, Galloway and Moore released a second book, We are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam. Galloway also consulted on a PBS documentary about the Vietnam War and narrated another Vietnam War documentary, A Flag Between Two Families.
Galloway’s service to the soldiers of the Vietnam War was exemplary. At his Bronze Star ceremony, Maj. Gen. Allan Elliott called Galloway a “national treasure.” His dedication to the troops whose stories he told ensured that their service and sacrifices did not go unnoticed.
Feature Image: Marines give Joe Galloway a bird’s eye view of Haditha(DVIDS Hub)
By the time I got to Fort Meade for tech school (that’s AIT or A-School for those not in the Air Force), it was 2002 and I was ready to go back to the movies. I quickly learned that the AAFES base theater attracts a much different crowd than your average hometown picture show.
The first movie I saw at the base theater was “Black Hawk Down.” I wasn’t entirely surprised by the national anthem that opened up the screening. What surprised me was when half of the crowd jumped up and down cheering as the Hoot’s team took over a Somali technical and started using it against the bad guys.
So after that, I learned that all war movies are best watched on base, because even the worst war movies have some great fight scenes, and the military crowd cheers for troops onscreen like it’s opening night on the KISS Love Gun Tour in 1977.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of war movies coming down the line.
Ok, this one is only going out on Netflix, but wouldn’t it be great to see this in a base theater? Just judging by an extended trailer, it looks like there’s definitely some Marine combat in Afghanistan. You know something explosive is going to happen and I want to be in a room full of screaming people when it does.
This isn’t about America, no. And if you know your history, you know it doesn’t end well for the good guys. But this is about Christopher Nolan directing a gritty war film – a gritty World War II film… with Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.
I would watch this movie on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the hills, and in the streets.
4. Flags Over Berlin
Releasing in 2018, “Flags Over Berlin” is the story of a Western intelligence operative posing as a journalist during World War II. He follows the Red Army, linking up with the Soviet forces as they prepare to storm Berlin.
In 2016, Slashfilm reported that the sci-fi/fantasy writer-director extraordinaire’s next project is a World War II-set horror movie, a movie he says is “as dark as anything I’ve ever written.”
“I got to tell you, I was in Germany and Poland doing research for this movie and I was seeing so many parallels [to the U.S.]. And I know it’s a shopworn thing to compare the orange guy to the little guy with the mustache, but you see things, indelible things in terms of propaganda, the state of the country, and the parallels are eerie as f*ck.”
6. Tough As They Come
“Tough As They Come” is adapted from the book of the same name, written by Army veteran and quadruple amputee Travis Mills. Sylvester Stallone is attached to star and direct alongside actor and Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver.
Russia is saying that their fighters chased off the U.S. Navy’s USS Ross Monday while it was operating aggressively in the Black Sea, but the U.S. is calling B.S. According to Navy officials, the encounter was no big deal and they haven’t changed any of their operational plans.
“From our perspective it’s much ado about nothing,” Navy spokesman Lt. Tim Hawkins told USNI News.
The Russian fighters had overflown the ship before with no incident. The Navy has released video of two of the SU-24 flybys, including the June 1 encounter. The USS Ross is leaving the Black Sea today, as scheduled.
The first video released is of one of the flyovers in late May.
Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said July 19 in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism,” released July 19, the State Department said Iran was the planet’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, a dubious distinction the country has held for many years.
It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel groups as well as proxies that have destabilized already devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Shiite militia members to fight in Syria and Iraq. And, it said Iranian support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement was unchanged.
In terms of non-state actors, the report said the Islamic State group was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2016, and was seeking to widen its operations particularly as it lost territory in Iraq and Syria. It carried out 20 percent more attacks in Iraq in 2016 compared with 2015, and its affiliates struck in more than 20 countries, according to the report.
Iran has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the State Department and is subjected to a variety of US sanctions since 1984, and many of the activities outlined in the report are identical to those detailed in previous reports. But, this year’s finding comes as the Trump administration moves to toughen its stance against Iran. The administration is expected to complete a full review of its policy on Iran next month.
President Donald Trump has been particularly critical of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and only reluctantly certified early this week that Iran remained entitled to some sanctions relief under its provisions.
“Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2016 as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten US interests and allies,” said the report, the Trump administration’s first, which was released just a day after the administration slapped new sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activity.
Some of those sanctions were imposed on people and companies affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the report said continues to play “a destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.”
Iran used a unit of the IRGC, the Qods Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” the report said. It added that Iran has publicly acknowledged its involvement in Syria and Iraq.
Hezbollah worked closely with Iran to support the attempt by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to maintain and control territory, according to the report. And with Iranian support, Hezbollah continued to develop “long-term attack capabilities and infrastructure around the world,” it said.
The report also accused Iran of supplying weapons, money, and training to militant Shia groups in Bahrain, maintaining a “robust” cyber-terrorism program, and refusing to identify or prosecute senior members of the al-Qaeda network that it has detained.
As in previous reports, Sudan and Syria were also identified as “state sponsors of terrorism.”
In its final days, the Obama administration suspended some sanctions against Sudan in recognition of that country’s improved counter-terrorism record. In early July, the Trump administration extended those suspensions by three months. Countries can be removed from the list at any time following a formal review process, but the report offered no explanation for why Sudan remains on it.
In fact, it said counter-terrorism is now a national priority for the Khartoum government and that Sudan “is a cooperative partner of the United States on counter-terrorism, despite its continued presence on the state sponsors of terrorism list.”
Despite the activities of Iran and groups like the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, and Boko Haram and al-Shabab in Africa, the total number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 percent from 11,774 in 2015 to 11,072, according to statistics compiled for the report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
That reduction was accompanied by a 13 percent decrease in deaths — from 28,328 to 25,621 — from such attacks over the same period. Of those killed in 2016, 16 were American citizens, including seven in high-profile attacks in Brussels in March and Nice, France, in July. Seventeen Americans were injured in the Brussels attack and three in Nice, the report said.
The report attributed the drops to fewer terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen. At the same time, the report said attacks in the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Turkey increased between 2015 and 2016.
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.
By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.
The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.
Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.
On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”
The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.
“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.
Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”
Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.
The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.
Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.
“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.
Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.
Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”
Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.
“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”
When Baca checked out the truck, the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”
On Sep. 7, 1940, the German Blitzkrieg against the city of London began.
Earlier that summer, the Nazis launched the first bombing attack on Great Britain after a defeated France signed an armistice, leaving the United Kingdom alone against the German war machine.
Wanting to capitalize on his momentum, Hitler set his sights — and his Luftwaffe — across the English Channel. That first day, 190 German bombers and fighters struck British military targets, but the Brits fought back in what would become the first battle in history fought solely in the air.
Meaning “lightning war,” the Blitz was a bombing campaign against Britain by the German Luftwaffe. In September alone, German forces dropped 5,300 tons of explosives on the British population.
The raids persisted for 57 consecutive nights and continued frequently until May of the following year. By the time Hitler began to focus his attention on Russia, 43,000 British civilians had been killed.
But the strength, determination, and spirit of the United Kingdom could not be diminished, and the Battle of Britain would become a decisive victory for the English, whose Royal Air Force dealt the Luftwaffe a nearly lethal blow from which it never fully recovered.
It became a turning point in the war, strategically preventing Hitler from gaining control of the English Channel or invading the British Isles. Britain became a base of operations for the American invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, securing a major blow against Hitler in his waning days.
Finally, the Battle of Britain was a mark of British courage and resilience — the people of Britain are still known for their “Blitz Spirit” — and their perseverance allowed Great Britain to remain free from Nazi occupation.