That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero - We Are The Mighty
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That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.


The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
The U.S. Navy tank landing ship LST-1, landing U.S. Army troops on an Italian beach, circa September 1943. (National Archives photo)

After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.

Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.

When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.

He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.

Also read: World War II veteran gets Bronze Star after 73 years

He then manned their own machine gun and mowed down the retreating Germans, allowing his unit to continue the advance.

Crawford was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.

However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.

Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.

His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Air Force Academy Chapel in the winter (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.

Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.

Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”

More heroism: 3 heroes who became POWs twice

Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”

Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.

The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.

However, the cadets weren’t done.

They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.

After his commencement speech President Reagan gave Crawford a long overdue honor and presented him with the Medal of Honor.

The encounter with Crawford had so touched Moschgat that he would later reflect on the event by writing an article titled “Leadership and the Janitor” for the USO magazine On Patrol.

In the article he details ten important lessons about leadership that he learned from his meeting of Bill Crawford.

Moschgat retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. Crawford lived out his days in Colorado where he was also famous for being one of four Medal of Honor recipients from the small town of Pueblo, CO.

He passed away in 2000 at the age of 81.

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This WWII bombing mission resulted in 5 Medals of Honor

It was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War II, and it resulted in the most medals of honor bestowed on America’s airmen from any battle in any war.


In the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force launched the audacious Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the largest supply of oil production for the German war machine in Ploesti, Romania.

The Ploesti oil fields produced a third of all Axis oil in Europe, so it was a prime target for an Allied attack. But unbeknownst to the Allies, it was also one of its most heavily defended cities in Europe — second only to Berlin.

Flying from Benghazi, Libya, a force of five bomb groups – the 98th and 376th from the Ninth Air Force and the 44th, 93rd, and 389th from the Eighth Air Force – (totaling 177 B-24 Liberator bombers) conducted the raid. The most effective way to strike the targets was to come in at tree-top level and use bombs with delayed fuses to allow planes to clear the area before detonation.

The force would have a series of troubling events before they even reached Ploesti.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, just after the bombers began their mission, an overloaded bomber crashed on take-off and later the lead plane winged over and crashed into the sea.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A B-24 Liberator taking off in Benghazi, bound for the oil fields at Ploesti. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the raid approached its target,  the 98th Bomb Group fell behind, separating the planes into two groups. Then a navigational error sent the lead group away from Ploesti and toward Bucharest. Realizing their mistake, the 93rd, led by Lt. Col. Addison Baker, turned north toward the refineries. Seeing this, the 376th, led by Col. Keith Compton and mission commander Brig. Gen. Uzal Ent, also turned toward the target but turned away to look for a better entry point when they hit the anti-aircraft defenses.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

The overwhelming ground fire soon overwhelmed many of the planes during the attack, and the pilots did everything they could to maintain course and strike their target.

In a final act of heroism, the pilots of a shot up plane tried to gain enough altitude for the crew to bail out but were too late – the plane crashed into the target, killing all on board.

Pilots Lt. Col. Baker and Maj. Jerstad were both awarded the Medal of Honor.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. B-24 Liberators over their target, Ploesti, Romania in August, 1943 (U.S. Army photo)

The 376th, unable to find a suitable line to the main refineries, was ordered to bomb targets of opportunity before coming home. One six-plane element breached the defenses and hit its target but was ineffective.

Just as the remnants of the 93rd and 376th were leaving the target, the straggling 98th and 44th, which followed the correct course, arrived with the fifth group, swerving north to hit a separate compound.

Due to the confusion, the first groups over the target hit anything they could. This meant the next two groups approached with their primary targets already in flames. To make matters worse, not all of the planes evacuated the target area, so pilots already dodging smoke and ground fire had to watch out for other bombers too.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. Army Air Forces hit the Axis oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, on Aug. 1, 1943 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the hellacious conditions, Col. John Kane’s 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon Johnson’s 44th Bomb Group flew on and attacked their targets with precision. For their bravery and leadership, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the 98th and 44th fought their way through Ploesti, the 389th attacked the Campina facility to the north. Though more lightly defended than the main facility, the bombers still encountered heavy resistance.

Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes’ plane was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and streamed fuel as it entered the target area. Motivated by duty and mission, he flew his plane into the inferno to hit his target. His own plane caught fire. Hughes attempted a crash landing but he and five other crew died. The enemy captured the rest. Lt. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for his devotion to duty.

The top turret gunner, Sgt. Zerrill Steen, continued to fire on enemy positions until his ammunition was exhausted. Steen was part of an air crew under Lt. Robert Horton. Horton’s plane was heavily damaged and went down, killing nine of the 10 crew. Sergeant Steen was captured and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while in captivity.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A B-24 Turret Gunner, wearing altitude mask, flak vest, and jacket. (U.S. army photo)

Of the 177 planes that took off from Benghazi, only 89 returned. While the enemy destroyed 54 planes, others crash landed at bases throughout the area. Over 300 men died, over 100 captured, and 78 were interred in Turkey.

Of the 89 returning planes, over a third were unfit to fly afterward. Five pilots received the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.

The high cost of the mission did not bring about great success. While the refinery at Campina was put out of action for the remainder of the war, the losses in oil production were repaired within weeks.

Due to the losses suffered by the attackers, August 1st came to be known as ‘Black Sunday.’

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Today in military history: Germans ambush allies during secret Normandy landings practice

On April 28, 1944, German E-boats ambushed allied forces during a secret dress rehearsal for the historic Normandy landings called “Exercise Tiger.” 

Exercise Tiger was one of the largest scale training operations for the D-Day invasion, and for obvious reasons, it was a major hush-hush operation.

Still, nine German E-boats caught sight of the exercise in the early morning hours of April 28th and opened fire. 

They attacked a convoy of eight large tank landing ships, or LSTs, the vessels the allies would use to deliver vehicles and landing troops on D-Day. Only one of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy was present. The other was undergoing repairs.

The German E-Boats attacked four LSTs before they were driven away. 749 allied servicemen were killed in the attack. For perspective, only 197 servicemen were killed on Utah Beach during the actual D-Day landing. 

Additionally, ten officers involved in the exercise had intimate knowledge of the D-Day plan, but luckily, none were captured by the Germans.

Despite the tragic loss of life, many historians believe that lessons learned from the surprise ambush at Exercise Tiger contributed to the eventual success of the June 6th D-Day landing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy just tested its newest unmanned surface vehicle

An unmanned surface vehicle suddenly appeared on the Potomac River Test Range and, much like the ospreys that inhabit the area, it was on a mission to traverse the river – autonomously.

Nearby, an osprey watched the unusual sight from its nest as an array of autonomous guns and missile systems were lined up on a pier.


Distinguished visitors gathered on that pier to see the sight – a demonstration of Textron Systems’ Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. They listened intently as Navy and corporate leaders discussed their collaboration to weaponize a CUSV capable of multiple missions.

“The reason we collaborate is because we as a nation find ourselves in a situation where we can no longer take time to deliver capability to our warfighters,” John Fiore, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division technical director, told government, defense contractors, and military personnel at the March 28, 2018 event. “We as a warfare center and you as industry are tasked to make sure our Sailors and Marines can deploy, execute their mission, and come home safely to their families and loved ones.”

NSWCDD engineers explained how the weapon technologies they developed will be evaluated for integration with Textron Systems’ CUSV to create a new modular autonomous weapon system to impact the Fleet’s maritime operations. There is currently no program or acquisition in place to implement these efforts, as they are in the early development stages without funding or planning to implement into the Fleet.

“Our first project is what we are calling a Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Mission Module which will consist of our engagement technology paired with our Battle Management System (BMS) controlling a Longbow Hellfire Missile,” said Chris Nerney, NSWCDD technical program manager for Unmanned Systems. “The idea is a mission package that could slide into the CUSV modular mission bay and provide a direct and indirect fire capability.”

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the Potomac River Test Range.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy and Textron Systems plan to prove the developmental concept that combines direct and indirect fire capability with a gunfire demonstration in late 2018, followed by a live missile shoot in 2019.

“We are creating a modular surface and expeditionary warfare payload with a gun and a missile weapon system to be evaluated for integration onto the common unmanned surface vehicle,” said Kevin Green, NSWCDD technical lead for Ship-to-Shore Precision Engagement Integration and Prototype. “This payload could enable warfighters to counter fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft and it could provide ship-to-shore fire support for expeditionary and special operations forces. It also gives us a baseline development effort to operate and perform further research and development.”

Meanwhile, Nerney, Green, and their Textron Systems collaborators are envisioning how new payloads in the CUSV mission bay could benefit warfighters in various missions from maritime interdiction and special operations to surface warfare encounters that include engaging fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft as well as other threats.

“We’re demonstrating the realm of the possible, proof of concept, and leveraging a Textron developmental craft and proven weapon systems with the Hellfire, BMS, and other capabilities,” said Wayne Prender, Textron Systems vice president of Control & Surface Systems. “Now, we’re bringing those technologies together and implementing them in an autonomous way that’s unique and new.”

For surface and expeditionary warfare missions, warfighters could use a modular, plug and play unit designed to fit the CUSV mission bay. This mission module includes sensors for targeting, a weapon station with a gun, and a launcher system for missiles. It could provide capabilities to enable a myriad of missions outlined in the Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan.

NSWCDD engineers are creating the payload in response to guidance outlined in the Navy’s recent USV Strategic Roadmap and the Marine Corps Operating Concept. Moreover, they determined that weaponizing a USV with both direct and indirect fire capability could expand the USV mission portfolio to include surface warfare, maritime security, and maritime interdiction operations in addition to special operations forces and expeditionary forces support.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood)

“We are developing automated weapon systems that provide tactically effective automation of the entire kill chain, and we’re doing so with minimal dependence on what is usually an unreliable datalink,” said Green. “Our experience integrating unmanned systems has taught us that the weapon systems must be just as automated as the platforms themselves in order to reduce the number of operators and operate reliably beyond line of sight.”

Specifically, Sailors and Marines could be able to use the Battle Management System to fire missiles and precision guided munitions from the CUSV. They would use the autonomous system for detection, tracking, and direct fire engagement.

“If the decision was made to outfit the CUSV with a variety of payloads, it could be deployed from nearly any large ship and could be deployed in significant numbers from a U.S. Navy ship or a Joint High Speed Vessel type platform to perform a variety of roles,” said Nerney. “We are focused on the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle today because it’s the Navy’s only program of record unmanned surface vehicle platform. It’s also our concept of modular plug and play weapon systems integrated onto a USV that can be scaled up or down as appropriate. If the Navy or Marine Corps decide to build big unmanned surface vehicles, we could scale the guns and missiles up. If the decision is to go with swarms of small USVs, then we could scale the system down accordingly.”

Between now and the live fire test, NSWCDD and Textron Systems will work together to rapidly develop and integrate as proofs of concept a variety of surface and expeditionary warfare payloads for the CUSV to include operations with unmanned air and subsurface vehicles.

“Our partnerships with industry allow us to move fast,” said Fiore. “If you’re the one that’s going to be giving this capability to warfighters, I want you to be effective in doing that. That’s what motivates us and that’s why we collaborate. That’s why it’s so important for us to have you here today with your equipment and have you partnering with us.”

The Navy’s collaboration with Textron Systems began in 2011 when the developmental Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle was developed and used in a variety of Navy demonstrations.

In December 2017, the company signed a cooperative research and development agreement with NSWCDD. The agreement covers the integration of missile, designator, and remote weapon station payloads to Textron Systems’ developmental CUSV with its 3,500-pound payload capacity on the deck and a payload bay measuring 20.5 x 6.5 feet.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) of Scan Eagle launches off flight deck of Amphibious Assault Ship USS Saipan
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick W. Mullen III.)

The company previously contracted with the Navy to develop the new Unmanned Influence Sweep System – minesweeping units towed by the CUSV – which will perform a mine countermeasure mission in support of a littoral combat ship.

“Building on the UISS program as the foundation, we signed the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Dahlgren,” said Prender. “We began to prototype surface warfare packages and other payloads that will strengthen the flexibility and potential capability of our platform and continue to inform the Navy and Marine Corps and overall surface community what the realm of the possible can be as they begin to expand the use of unmanned systems – in this case unmanned surface vehicles.”

The CRADA points out that NSWCDD will develop a government-owned open architecture weapon control system to include both hardware and software. Implementations of this design will enable rapid development to support and control a variety of precision guided weapons. This open architecture concept will allow vendors to provide munitions and subsystems for future capabilities as long as the munitions and subsystems support the government owned interfaces.

“We are only limited by our imaginations,” said Nerney. “Other ideas in the works for mission packages include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We can develop mission packages to support the carrying and launching of UAV’s – armed and unarmed. This will give us a hunter-killer over-the-horizon capability by pairing the armed common unmanned surface vehicle with an armed Firescout, laser weapon, or vessel-stopping equipment.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Marine Corps Is fielding its new 40mm grenade launchers

The Marine Corps recently fielded its new M320A1 grenade launcher to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, bringing the service closer to its goal of equipping all infantry units with the side-loading 40mm weapon in fiscal 2021.


The Heckler & Koch-designed M320A1 is set to replace all the Corps’ Vietnam-era M203-series grenade launchers by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024, according to a recent news release from Marine Corps Systems Command.

Weapons officials recently trained members of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune on the new launcher.

“Reloading it and unloading it are easy compared to other systems we’ve had in the past,” Gunnery Sgt. Jason Wattle, squad adviser for the Infantry Small Unit Leader course, said in the release.

Marines learned how to assemble, dissemble and troubleshoot the weapon, before participating in live-fire exercises.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

The U.S. Army first began fielding the M320 in 2009 and later upgraded to the M320A1, which is designed to be mounted under the M4 carbine. Colorado company Capco, Inc. first received a million contract in 2015 to manufacture the weapons.

Grenadiers load and unload the M320A1 from the side of the weapon rather than from underneath it, compared to the M203A2, a “major advantage because the breach of the weapon is clearly visible and the shooter can more easily load while in the prone [position],” Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC project officer for the M320A1, said in the release.

“Additionally, if the Marine experiences a misfire and the round must be removed from the barrel, it is safer to have the barrel release from the side and retain the ammunition than to have it release and potentially fall to the ground,” Berger said.

The M320A1 has a maximum effective range of 150 meters on a point target such as a window and a 350-meter max effective range on an area target, according to the Army’s technical manual for 40mm grenade launchers.

Unloaded, the M320 series weighs about 3.4 pounds in the mounted configuration and about 6.4 pounds in the stand-alone configuration.

MCSC worked with its Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC) to speed up the fielding process, according to the release.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

media.defense.gov

The AMOC is equipped with 3D printers, which helped quickly manufacture the special hammer strut tools needed for removing the launcher’s trigger assembly, it added.

The manufacturer is still required to produce the parts, but the program office chose to expedite this process with a 3D-printable version of the tool to field the system ahead of schedule, according to the release.

“Without AMOC’s assistance, Marines couldn’t have maintained the system if it broke and [the Program Manager for Infantry Weapons] would have had to limit the number of weapons we put in the hands of fleet Marines,” Berger said in the release. “Thanks to AMOC, more than a dozen infantry battalions, [School of Infantry East], [School of Infantry West] and The Basic School will all receive M320A1s this fiscal year.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new USS Indiana is one of the most lethal subs ever built

The US Navy commissioned its newest Virginia-class fast attack submarine in late September 2018.

The nuclear-powered USS Indiana (SSN 789), the fourth Navy vessel named after the state of Indiana and the Navy’s sixteenth Virginia-class submarine, entered service on Sept. 29, 2018, at a commissioning ceremony in Port Canaveral, Florida.

Indiana is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces (SOF), strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mine warfare,” the Navy said in a press statement.

Check it out below.


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is the sixteenth commissioned Virginia-class fast attack submarine, and the sixth commissioned Virginia-class Block III submarine.


Virginia-class submarines are developed in blocks, with each block having slightly different specifications than other blocks.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is 377 feet long, 34 feet wide, about 7,800 tons when submerged, and has a 140-person crew. It also has a top speed of about 28 mph.

Source: US Navy

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(US Navy photo)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Here’s a close-up of the navigation computer.


One of the newest features on Virginia-class submarines are advanced periscopes, which are called photonics mast. They can be pulled up on any monitor in the submarine, and on the Indiana, are operated by XBOX controllers.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(US Navy photo)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(US Navy photo)

youtu.be

Finally, watch the Indiana in motion below.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

Congress approves 2.1 percent military pay raise

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A soldier deposits funds into a safe in a finance office, Nov. 4, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, Afghanistan.


“You get a raise, and you get a raise, and you get a raise. You all get a raise!” That’s what Oprah Congress is telling its military and civilian Department of Defense counterparts this month, according to military.com.

The summary for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 throws a bit of shade toward President Obama, stating:

Unlike the President’s request, the NDAA:

  • Provides the full 2.1% pay raise for our Troops, as required by law
  • Stops the drawdown and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces
  • Increases ground and aviation training to address shortfalls that have contributed to accidents across the Services
  • Provides Operation and Maintenance support for a larger force, including increased depot maintenance, facilities sustainment and modernization, and ship maintenance
  • Replenishes depleted munitions inventories
  • Begins a turnaround in ship procurement with advanced funding for submarines and amphibious ships.

Effective January 1, 2017, members of the military and Department of Defense employees will see a slightly more than 2 percent pay hike. Additionally, threats to bachelors allowance for housing, (or BAH, were thwarted and the current BAH rates will stay put.

The NDAA provides funding for Israel’s missile defenses, plans to “deter” Russian “aggression in Europe,” prevents women from being required to enroll in the selective service, orders the Pentagon to reform commissaries and healthcare, and requires changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
With the 2.1 percent increase in base pay, this is what your new pay will look like beginning January 1, 2017

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How Teddy Roosevelt’s gun was as awesome as he was

In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
In 1976, the Navy discovered the USS Maine was actually sunk by a fire that hit its ammunition stores, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage)

 

In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.

Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.

Also: 7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Someone should have told Spain that white was a bad choice of uniform color.

 

Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.

First and foremost (maybe?), it was a gift to him from his brother-in-law, U.S. Navy Capt. William Sheffield Cowles. Where Cowles acquired it makes it really special: the weapon was salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor just a few months prior to the battle.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
You can’t spell “counterattack” without the letters ‘T’ and ‘R.’

 

The weapon is valued at over $250,000 and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”

The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.

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The military pay raise for 2017 might be a bit underwhelming

The U.S. military has a reputation for being overworked and underpaid.


But we all knew that going in.

The virtue of service and pride of wearing the uniform makes up for much of the disparity in pay compared to the civilian market. Still, it’s nice to get that bump in our paychecks every year.

Yet, the pay increase for 2017 won’t be so big. In an August 2016 letter to Congress, President Obama announced a 1.6 percent raise for the armed forces, consistent with the budget he sent to The Hill earlier in the year.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
(White House photo)

Across-the-board pay increases for other federal employees will be 1 percent.

“These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified Federal workforce,” Obama said in his letter to Congress.

Pay raises for the military peaked in 1983 when President Reagan instituted a 14.3 percent pay raise. Since then, the increase hovered steadily between 3 and 5 percent, with an average of 4.2 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Military pay raises since 1977.

According to Military.com’s Brendan McGarry, the Senate backs the President’s proposed numbers, but the House of Representatives was looking for a 2.1 percent raise.

When Congress agrees on how much it will be, the military pay raise will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
RAF Lancasters during a fire-bombing raid. (Wikimedia Commons)

“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.

RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who lead Bomber Command from February 1942 to September 1945. His men were given a difficult and ugly job, only to have politicians give them short shrift after the war. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.

A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Dresden after RAF Bomber Command visited it in February, 1945. (Deutsche Fotothek)

“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.

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The USMC War Memorial is about to get a $5 million facelift

Some much deserved tender loving care begins August 22 in the nation’s capital. The revered US Marine Corps War Memorial — often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — will get new gilding on its engravings and pedestal, plus a meticulous cleaning and wax of its five immense 32-foot bronze figures, a 60-foot flagpole, and granite base.


There also will be updated lighting, new landscaping for the surrounding parkland, and improved infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

The rehabilitation is a big project. It also uses no taxpayer funds.

The upgrade was made possible through a $5.4 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, a man who believes in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.”

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
David M. Rubenstein. (Photo from Flickr user Jean-Frédéric.)

Besides his many donations to academic, art, or hospital-related institutions, Mr. Rubenstein has donated close to $100 million in recent years for historic preservation projects to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other major sites. Now, it is Iwo Jima’s turn.

“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system,” Mr. Rubenstein said on announcing his donation.

The Marine memorial draws 2 million visitors a year and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. The entire original cost of the statue — $850,000 — was donated by individual Marines, friends of the Corps, and members of the naval service. Again, no taxpayer funds.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Kailua Business Owner and Mom Wins $15k Grant in National Pitch Contest

Kailua business owner Kate Reimann won the Female Founder Veteran Small Business Award at the virtual Women Veterans Summit presented by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services on Friday, June 19. She takes home the grand prize, a $15,000 grant for her business, Rogue Wave.


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

A military spouse and mom of two, Reimann is the founder and CEO of Rogue Wave, making compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. The idea struck while she and her family lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and became fully formed after they moved to Kailua, Hawaii, where she registered her business and began 3D printing prototypes. Her husband, a colonel in the US Air Force, is stationed at Hickam AFB.

Reimann’s five-minute pitch was viewed and voted on by over 150 virtual attendees and judges nation-wide. The pitch competition was part of a two-month endeavor, which began with a 60 second video submission in April. Over 100 female veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs submitted, and Reimann was chosen as one of 12 semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists had 2 weeks to secure the top 3 finalist position based on popular votes.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Reimann moved from the bottom three to the top three within the two-week voting period for a shot at the grand prize ,000 grant, sponsored by StreetShares Foundation and the Sam Adams Boston Brewing Company. Reimann gave her pitch at 5 am Hawaii time (11 am EST) in her living room, lit by lamplight, before the sun came up.

“It was such an honor to make it to the final three and truly humbling to know that people really believe in the Rogue Wave mission. I’m humbled and so, so excited for the future of this business,” Reimann said.

The pitch centered on the destructive nature of conventional oil-based plastics and the need to re-envision our materials economy. Reimann intends to use the funds to promote the compostable beach toys and raise awareness on plant-based alternatives.

“The other two founders have really strong – and really important – businesses. But I think the results show that people are ready for alternatives and recognize the urgency of our situation – we need an alternative materials economy now.”

Rogue Wave has started manufacturing and is taking pre-orders.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Rogue Wave makes certified compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. Founder, Kate Reimann, military spouse and mom of two, was inspired to make better products using better materials after a day at the beach with her family – and she’s not stopping at the beach.

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For more information, please contact Kate Reimann at aloha@roguewavetoys.com or visit www.roguewavetoys.com

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


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

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero


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.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
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.”

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
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 

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