The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775 - We Are The Mighty
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The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

There has long been a dispute between the towns of Lexington and Concord over which fight sparked the Revolution, but the first shots were fired at Lexington, which was less of a battle and more of a massacre. The debate was so fierce that President Ulysses Grant almost avoided the centennial celebrations there to avoid the issue. Taken together, however, there is little doubt that the spark of the Revolution started on this day in April, 1775.


The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolution, pitting members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia against British regular army forces. The militia was not under the royal governor, but controlled by the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress.

Seven hundred British troops were dispatched from Tory-held Boston to capture and destroy rebel arsenals at Concord, Mass. The rebels knew the British would come and had already moved the weapons and supplies. The British force moved through Lexington on the way to Concord.

At first light on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats met some 70 colonial militiamen moving into ranks on the local common. They were vastly outnumbered. Their commander, John Parker, was not willing to risk his men at such odds, and so placed them in formation, but not blocking the road to Concord. He ordered his men not to fire unless fired upon.

Rather than just march on to Concord, a British Marine lieutenant led his men onto Lexington Common to disarm the militia. Instead of disarming, the colonists moved to disperse. That’s when a shot rang out from an unknown source. Before this encounter, there was no war declared in the colonies. The British had come and gone to seize arms and supplies many times, retreating back to the major cities each time. This time was different.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

The idea of Americans in open rebellion against the British Crown was likely a shock to the subject of the British Empire. At the time of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British controlled territory on every inhabitable continent across the globe. Down on Lexington Common, however, those opening salvos left eight Americans dead and an equal number injured, along with one injured British regular. The engagement soured the chances of reconciliation between the colonies and the Crown.

The British would continue to Concord, where the Battle of North Bridge in Concord would kill two colonists and three Redcoats. The British retreated all the way back to Boston and were harassed by colonial militias the entire way home.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson composed the “Concord Hymn” in 1837, immortalizing the two events for the unveiling of a battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”

This story would one day lead to the defeat of the British at the hands of a Franco-American force, the birth of America, and eventually, School House Rock.

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Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

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Yes, sergeant, actually that new academy cadet does outrank you

As it turns out, West Point cadets *do* outrank Army non-commissioned officers.  Technically.


Even after more than twenty years in uniform, it still surprises me what I don’t know about my own profession, and what I still have to learn from my NCOs.  Let me explain:

It’s summertime, and for many cadets in the Army’s ROTC programs and at West Point, that means “Cadet Troop Leader Training” or CTLT.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Public Domain photo from DoD

This is more or less the Army’s summer intern program, where young future officers get hands-on experience as a kind of “third lieutenant,” under the tutelage of a commissioned officer for three or four weeks.  This gives cadets going into their final years of pre-commissioning training the opportunity to experience life in an active duty unit.  Specifically, it allows them to try their hands at officership, and to get a feel for the kinds of officer/NCO relationships that are essential to the success of our Army.

CTLT happens in all kinds of units, both in the US and OCONUS.  As far as I know, there are no CTLT positions in combat zones.  But short of that, cadets can end up in just about anywhere.  While CTLT is a useful and important mentorship and developmental activity, many units see CTLT as a drag, and dealing with cadets as a hassle.  Sometimes cadets are relegated to less-meaningful duties, or endure some modicum of hazing as part of the experience.

I was recently in a conversation with a senior noncommissioned officer in an elite US Army unit, when the subject of CTLT came up.  I wondered how he, as a senior NCO in a highly specialized unit, felt about having cadets around.  I asked if he gave the cadets in his unit a hard time as part of their CTLT experience.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

“No, I always salute them and treat them as officers, and I make sure everyone else does too,” he replied in total sincerity.  Somewhat surprised by this, and thinking back to my own experiences in CTLT, I asked why he felt that way.

“Because according to the Army, they outrank me, sir.”

I was floored.  Everyone knows that the lowest Army private outranks the highest cadet… right?  I mean, that certainly seemed to be the case at Airborne School back in the day.

…wrong.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Army photo by Army Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin

The Evidence

The NCO referred me to AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, which makes it pretty clear that West Point cadets do, in fact, outrank Army NCOs.  This regulation shows that cadets rank after commissioned and warrant officers, but before NCOs.  Very interesting.  I learned something that day.  You’re right, Sergeant, a West Point cadet DOES outrank you.  Technically.

OK, fine.  That’s what the reg says, but how does that work in practice?

But having learned this, it made me wonder when this would actually matter in any meaningful way.  Outside of authorized developmental training events such as CTLT, no NCO is going to allow a cadet to swoop in and take charge of his platoon, squad, or section.  So when would a cadet actually “be” in charge?

AR 600-20 again provides the answer:

AR 600-20, Section 2:

2-8. Death, disability, retirement, reassignment, or absence of the commander

a.  Commander  of  Army  element.

(1)  If a commander of an Army element, other than a commander of a headquarters and headquarters element, dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier  will assume command.

(2) If the commander of a headquarters and headquarters element dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier of the particular headquarters and headquarters element who performs duties within the element will assume command. For example, if a division headquarters and headquarters company commander is temporarily absent, the executive officer as the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier who  performs  duties  within  the  headquarters  company  would  assume  command  and  not  the  division  commander.

(3) Senior regularly assigned Army Soldier refers (in order of priority) to officers, WOs, cadets, NCOs, specialists, or privates present for duty unless they are ineligible under paragraphs 2-15 or 2-16. They assume command until relieved by proper authority except as provided in 2-8c. Assumption of command under these conditions is announced per paragraph 2-5. However, the announcement will indicate assumption as acting commander unless designated as permanent by the proper authority. It is not necessary to rescind the announcement designating an acting commander to assume duties of the commander “during the temporary absence of the regularly assigned commander” if the announcement  gives  the  time  element  involved.  A  rescinding  announcement  is  required  if  the  temporary  assumption  of command  is  for  an  indefinite  period.

 

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Photo by Michael Maddox, Cadet Command Public Affairs

The Answer:

Of course, there is another reason to treat West Point and ROTC cadets with respect: they are not going to be cadets forever.  The best way to train cadets to be officers that their soldiers will look up to and their NCOs will respect is to treat them the way you want them to act.  While it might be fun to haze the new “margarine bar” (he hasn’t even worked his way up to “butter bar” yet), is that really the impression you want him taking with you when he gets commissioned and reports to his first unit?

So yes, a West Point cadet DOES outrank a sergeant.  Or a sergeant major for that matter.  But only a complete cadidiot would get his or her cadet rank confused with an NCO’s authority and influence.

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70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

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6 times troops marched all night and laid waste in the morning

Turns out, the military is hard work. Apparently, sometimes you don’t even get a real break between marching all night through treacherous terrain and then having to crush your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women.


These six units had no issue with that:

6. The 37th Illinois Infantry assaults a stubborn hill after 36 miles of marching

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Confederate and Union forces clash at the Battle of Bull Run. (Image: Library of Congress)

The 37th Illinois Infantry was maneuvered across the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, repeatedly, completing 36 miles of marching and fighting repeatedly in 36 hours. On Dec. 7, 1862, they were marched to a new position and most of the men fell asleep despite an hour-long artillery duel going on over their heads.

They were awoken and ordered against a hill with an unknown enemy force. The 37th hit it in good order and manged to take and hold the edge before enemy artillery on the flanks pushed them back.

Despite their exhaustion and weaker position, the 37th formed back up and held the line at the bottom of the hill, containing the Confederate units for the rest of the battle.

5. The 101st raced to Bastogne and then fought a multi-week siege against the Germans

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
American soldiers rush during an artillery attack in the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the Germans launched their daring attack that would become the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. rushed to evacuate some headquarters from the area while sending in those who would hold the line, including the 101st Airborne Division. With the commanding and deputy commanding generals out of the country, the division’s artillery commander was forced to take the men to the front.

The paratroopers rushed into the breach, moving throughout the day and night and almost ending up in the wrong city due to a miscommunication. But the troops took their positions just as the Germans reached Bastogne, exchanging fire immediately after their arrival.

Over the following month, the light infantry in Bastogne held off the better armored, armed, and supplied German tanks and refused requests for their surrender.

4. American troops route Mexican defenders in 20 minutes after a night march

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
(Painting: Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot, Public Domain)

Near the end of the Mexican-American War, American attackers near the outskirts of Mexico City needed a way through the defending forces. One route was promising, but a force of 7,000 Mexican troops was defending it.

After the first day of fighting, a lieutenant found a ravine that cut to the rear of the Mexican camp and marched his troops through it. At dawn, the main force made a frontal assault while a smaller group launched from the ravine and into the enemy’s rear. In less than 20 minutes, the Mexicans were forced to retreat and other American troops were able to assault into the city.

3. Washington crosses the Delaware at night to surprise the Hessians on Christmas, then attacks the British at Princeton

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
(Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron)

On Dec. 25, 1776, Gen. George Washington led his men across the partially frozen Delaware River and on a 19-mile march to the Hessian camp at Trenton, New Jersey, surprising the Hessians before dawn and killing their commander as well as 21 others while capturing 918.

Just days later, British reinforcements had Washington cornered near Princeton. After nightfall on Jan. 2, Washington led 4,500 men through the night while 500 others made it look like the whole force was still in position. Washington’s men clashed with another British force and beat them, proving that the British Army could be defeated.

2. The Rangers march through the evening to attack Sened Station at full dark

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Rangers practice for their assault on Arzew(Photo: U.S. Army)

On Feb. 11, 1943, four Ranger companies set out with each man carrying just their canteen, a C-ration, a half shelter, and their weapon. They marched eight miles and then waited four miles from their target for full night to fall.

When twilight took over, they marched the remaining four miles to their target and attacked under the cover of darkness. Italian defenders at Station de Sened, Tunisia, suspected an attack was coming and fired machine guns into the night, giving away their positions.

Three maneuver companies assaulted the Italian positions while the headquarters formed a blocking force. In less than an hour, the Rangers were victorious and held 11 prisoners and had killed 50 enemy troops.

1. Stonewall Jackson orders a night march to surprise Union artillery with flank attacks

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
(Photo: Library of Congress)

Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson ordered a few night marches in his day, but few were as important as the June 9, 1862, march at Port Republic that arguably saved the Confederacy for a few years. The battle would decide whether Jackson could send reinforcements to Gen. Robert E. Lee who was defending the rebel capital.

And the Union forces had the better ground at Port Republic. Their cannons were arrayed on a high ridge where they pummeled Confederate attempts to advance through the valley. But that’s where a night march by the 2nd and 4th Virginia came in. They attacked the Union guns, were pushed back, and attacked again with new reinforcements, capturing and holding the former Union position.

The Confederates held the ridge, forcing the Union to retreat and allowing Jackson to reinforce Lee at Richmond, allowing the war to drag on three more years.

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10 New Year’s Resolutions to help you knife hand more and talk about ‘combat’ in Kuwait less

The Recruiter

  1. Lose the decades’ long lie of promising naive 18-year-old’s that their selected occupation specialty will be the “tip of the spear” when the next war kicks off. What’s the difference between Military Police and Delta Force anyway?
  1. Resolve to stop using the poster of HALO school pictures of grunts in OIF I when explaining what being a cook in the Army is like. The naive kid will likely be none the wiser if you use polished, Army-approved images of Culinary Specialist AIT, and your quota gets filled either way.

The Drill Sergeant

  1. The kinder and gentler Army is here and Drill Sergeants aren’t supposed to yell anymore. Resolve this year to strike fear in the hearts of your trainees in other ways. Never underestimate the power of a knife-hand, dark sunglasses and blank expression in any given situation.
  1. Maybe don’t use every negative instance in your life to exert your rage onto your platoon of trainees. Maybe you’ve only slept two hours in the past two days and you got a ticket for going one mile over the speed limit on post. Take out that anger in the gym instead and turn it into gains.

Every POG Veteran on TV shows  

  1. When told, “Thank you for your service” this time, resolve not to bust into the highly suspect monologue about cooking under fire.
  1. Try to use the phrase,“I was pretty much Infantry” a little less when explaining your military service to a civilian, especially when you detail your traumatic “deployments” to Kuwait and Bahrain. Oh, the horror…

The brand-new Second Lieutenant

  1. It’s been exactly six minutes since you’ve arrived at your first unit and no one has saluted you or asked you about your vast experience at Ranger School? Maybe let it slide this year and also give up on demanding that the Command Sergeant Major stands at attention when talking to you.
  1. Speaking of Ranger School, stop talking about it. You are not the first barrel-chested freedom fighter to graduate from the course and unless you want to be punched in the throat by your Platoon Sergeant or duct taped to a tree by your entire platoon, maybe try to be humble about your first Army experience.

The Infantryman back from his first deployment

  1. Resolve to not bring up Afghanistan in every single conversation you have with civilians. Your six-month stay on tranquil Bagram Airfield where you went to the gym four times a day and left the wire exactly zero times does little to bolster your image of a stone-cold killer and the lack of a CIB on your chest isn’t fooling anyone.

10. Perhaps listen to your NCO for once and don’t marry the stripper you just met in Nashville who you suddenly feel is your soulmate regardless of how much cash you have given her in the past two hours. Remember when you bought that 2020 Ford Mustang at 26 percent interest rate? Yeah, maybe your Squad Leader was right about something.

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US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen

U.S. helicopters airlifted soldiers to a central Yemeni province where they targeted an al Qaeda compound, clashing with suspected militants and killing at least seven of them early on May 23, according to the American military, Yemeni security officials, and tribal leaders.


The Central Command said the U.S. forces killed the militants using “a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes” to attack the compound. The Defense Department said the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen’s government.

According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in the province of Marib in the early morning hours. Tribal members said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.

The helicopters landed in the outskirts of the town of Jouba near al-Sirim, which is known as one of al Qaeda’s hideouts and which has been targeted by a series of airstrikes that reportedly killed six al Qaeda militants.

According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province. The officials and the tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters. They also did not have any specifics on casualties.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
AQAP fighters in Yemen.

The Marib raid is the second publicly-known U.S. ground deployment in Yemen in 2017 against al Qaeda militants. The United States has stepped up airstrikes as part of a sustained assault on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in areas of Yemen where it is most active, after a late January special operations raid that resulted in the death of aNavy SEAL.

Washington considers AQAP as one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.

The January raid also killed 25 civilians, including women and children, and sparked outrage in Yemen. The U.S. military said 14 militants from al Qaeda were killed in the assault and that U.S. service members captured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

Also read: Another ship attacked off Yemen

Over 75 U.S. airstrikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.

But al Qaeda has used the chaos of Yemen’s civil war following the 2015 launch of the Saudi-led campaign targeting the Shiite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, and other areas in the country, to expand its footprint and recruitment efforts.

The militant group has also effectively emerged as a de facto ally of the U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the battle against the Shiite rebels.

The United States also supports the oil-rich Saudi Arabia with military advisers, logistics and intelligence, in addition to billions of dollars in arms.

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This is the story behind the failed hostage rescue in Iran

On the night of April 1, 1980, two CIA officers flew Major John T. Carney Jr., a U.S. Air Force Combat Controller, to a small strip of road in the South Khorasan Province, Iran.


This location would live in special operations infamy forever, by its code name – Desert One.

Maj. Carney installed infrared lights, a strobe for use as landing lights, and tested the ground, which was hard-packed sand. By this time, Iranian students had held 52 American diplomats and other embassy personnel hostage for 149 days.

The U.S. military was going to get them out.

This final, very complex mission was supposed to take two nights. Colonel James Kyle, commanding officer at Desert One and planner for Eagle Claw called it “the most colossal episode of hope, despair, and tragedy I had experienced in nearly three decades of military service.”

On the first night, three Air Force C-130s would bring 6000 gallons of fuel in bladders to Desert One. Then three EC-130Es would carry 120 Delta Force operators, 12 U.S. Army Rangers, and 15 Farsi-speaking Americans and Iranians. Three MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft would also carry supplies.

All would enter Iran from the Southern coast of the Gulf of Oman. Eight Navy Sea Stallion helicopters would fly in from the USS Nimitz, refuel, and carry the Deltas to Desert Two, a location 52 miles from Tehran. All would hide during the day.

The second night commenced the rescue operation.

The CIA was supposed to bring trucks to Desert Two and drive the operators into the capital. Other troops were to cut the power to the area around the embassy as the Rangers captured the abandoned Manzariyeh Air Base. This would give arriving USAF C-141 Starlifter aircraft a suitable place to land. Maj. Carney would command the Air Force combat-control team to provide ground control to the temporary airfield.

An Army Special Forces team would hit the foreign ministry to free the top three diplomats who were held separately. Meanwhile, Delta Force would storm the embassy, kill the guards, move the hostages to the stadium across the street where the helicopters would pick everyone up, and take them to the air base where the Starlifters would take them home.

Wikimedia Commons

U.S. forces, fuel, and supplies were delivered as planned. Everything else was a debacle. Ranger roadblock teams securing the deserted road blew up a tanker smuggling fuel and detained a civilian bus and its passengers.

On the way to Desert One, one of the Sea Stallions had to be abandoned on the ground because of a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by one of the other Sea Stallions.

The other six ran into an intense sandstorm known as a haboob – a windy mix of suspended sand and dust, moving at up to 60 mph. One of the remaining Sea Stallions had to return to base because of the storm while the rest took an extra 90 minutes getting to Desert One, one sustaining damage to its hydraulic system.

This left five total helicopters. The mission minimum was four – U.S. Army Col. Charles Beckwith, commander of the Delta Force, requested the okay to abort this mission, which President Carter granted.

Back at Desert One, the evacuation began in haste. The extra 90 minutes on the ground expended more fuel than planned.

When one of the Sea Stallion helicopters attempted to move into a position to refuel, it blew up a cloud of dust the road collected in the previous three weeks. Unable to see properly, the RH-53 crashed into the EC-130 carrying troops and fuel, killing eight, five of the 14 Airmen in the EC-130, and three of the five Marines in the RH-53.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
U.S. Air Force Photo

All five remaining helicopters were left on the ground in the subsequent evacuation (two of them are still in active service with the Iranian Navy). The bodies of all eight Airmen and Marines were found by the Iranians the next day.

The failure of communications between branches during Eagle Claw is the reason each services’ special operations commands now fall under USSOCOM. Many further changes in structure resulted after intense scrutiny, research and a Congressional Committee.

Plans for a second rescue operation continued under the code name Project Honey Badger, but ended with the election of President Ronald Reagan and the hostages’ subsequent release.

Reagan sent Carter to greet the hostages as they arrived in Germany. When asked what he would do differently during his Presidency, Carter remarked “I would have sent one more helicopter, which would have meant that we could have brought out all the hostages and also the rescue team.”

Bruce Laingen, hostage and former charge d’affaires to the embassy in Iran on the operation:

“While no day hurts more — than today and always — than the day when these brave men lost their lives in an attempt to reach us, no day makes us more proud as well, because of the way in which they stood for that cause of human freedom. For that, all of us (former hostages) will be forever grateful.”

The men who died at Desert One:

Capt. Harold L. Lewis Jr., U.S. Air Force, Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Richard L. Bakke, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Charles McMillian, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. John D. Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. George N. Homes, U.S. Marine Corps.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Arlington National Cemetery

Their remains were not recovered, but a memorial dedicated to their memory stands in Arlington National Cemetery.

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This WWII vet fought kamikazes in history’s largest naval battle

Philip Hollywood grew up in a Navy family, so when World War II started he enlisted in the Navy — at the ripe young age of 17.  After his combat training, he was assigned to the USS Melvin, a destroyer homeported in the Philippines.


The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

 

The Melvin fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, which turned out to be the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest in history. Leyte Gulf was also the first time the Japanese used coordinated kamikaze attacks.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

“The Kamikazes… that was scary to me. Anyone who says they weren’t scared, I don’t think they’re telling the truth,”  says Hollywood. “It was a new experience trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive.”

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

 

The battle was much more than fighting kamikaze attacks. Two days into the fight for Leyte, a Japanese task force of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, and four destroyers tried to steam through the narrow Surigao Strait to support the main force in the Gulf. The Japanese ran into six American battleships (five of which were sunk at Pearl Harbor, but were repaired and brought back to service), four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats in Surigao’s narrows.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

In a video produced by AARP, Hollywood recalls his memories of the battle, the kamikaze, and how it felt to sink the Japanese battleship Fuso.

Hollywood died shortly after this video was produced.

“Phil Hollywood was the last of a dying breed,” says TJ Cooney, one of the video producers. “I am so thankful for the time that I had with Phil to make this story, he was an amazing man and truly an American hero and treasure. He is going to be sorely missed and never forgotten.”

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This gunner fell 22,000 feet without a parachute and lived

Paratroopers make a big deal about jumping out of planes from 800 feet, but U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute while the plane was on fire.


And he lived.

Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.

During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.

Magee told God, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life,” according to reports from the 303rd Bomb Group.

Magee, struggling with a shortage of oxygen and likely in shock from the events of the past few minutes, passed out again and God seemingly answered his prayer. The young noncommissioned officer fell into the town of St. Nazaire and through the glass roof of the train station. He was later found dangling on the steel girders that supported the ceiling.

The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.

“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”

Magee was able to keep his arm and eventually made a full recovery. He spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.

In 1995, Magee was invited back to France as part of a ceremony sponsored by French citizens to thank Allied service members for their efforts in the war. Magee was able to see monuments to the crew of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, including the nose art which had been used as a Nazi trophy until after the war when a French man recovered it. It was restored in 1989.

Magee died in 2003.

(h/t War History Online)

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What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

It’s no secret that tensions between China and America are ramping up over the South China Sea and Taiwan as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have drawn a firm line against China. Tillerson even went so far as to suggest the possibility of a blockade against China — considered an act of war — during his Senate confirmation hearings.


So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning deployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.

The Liaoning was last spotted flying with an air arm of 13 J-15 fighters. While the J-15 is capable of catapult takeoffs and arrested recoveries — at least in theory — the Liaoning can’t facilitate them. It utilizes a bow ramp to help its jets takeoff. So these 13 fighters can’t get airborne with their full weapons and fuel loads.

They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
The Vinson is packing some serious heat, is what we’re saying. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.

So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.

Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.

The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.

Most likely, the Hornets equipped solely for anti-air warfare would come back down and get a full load of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Which Harpoons are available will be important to the pilots.

In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.

Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.

But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.

Of special concern would be the anti-ship cruise missiles thought to be deployed to Woody Island, Scarborough Shoal, and potentially even Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. If the weapons are deployed to all of them, there’s nowhere in the South China Sea the carrier can pass through without being forced to defend itself.

So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.

Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.

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Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

Yazidi women who were enslaved and terrorized by ISIS have formed a military unit known as the Sun Brigade to hunt down the fighters and condemn them to Hell.


The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
A military trainer teaches Yazidi and Kurdish women how to fire machine guns during basic training. Screenshot: YouTube/BBC News

ISIS fighters believe that they will not be allowed into Paradise if they are killed by a woman, a fact the Yazidi women of the Sun Brigade are happy to exploit.

ISIS fighters brutally committed a campaign of forced conversion and genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. After overrunning a Yazidi village, ISIS killed the men and took able-bodied women and girls as sex slaves. When one Yazidi slave gave birth, she was not permitted to feed her newborn son, according to Fox News. When the baby cried, the woman’s ISIS master beheaded him.

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Xate Shingali shows other Yazidi women how to handle firearms during a display for visiting CNN journalists. Screenshot: YouTube/Hiwa Marko

Some Yazidi women want to punish ISIS for what they did to their people. Xate Shingali, a 30-year-old folk singer, leads the Sun Brigade. The Sun Brigade is part of the Women’s Protection Unit, abbreviated as the YPJ, an all-female branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

Many volunteers have friends and relatives kidnapped by ISIS. One of the unit members told CNN, “We are Yazidi. We are women. And we will destroy you and anyone who touches our women and dirties our lands.

The Yazidi women share the sentiment of the Kurdish women. CNN interviewed a 21-year-old Kurdish YPJ commander, known as Tehelden – the Kurdish word for ‘revenge.’ ‘They believe if someone from Daesh [IS] is killed by a girl, they won’t go to heaven. They’re afraid of girls.’

The Sun Brigade has been manning observation posts and training in small unit tactics on Sinjar Mountain, the site where IS killed many Yazidi civilians who sought refuge there in 2014.

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These 6 military hacks won’t work in civilian life

Transitioning from the military can be tough for a lot of reasons. There’s the trip to buy a civilian wardrobe, the lost camaraderie, and the sudden absence of awesome problem-solving tools.


Few things are as frustrating as spending hours with an HR rep talking out something you could’ve solved in uniform in minutes with one of these 6 techniques:

1. Take it to the woodline (or the boiler room, or wherever)

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Michael Walker

When service members simply can’t find common ground, they dip into a secluded space and duke it out. Win, lose, or draw, the fighters don’t come back until they’ve made peace with each other. But this isn’t exactly an accepted way to settle the temperature setting of the office thermostat.

2. 10 minutes prior to the 10 minutes prior

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Photo: flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

Padding the timeline allows commanders and planners to know that everyone will be in position on time for a mission … because the troops had to arrive three hours early to inspect gear, practice movements, and just sit around wondering why they’re awake so early. Civilians really don’t go for arriving at 6 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. meeting. Try this at the office and someone is getting a call from the union.

3. Working parties and troop details

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

Need to get a row of 12 massive connexes unpacked in a single day? Then first sergeant needs four people from each platoon.  Since the military owns all of the time of its members and those members are trained above all else to work together, the military can just throw men at a problem until it’s solved. But imagine a bunch of accountants being sent from their spreadsheets and calculators to put up tents.

That’ll go well . . .

4. Acquired gear

When units need something too quickly for the supply office to take care of it, there’s an ancient military tradition of “acquisition” that will get what you need as long as no one asks questions. The civilian world has too many bean counters and snitches for this to work though. If a copier mysteriously appears in one department, someone will check the serial number to learn where it came from.

5. “Suck it up and drive on.”

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Harry Brexel

Of all the techniques here, this is the one that many civilians most need to learn. Troops know that they don’t go to sleep until the mission is done, their weapon is clean, and someone is on watch. If you’re tired or in pain, suck it up and drive on. It’s also known as, “Ruck up.” Tell your co-workers to ruck-up and your supervisor may be asking why he’s on tap to pay massive amounts of overtime.

6. Call for fire

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775
Photo: Crown Copyright/Staff Sgt. Mike Harvey

There’s not a lot of problems that 155mm artillery rounds or a nice BRRRRRT from an A-10 can’t solve. In the civilian world, solving problems head on instead of working the system often results in nothing but more problems.

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