As 1941-America faced the prospect of entering World War II, Looney Tunes made a cartoon that perfectly captured the struggles of Army life. Surprisingly (or maybe not considering the timeless nature of serving), the jokes still work in the modern Army.
There are those annoying times that soldiers playing bummer Army games like “Never-Ending Ruck March” have to walk past a sign for civilian luxuries like trains.
The cartoon, voiced by legends like Mel Blanc, even takes shots at what it’s like to train with tight budgets, something service members dealing with sequestration can understand.
In 1941, the paratroopers appear to have been the most affected by budget cuts and having to use “simulated” gear.
The machine gunners get off easy since they can practice firing in 3 to 5-second bursts using food in the chow hall.
(The whole thing is pretty funny, so check it out below):
This piece is an opinion piece of the author. Response articles are always welcomed by sending an email to email@example.com.
A new threat has risen in the East once again. Born from communism, nurtured by corporate greed and emboldened by appeasement, the Chinese Communist Party is on a path of world domination. Chinese propaganda alleges “the 21st century belongs to China” and also referred to it as the Chinese Century. However, despite the paper dragon’s roar, it has no bite. Too long has Chinese aggression gone unchecked, unpunished on the world stage. Australia, UK, India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries are changing to more aggressive policies with the CCP. A war with China will not be a war between two Nations, it will be the Third World War: The world versus China.
1. Illegal islands
The importance of the South China Sea cannot be understated. It serves as a mercantile corridor for more than three trillion dollars worth of shipping per year. In recent decades, undersea oil deposits have been discovered. A large number of the world population relies on its rich fishing territories for their food needs. The CCP has attempted to enforce a weak, fabricated, unenforceable claim to the sea. Without exaggeration, the contested area on the map looks ridiculous. The CCP wants to claim 80% of the area, effectively stealing historically-owned seas of other nations in the Pacific.
China’s illegal claim to the South China sea, also known as the “nine-dash line,” was ruled to have no claim in the area by the Hague Tribunal. To counter this, they built islands to serve as military bases. These man-made islands are unsinkable aircraft carriers for the Chinese military. CCP’s history of bullying other nations also extends to preventing them from harvesting their resources in their own waters.
There are a few weaknesses to these islands:
They are far away from the mainland.
Most of the islands only have one runway.
They are vulnerable to typhoons.
Islands are crumbling because they cut corners and are sinking into the ocean. A few strong typhoons could sweep the Illegal Islands into the sea. While they are military bases with anti-air capabilities, the islands themselves are not a direct military threat. They are bait for retaliation against any nation that does not appease China. The CCP is using a strategy of aggression and counting on appeasement not unlike Hitler as he expanded the Third Reich. They are also employing a tactic called aggressive defense. This is when one lures the enemy into making the first move and then you can maneuver a counter-attack on the most advantageous terms.
3. Relentless identity theft and cyber-attacks against the U.S.
The former Director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina warns that the CCP has stolen 80% of personally identifiable information. The Chinese government is using the information gained from cyber-attacks to the benefit of the CCP military. State-sponsored hackers are constantly attacking our infrastructure and private companies to gain a tactical edge over America.
There are two ways Chinese interests are gaining access to our personal biodata. Either we are giving it to them unwittingly through unread, signed terms and conditions. Or, state-sponsored Chinese hackers are stealing it from the healthcare, biotech and pharma companies who we trust to protect it.
Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber
4. They are using our DNA to develop bioweapons
There is an ongoing international investigation on whether the COVID-19 epidemic was an accidental or deliberate outbreak orchestrated by the communists. Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus, is also home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The level 4 biosafety facility has over 1,500 different strains of the coronavirus. With rising tensions in the East, we cannot rule out that China is developing bioweapons to be unleashed on the world. Other allegations point to the CCP stealing DNA information of people to develop weapons that will only target minorities. China considers anyone not Han Chinese to be a minority. India is accusing China of “surreptitiously developing a biological weapon capable of mass destruction.”
Regardless, the unwillingness of the Chinese government to cooperate with investigators from the World Health Organization is highly suspicious. Are the Chinese conducting a cover up to hide aweaponized coronavirus? Are they covering up criminal incompetence? What consequences could be brought down on the Beijing if our worst suspicions are proven to be true? America is not alone in thinking China is a problem. No one wants a World War but if China’s increasingly problematic actions continue, force may be necessary.
The inability to comprehend the maliciousness of Xi Jinping’s actions. Minds rebel against the notion that the world now faces a monster. Democracies, although they have been attacked, have always had difficulty recognizing evil. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the world faces with communist China’s regime.
Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China
Officials from the Department of Defense told Kim Dozier of The Daily Beastthat U.S. special forces have killed those “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who were part of those attacks outside the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
The use of special forces in kill or capture raids (though the capture part tends to happen much less frequently) is a major part of the U.S. counterterrorism plan against ISIS. Those 40 are less than half of the high-value targets that coalition forces have taken out. The U.S. mission also includes curtailing the terror group’s ability to recruit abroad and inhibit their ability to carry out Paris-style attacks. President Obama has ordered 250 more special operators to Iraq to support these operations.
According to Dozier’s report, the effort is seeing results. Those same defense officials estimated that ISIS’ overall fighting force is down to 19,000 – 25,000 fighters, from 33,000 in 2015. Moreover, the influx of new recruits coming into the region is down 90 percent from last year.
Dozier also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper warned this week that ISIS cells are already in place throughout Europe. ISIS’ external operations have killed 1,000 people across 21 countries since 2015. But the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is using a mixture of special operators from many, varied disciplines. Their units include Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Green Berets integrated in all aspects of the JSOC mission. This ensures the highest performers are on kill-capture raids, and have experience in hostage rescue and working with local opposition forces.
This may be a product of battlefield lessons learned. These days, the CENTCOM AOR is run by Gen. Joseph Votel, who once commanded both U.S. Special Operations Command and JSOC. Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the current JSOC commander, ran special operations in Afghanistan, where he used the mixed special forces tactics with great success.
Johnny T. “Tommy” Clack has military heritage in his blood. He’s proud of being the eighth generation to serve and proud of his son for being the ninth. He wants to continue to recognize returning veterans, as well as those who came before.
“We go all the way back to founding of Savannah when Oglethorpe landed in Georgia,” Clack says. “We started out as redcoats. By the second generation, we were on Washington’s side and have been on the right side ever since. ”
Clack dropped out of college to enlist in the Army in 1966. He served as an artillery officer in Vietnam, a forward observer assigned to an infantry unit to call in artillery during firefights.
“Artillery is known as the King of Battle,” Clack muses. “It brings on massive destruction. I volunteered for artillery officer candidate school because I like to play with the biggest firecrackers. And I volunteered to go to Vietnam a few times before I finally got orders. I had to find out if I was half the man my dad was! He was a World War II and Korea veteran.”
After being in country for eight months, on My 29, 1969 then-Captain Tommy Clack was seriously wounded on the Cambodian border. He suffered massive internal injuries, hearing loss, and lost three of his limbs. He would spend 22 months recovering at a VA medical facility in Atlanta, undergoing 33 operations. Since May 1969, he survived 65 surgeries.
“Every day you wake up is a great day to be alive,” he says.
Clack recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.
A popular perception of the Vietnam War is that a vast majority of the men who fought there were draftees. In reality – a reality Tommy Clack wants to make sure everyone remembers – two-thirds of the troops sent to Vietnam were volunteers.
“I got spit on and called a baby killer all the time,” he remembers. “When you got out, you dealt with that all the time from the community. I’m missing three limbs. I didn’t have to explain to anyone how that happened. But I’m not afraid to stand up for myself or any other vet. I will not be intimidated by anyone who disagrees with me.”
That dedication to supporting those like him drove much of Tommy Clack’s life. He spent his post-war career as a Georgia state Veterans Service Officer. Now 68 years old, he spent the time in-between standing up for veterans and their families, working to get them the help they need and the benefits they deserve.
“You continue to be yourself,” Clack says. “That’s what God left me alive to do. The meaning of life is to get involved and be productive. That’s what I do.”
That is exactly what Clack does. He is now the President of the $32-million Walk of Heroes memorial in Rockdale County, Georgia.
“It’s the most unique memorial ever built in America,” he says. “It’s an educational complex honoring everyone who served in the U.S. military – Active, Guard, or Reserve – from January 1, 1900 through today.”
Clack was part of the original concept, after Georgia donated the land in 1998. They broke ground in 2000 but the memorial sat unfinished for years. In 2011, Captain Clack took over.
“I decided to finish this baby,” he recalls. “When I became president in 2011, I put together a Board of Directors who aren’t afraid of doing the hard work. This is all I do now. I work on this memorial 12-18 hours a day.”
The memorial walkway is crossed by 71 marble bands ranging from 10 to 20 inches wide, engraved with the actions of America’s military during that year. From the Boxer Rebellion to the Global War On Terrorism, each marble band represents a year where American Armed Forces were deployed overseas in armed conflicts.
“We have to ensure our vets from every era are remembered for what they did,” Clack says. “Today’s generation is no different, and we need to recognize that.”
Last year, the world began waging a war against a new enemy: COVID-19. As the threat emerged and casualties mounted, the year 2020 brought changes in the way people conduct business, accomplish personal tasks, pursue education, and celebrate milestones. The pandemic also highlighted the mandate for a different type of leader: one who shares information transparently while taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk and – crucially – recognizing the importance of a more personal and human approach to communication.
Captain David Baird, USN, Commanding Officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, has been that leader. Baird and his leadership team developed and executed a plan to keep members of the NAVSTA Rota community safe, healthy and mission-ready. A central tenet of that plan was, in Baird’s words, “calm, compassionate, clear and factual communication.”
His strategy has been successful.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases within the NAVSTA Rota community has remained low and relatively isolated. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the base has been calm, and compliance with recommended public health measures has been high. Baird’s success navigating a public health crisis while fighting this new enemy, Covid-19, is a case study in effective leadership.
Preparing to Battle a New Kind of Threat
As COVID-19 ravaged Spain in Spring 2020, the NAVSTA Rota community remained focused on its mission. With cases rising sharply throughout the country, Baird and his leadership team were closely monitoring the spread of the virus and had taken measures to prepare for what might come.
By the end of March 2020, Spain was under a state of emergency, with all non-essential businesses closed and non-essential workers under a stay-at-home order. NAVSTA Rota had switched to a “minimum manning posture,” many base facilities were closed, and base schools had transitioned to remote learning. By early April, face coverings were required in all buildings.
Implementing these drastic operational changes was a massive undertaking, but an equally difficult challenge was less straightforward: successfully leading the NAVSTA Rota community through the pandemic. It was a tall order at a time when uncertainty about the virus warranted panic and fear, and face-to-face interaction had suddenly become extremely limited. Fortunately, Baird was able to draw on his combat and risk management experience to devise a strategy that all would embrace and that would keep everyone safe and informed, while also allowing his command to accomplish its mission.
Developing a Communication Strategy
Early in the pandemic, one of Baird’s first orders of business was figuring out how to communicate with the entire NAVSTA Rota community to keep everyone informed and avoid panic. With limited information, people were understandably anxious and feared for the safety of loved ones, both locally and back in the US.
Baird harkened back to advice a mentor once gave him: Rather than treating others the way you want to be treated, “treat them the way you want your children or your parents to be treated.” Baird added, “The parent part was so important, because many of us were worried about elderly parents, [who are] at a higher risk.” Baird summarized the advice another way: “View others in the way you view the people you care about the most.”
With that axiom as a backdrop to his communication philosophy, Baird was keenly aware of the importance of transparently sharing credible, accurate information. However, he recognized that “there is no such thing as perfect communication.” Rather, it’s an ongoing process of constant improvement and an effort to “connect with [people] in a meaningful way.”
All of this was the foundation for the communication plan that he and his leadership team devised. With in-person gatherings not an option, they had to find alternate ways to reach members of the NAVSTA Rota community. Baird and his public affairs officer (PAO) decided they would “use every other means available,” including social media and AFN Rota radio to share information, answer questions, and keep the community informed in real time.
Communication without face-to-face interaction
In developing the communication strategy, Baird recalled his conversation, many years earlier, with the PAO at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan regarding the 2011 Fukushima disaster and how the command had communicated about the evacuation of dependents. Answering questions and sharing information ‘round the clock via Facebook proved to be the most effective communication tactic.
Baird explains, “people crave every piece of information they can get. If information is not provided by an official source, they’re going to find an unofficial source that probably isn’t as credible.” He and his team determined that communication via Facebook would work well in the face of this new crisis, and he began publishing frequent updates on the Naval Station Rota Facebook page.
Initially, the updates consisted primarily of data on the spread of COVID in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in late March 2020, Baird began taking a new approach. As members of the Rota community were suddenly confined to their homes and severely restricted from daily activities, sharing numbers wasn’t enough. He wanted to put the information into perspective and help them truly understand what it all meant.
He explained, “I started telling stories using some of my life experiences to help figure out: How can we frame our current situation, and what does the future look like?”
Baird talked about everything from personal courage, to fear, to his experiences training for an Ironman triathlon and as a member of the rowing team at the United States Naval Academy. Each update was focused on helping the NAVSTA Rota community understand the current situation and where it was all headed, while keeping everyone motivated. The updates were honest, personal, and empathetic, and they quickly resonated with the community. Readers commented on the posts, thanking Baird for his candor, positivity, and leadership.
In response to one of Baird’s early “story-telling” updates, a member of the Rota community commented, “NAVSTA Rota is exemplifying true leadership right now. Capt. Baird, you are setting the standard for military leadership through this experience and I hope other commanders follow your example.”
A hallmark of Baird’s updates is transparency. He has been careful to share what his leadership team knew – and what they didn’t know – at all times: “Acknowledging there are a lot of things that we don’t know is important to establish credibility and maintain credibility about the things that [we] are stating as fact.”
He also explained the “why” for each new constraint on daily activities: “Every restriction we put into place was grounded in some sort of data.” His explanations, along with his acknowledgement of how difficult and frustrating the restrictions could be, made the news more palatable to the NAVSTA Rota community.
As one Facebook follower commented, “We know this is a super challenging situation and one that none of us planned on or wanted to be in, especially while living abroad. But we truly do appreciate your transparency and communication, and we commend you for how leadership has handled this difficult time here.”
The constant COVID-related communications through Facebook, town hall meetings and on AFN Rota – more than 300 since the start of the pandemic – prompted more than 10,000 comments and questions from the NAVSTA Rota community; a clear indication that members have been engaged and paying attention.
The global military community takes notice
Current members of the NAVSTA Rota community weren’t the only audience for Baird’s Facebook updates. Among the thousands of people following along were family and friends of service members stationed in Rota, retired service members, and those who served at NAVSTA Rota in the past. Baird’s leadership has meant a lot to them.
One parent wrote, “My daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter are currently stationed on your base during this crazy event. I’m extremely pleased with the way NSR is keeping everyone posted on the current issues in and around the base and country.”
Another parent simply said, “Our son and family are with you. Glad you are in Command.”
In response to one of Baird’s very candid updates about the need for all members of the NAVSTA Rota community to keep their guard up, a Navy retiree had this to say:
“As a sailor who once served in Rota, ultimately retiring from the US Navy, I have seen and read many memos of consequence. Your writing and eloquence in communicating the current issues on healthcare and the pandemic are simply outstanding. I have not, as a healthcare professional, seen better than what you transmit. If more leaders did what you do, we would all be in a better place pandemic-wise.”
The path forward and lessons learned
Baird and his leadership team continue to remain vigilant and share continual communication amidst the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Spain and rollout of the vaccine. As of April 2021, Naval Hospital Rota had already administered both doses of the Moderna vaccine to thousands of members of the NAVSTA Rota community, including active duty service members and US civilian workers, along with their adult family members. TRICARE-eligible retirees and family members were also offered the vaccine.
More than a year into the pandemic, Baird continues to refine his leadership strategy. He explains, “I’ve realized that maintaining a sense of calm is important.” He also recognizes that it is important to “meet people where they are in terms of their current level of knowledge of the COVID situation.” When imposing new COVID-related restrictions or making changes to the base routine, Baird must provide context and justification to explain why those measures are necessary.
Baird says that one of the most important lessons learned through this pandemic is “the value of having a team that works well together and supports one another.” Indeed, Baird has been surrounded by a strong team who helped navigate all aspects of the pandemic. Long before the vaccine became available, the Naval Hospital Rota team established a very effective testing and contact tracing system. DoDEA leadership quickly transitioned base schools to remote learning. The Public Health Emergency Officer (PHEO) examined every line of operations on the base to confirm that sufficient COVID restrictions were in place. The Spanish Liaison Office translated more than 1,700 pages of legal documents to ensure Baird and his leadership team understood the current Spanish laws and policies. Baird’s PAO worked around the clock ensuring that all communication reflected the latest restrictions and guidance, some of which changed several times per week. And MWR leadership made numerous overhauls to their supply chain and other processes at base eateries to accommodate changing restrictions.
Members of the base community also came together to help and support each other. They made and distributed homemade face-coverings before masks were widely available. They purchased food and other items for those who had PCS’d to Rota and were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. They looked out for each other’s children and pets. And they complied with base and local COVID safety measures.
Successfully navigating through the pandemic has been a group effort, but it all starts at the top. Through his leadership, Baird set the tone for an environment where members of the NAVSTA Rota community could trust and support one another.
As COVID restrictions are gradually lifted and the future remains unknown, the wisdom Baird offered to the community last year, in the throes of the pandemic, still rings true and illustrates why he has been an effective leader for NAVSTA Rota during this crisis: “The transition process will take time. We will need to proceed slowly and methodically. It will be frustrating at times, and we may need to reverse course at times. But each transition will bring us one step closer to our new normal, and each step forward will be a sign of improvement. It will be a long road to travel, but I look forward to traveling it with all of you.”
Featured image: Capt. David Baird, commanding officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Hospitalman Viviana Lao, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Rota, Spain, at NAVSTA Rota’s movie theater on 16 January, 2021. USNH Rota has begun administering the vaccine to frontline healthcare and first responders as part of the vaccination campaign. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eduardo Otero)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.
According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.
“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.
Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.
M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment. But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”
Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016. That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars. This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”
Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.
In the early morning hours of June 2, 2021, a fire started aboard the Iranian fleet replenishment oiler IRIS Kharg, used to resupply Iranian ships at sea. An estimated 400 sailors were aboard but Iranian state media only reported 33 injuries from the blaze.
There has been no statement or speculation about the cause of the incident, but Iranian officials have told the Associated Press that an investigation is underway.
Kharg was the largest ship in the Iranian fleet until January 2021, when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy launched the port ship IRIS Makran. Makran is the largest military vessel in the Middle East, but the loss of the Kharg is a tough blow for the IRIN. It was one of Iran’s three replenishment vessels, which extends the potential range of its fleet of smaller blue water warships.
Though not crippling to the Iranian Navy, the loss of the ship also hampers the Iranian Navy’s firepower in the region. The vessel carried significant armaments but was also capable of conducting helicopter-based operations in and around the region.
The fire aboard the Kharg is just one more event in a series of unexplained events in and around the Persian Gulf region, with much of the bad luck happening to Iranian assets. In 2020, the IRIN Konarak was struck by a friendly missile during a training exercise, killing 19 sailors. January 2018 saw the IRIN destroyer Damavand crash into a breakwater in the Capsian Sea, killing two.
The year 2021 has been far worse for the Iranian Navy. An anchored ship in the Red Sea, believed to be a base of operations for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was suddenly attacked by an unknown force. Although many assume the attackers were Israeli, the Israel Defence Forces never claimed responsibility.
The Iranian ship, called the MV Saviz, was thought to be a staging area for Iranian incursions on the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere. Iran claimed its continued presence in those waters was part of an international anti-piracy effort.
Iran’s activities in and around the Middle East are often conducted from its warships. In 2019 the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump accused the Iranian Navy of trying to hamper commercial shipping using mines attached to the hulls of ships by divers.
Iran has long threatened to mine the Strait of Hormuz, a major shipping lane through which much of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy caught the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps red-handed removing one of these mines, known as “limpet mines,” from a ship’s hull in the strait.
Kharg was a British-built oiler that had been purchased by the government of the Shah of Iran. It has since been heavily modified with dry storage areas and Soviet-made anti-aircraft weapons. Though the Makran has many of the same capabilities as Kharg, American analysts believe Makran can’t completely replace the loss of the large oiler. Kharg was not only able to refuel ships at sea, but also handle heavy cargo containers and other stores.
The large replenishment oiler had a storied history, serving as a minesweeper for three years in the Iran-Iraq War, assisting foreign ships against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and making port calls around the world – including the first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia by an Iranian ship.
Once America entered World War I some of the first forces it sent to France were those of the newly-formed Air Service. Among those troops was a relatively famous racecar driver and mechanic who would become America’s ‘Ace of Aces’ during the war: Eddie Rickenbacker.
When Rickenbacker enlisted in the Army, he had dreams of flying but was shipped to France as a driver for the General Staff due to his experience as a racecar driver. His advanced age (27 at the time) and lack of a college degree also disqualified him for flight training – but he was undeterred.
Assigned as the driver for Col. William ‘Billy’ Mitchell, Rickenbacker took the opportunity to bother him until the Colonel finally allowed him to attend pilot training. Rickenbacker still had to claim he was only 25 though.
Eddie completed pilot training in just 17 days and received his commission. However, Rickenbacker’s superior mechanical abilities from his days as a racecar driver sidetracked his flying career and got him assigned as the engineering officer at the Air Service Pursuit Training facility.
After finding a replacement, Rickenbacker was finally assigned to a combat flying unit – the 94th Aero Squadron – in March 1918. The squadron began flying combat missions in early April, and Rickenbacker wasted no time getting in on the action. On April 29th, Rickenbacker scored his first aerial victory and also his first Distinguished Service Cross for a vigorous fight and pursuit of a plane into enemy territory to shoot it down.
During May 1918 Lt. Rickenbacker downed five more German airplanes while earning an additional four Distinguished Service Crosses, each time attacking and dispersing larger formations of enemy planes.
Rickenbacker, through a lucky streak that seemed to last his entire life, also gained a reputation for surviving close calls and crash landings. In July 1918 in a particularly harrowing incident, “he barely made it back from one battle with a fuselage full of bullet holes, half a propeller, and a scorched streak on his helmet where an enemy bullet had nearly found its mark.”
A few days later he was grounded by an abscess in his ear but was back flying by the end of July. However, with his last kill at the end of May he would go many months without another victory.
Then on September 14, Rickenbacker started a remarkable streak, claiming his seventh kill and sixth Distinguished Service Cross. He downed another plane the next day. On September 25, he was promoted to Captain and made commander of the 94th Aero Squadron.
He promptly volunteered for a solo patrol, during which he encountered a flight of seven German planes below him. Rather than be thankful that no one saw him, he dived on the formation and attacked the shooting Germans, downed two enemy aircraft, and forced the rest to retreat. For this action, he was awarded his seventh Distinguished Service Cross.
Twelve years later, in 1930, this award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
At the beginning of October, Capt. Rickenbacker had 12 aerial victories. He was the leading living American pilot and was dubbed the ‘Ace of Aces’ by the press. He disliked this title because all three previous holders died in combat.
Despite his discontent with the new title, Rickenbacker led the 94th through severe fighting until the end of the war. During that time, Rickenbacker shot down ten enemy aircraft and three balloons, making him an official “balloon buster.” He also earned his eighth Distinguished Service Cross of the war – a record that hasn’t been broken.
Capt. Rickenbacker ended World War I with a total of 26 aerial victories to his credit, the American ‘Ace of Aces’ for World War I and the rank of Major. The Army promoted Rickenbacker as he left active duty but he never claimed the promotion. He felt his “rank of Captain was earned and deserved.” The public referred to him to as “Captain Eddie” for the rest of his life.
After the war, Rickenbacker went into many ventures in the automobile and aviation industries and survived many more brushes with death. He survived a near-fatal crash in early 1941 that had him out of action for almost a year. During World War II, while on a personal mission to deliver a message to Gen. MacArthur from President Roosevelt and to inspect American aviation facilities in the Pacific, the plane he was flying in lost its way and was forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean.
Rickenbacker and the surviving crew members endured over three weeks of life rafts before rescue. Consistent with his dogged determination Rickenbacker completed his assignment before returning to the states, despite losing 60 pounds and suffering from severe sunburn.
Rickenbacker, without formal education past age twelve, would eventually rise to control his own airline, Eastern Air Lines, and make it the only self-sufficient, free-enterprise – he accepted no government subsidies – airline in America for many years. He was also the majority owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway for many years during which time he significantly improved the track.
Captain Eddie retired in 1963. In 1972 he suffered a stroke, his last near-death experience. He recovered from the stroke but while visiting Switzerland he contracted pneumonia, and his luck finally ran out. He passed away July 23, 1973, at the age of 82 – a renowned fighter pilot and successful businessman.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.
Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.
Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.
But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.
“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”
Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.
Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”
In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.
Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.
More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.
Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.
The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.
Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.
Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.
In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.
On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI. Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.
When America needs to break its way into an enemy country, these are the people who slip, kick, or explode their way past the defenses and blaze the way for follow-on forces.
1. Marine Raiders
Marine Raiders are the rank and file of the Marine Special Operations Command. MARSOC fields three Raider battalions that conduct special reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and direct action missions. The Raiders trace their lineage to World War II where Marine Raiders led beach assaults, conducted raids, and used guerrilla tactics against Japanese defenders.
2. Green Berets
The Army’s special forces soldiers were famously some of the first troops in Afghanistan where they rode horses to get to the enemy. They guarded Hamid Karzai when he was an unknown politician putting together a militia to aid an American invasion, and they’ve served in dozens of unpublicized conflicts around the world.
They got Bin Laden in Pakistan, saved Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and produced “American Sniper” legend Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. Navy SEALs are the sea services’ most capable fighters on terra firma.
5. Army Rangers
U.S. Army Rangers first led the way into combat in 1775. These elite infantrymen took out key positions on D-Day, led the way into Panama in Operation Just Cause, played a huge role in Somalia, and conducted airborne assaults into both Afghanistan and Iraq.
6. Force Recon Marines
Recon Marines work for Marine ground commanders, moving ahead of other forces into any area where the commander needs “eyes on” but can’t otherwise get them.
The popular miniseries “Generation Kill” followed a group of these Marines spearheading the invasion of Iraq and feeding information up the chain to Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other senior leaders.
7. Carrier-based aircraft
The Navy’s carrier groups provide an awesome platform for launching jets against American enemies, quickly conducting air strikes when the wars opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria. This is done primarily by Navy Super Hornet air wings, though Marine Corps Harriers fly missions from carriers as well.
8. F-22 fighter wings
While the F-22 has not yet fought in the first wave of an invasion, it’s proven that it’s capable in Syria. When it entered the fight about a month after airstrikes against ISIS began, it slipped past enemy air defenses to take out protected targets. It now escorts other jets past enemy air defenses, using its sensors to detect threats and targets.
9. Naval ships
While U.S. ships rarely get to mix it up with enemy navies these days, they still get to launch the opening blows in a fight by using long range cruise missiles, especially the Tomahawk Block IV. Navy destroyers, cruisers, and submarines have launched Tomahawks against Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo … ( actually, just see the full list at the Naval History Blog).
10. 509th Bomb Wing
The 509th Bomb Wing operates most of America’s B-2s, the stealth bomber that can slip into enemy airspace, destroy air defenses and runways, and then leave without the enemy knowing what happened. The B-2 has been used in strikes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and flew many of its missions from Missouri to the target and back, taking about 30 hours for each mission.
History is full of urban legends… The fog of war doesn’t fade when history’s most notorious monster and a gallant British soldier are on both ends of the story.
When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, he found the German dictator owned a reproduction of a painting by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. The painting depicts a British soldier at the Battle of Menin Crossroads in WWI carrying another to safety.
Chamberlain asked Hitler – a clearly firm German nationalist – why he would choose to have a painting depicting Germany’s WWI enemies in the Berghof, his mountain retreat. Hitler replied that the painting featured a soldier who spared his life in combat.
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again,” Hitler is alleged to have said. “Providence saved me from such devilish accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”
That British soldier is believed to be Henry Tandey, a Victoria Cross recipient who remembers sparing a German soldier’s life at Marcoing. At just 27 years old, Tandey led a bayonet charge at Marcoing. He and his nine fellow Tommies took out a German machine gun nest and took 37 prisoners before sending the rest of the Germans in retreat.
Tandey fought in the First Battle Ypres in 1914 and the Somme in 1916, where he was wounded. He was out of the hospital in time for the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, and in 1918, was at the capture of Marcoing, where he recalls sparing a German soldier’s life.
“I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” Tandey said the German soldier nodded in thanks, and disappeared.
The accuracy of the story is disputed by historians. Though Hitler’s special interest in the painting is odd, he is known to have owned it as early as 1937, acquired from Tandey’s old regiment.
Historians argue that the faces of both men would likely have been unrecognizable, covered in mud and blood (and who-knows-what-else). They also argue that Hitler, even though he was a message runner, would have been up to 50 miles north of where Tandey was that day. Either that, or the future dictator was on leave.
Later, during WWII, a Coventry-based journalist approached the British WWI vet and asked him about the alleged encounter. As Tandey stood in front of his home, which had just been bombed by the Luftwaffe, Tandey said:
“If only I had known what he would turn out to be… When I saw all the people and women and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go.”
The United States Air Force gets a lot of (brotherly) hate from its sister branches, many claiming that we Airmen (and women, but big “A” here) have it easy. Though we often try to justify our already awesome branch, the others aren’t always entirely wrong. Here are what some think are the top 10 Air Force luxuries that almost make an airman feel guilty.
1. Barracks? We don’t need no stinking barracks!
Unless we’re stationed in Korea or a single digit number of other near-war zone areas, the airmen who must live on base get to do so in the comfort of single, double or quad-style apartment dormitories as opposed to 20 or more person barracks.
We live the college kid life of having our own bed, sink and closet with more often than not the only thing we share being bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. I don’t know about you, but I can really get behind not having my roommate’s snoring keep me awake.
2. Not Quite Hogwarts, but still…
When it comes to eating – grub, chow, mess, food – everyone looks to the Air Force as the “presidential” treatment. You want two slices of cake? Feel free. What’s that? A Twix or a Snickers bar for the road? They’re right there waiting for you.
I’ve never met anyone from a non-USAF branch that didn’t think we had the best DFACs and the best quality of food in ’em. And if it’s so late that the Chow Hall isn’t open, there’s probably a flight kitchen near the flight line to grab a good ol’ Box Nasty.
However, I don’t know if I could call a chicken sandwich, coke, bottle of water, apple/orange and a Snickers nasty. It’s good to be the fly guys.
3. TDYs: A Thing of Beauty
Whenever my unit was given a TDY (a temporary duty assignment – and know that I was with several units), the NCOICs were almost always able to get us an off-base hotel, usually in a Hilton. Free pool, free gym, queen size bed (minimum), no more than 2 to a room, etc. TDYs were mini-vacations for us and we pocketed that lovely per-diem while eating on-base for meal plan prices.
The TDYs were filled with nights of going out and days of 9-5 work, so it was almost as if we went to a medical convention or a business convention. I am almost certain that no other branch would tolerate that, but the Air Force allows that luxury for the NCOs who know their way around and take care of their people.
4. By Basic Training, We Mean Basic:
Let me put an end to this now and say that Stress Cards are not, have not and will never be a thing. We’ve all heard that each branch gets these mythical things, but it just isn’t true. That being said, the Air Force does have one of the shortest (at 8 weeks) Basic Training requirements.
We do have the BEAST in 6th or 7th week (it may have changed since I graduated basic), but it was surprisingly easy with the base area pre-assembled and most of the time practicing EOD sweeps and questioning people coming in. There were no smoke bombs, flashbangs, no sim grenades, land nav or anything extremely strenuous that some other branches have. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s not exactly limit-pushing either.
5. Look at the Size of my Wallet!
The USAF had an estimated budget of $160 billion in FY2015. While this was slightly less than the Navy’s budget (by less than 10%), the Navy has to pay for both itself and the Marine Corps. Because the Air Force doesn’t suffer from the split personality of our brothers and sisters in the Department of the Navy, we’ve got the largest per person budget in the military.
This means that we have the coolest toys, best planes, largest office supply budget and more. While we claim that we do more with less, we often do more with more.
6. Consistency of the workday
The stereotype holds true, it seems, that the Air Force is the branch with the most consistent workdays. Barring weeks where we had to do an exercise (which for my unit was 2-3 weeks every 4 months) we pretty much always got in after PT at 0900 and left at 1630.
For units that don’t have field exercises as often, it is almost always a consistent workday. “People First, Mission Always” is one of the mottos. I believe it rings true in this area, and for that, many of us airmen are grateful.
7. There’s Strong, and Then There’s Air Force Strong
We may only get 60 seconds compared to Army 120 for calisthenics on PT tests, but our numbers are much easier to manage than any other branches’. To pass by bare minimums, one needs only run a 1.5 mile in 13:14, have a 37.5-inch waistline, and perform 44 push ups plus 46 situps in a minute each.
“He’s doing a push-up, for god’s sake, help him!”
This pales in comparison to the USMC’s 15 pullups, 75 crunches, and 22-minute, 3-mile run. While the Air Force isn’t full of fatties, for sure, we have the greenest grass in the field.
8. “Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Had to Get Away”
Interestingly, I had a friend fear for his life after receiving his deployment orders. He was genuinely frightened and filled out paperwork to make out his will and to give someone power of attorney over his assets should something happen to him. Being a good friend, I asked him where he was going. I wanted to give him all the support I could. He told me he was going to Qatar. At that moment, I was torn between being a good friend and offering my support and being a great friend and mocking him.
For those not in the know, Qatar deployments include daily alcohol allowances (most Middle Eastern countries don’t allow any) and other amenities that make it more like a vacation with a work component than a deployment into a dangerous war zone. While it’s not a vacation exactly, there are as many pros as cons with many of our deployments.
9. Performance Evals are Broken
While this recently underwent a change, the yearly EPR system used to be a “gimme,” with an overwhelming majority of airmen getting “firewall 5s” or perfect scores on their eval.
Now the brass has finally realized after over a decade that this is ridiculous and are attempting to change the system to make a “5” rating mean something. The jury is still out on this, and also how it will affect the promotion cycle. But up until recently, airmen could be assured that by being average, they would be graded “The best of the best.”
10. Living On High
To be honest, this one does make me feel a little guilty. So, my friend was stationed at an Army base for tech school. On his first LES, he sees an additional allowance. So it’s not actually called substandard living pay, it’s something like that. While not all Air Force bases are cushy, if you are living in quarters that the DoD deems not up to USAF standards, the airmen will get an additional allowance not to exceed 75 percent of BAH for their rank.
There are many considerations that go into this, but suffice it to say that the reasoning is because the Air Force was the first “all volunteer” branch, and to attract high-quality airmen, the USAF needed higher quality housing.