This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico - We Are The Mighty
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This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille.  When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea.  The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raft when all hope seemed lost.


This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
The Downs family after their rescue.

The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration.  They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.

Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.

“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.

“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”

Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.

“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”

Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.

A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.

Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”

Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.

It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.

One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.

Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.

“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”

But they didn’t move on.

The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.

The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.

Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”

Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.

Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.

Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.

“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.

“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”

An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.

About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .

Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”

Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.

Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.

The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.

The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.

Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.

Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”

Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.

“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.

“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.

With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.

“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”

Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.

“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.

Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.

Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.

Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”

Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.

“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.

The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.

“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.

“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.

The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.

“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”

Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.

Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.

As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”

“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”

Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.

The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.

But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.

The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.

The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”

Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.

The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.

“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”

Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”

When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.

A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”

A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.

Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.

“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”

“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”

“What if the boat can’t find us?”

“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”

Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.

More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .

The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,”  “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”

His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival.  Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.  

To see more visit Michael Tougias’ website.

Articles

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Pantelleria and Lampedusa, two islands located about 50 miles off the Tunisian coast, were strategically located in the middle of the intended path of the Allied fleet for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Pantelleria was garrisoned by an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Axis troops, mostly Italian, and was home to radar stations that tracked Allied ship and air traffic. Its defenses included 15 battalions of coastal guns, pillboxes, and other defensive works.


Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had long been an advocate of seizing the two islands, stating that if “left in the enemy hands, they would be a serious menace; secure in our hands they would be a most valuable asset.” The “asset” was Pantelleria’s airfield, the only one close enough and large enough to accommodate the five squadrons of short-range Allied fighters needed for close air support for the invasion.

Eisenhower initially encountered resistance from his British senior subordinate commanders, who felt that defenses on Pantelleria were so strong that assaulting forces ran a serious risk of failure. But Eisenhower insisted, assigning Lt. Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, commander of Northwest African Air Forces, “with the mission to reduce the island’s defenses to such a point that a landing would be uncontested,” making Pantelleria “a sort of laboratory to determine the effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline.”

Codenamed “Operation Corkscrew,” the air offensive kicked off on May 18, 1943. From then until the invasion date of June 11, the island came under constant air attack from heavy and medium bombers and fighter-bombers.

One of the squadrons flying missions to Pantelleria was the 99th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the son of the nation’s first African-American general, the first squadron of African-American pilots of the “Tuskegee Experiment” program to see action in the war. The squadron arrived in Morocco on May 1, 1943.

As this was a time of Jim Crow in the United States, the pilots and ground crew encountered the indignities and slights of segregation and racism they had experienced back home. But one pleasant surprise was Col. Philip “Flip” Cochran, the inspiration for cartoonist Milton Caniff’s hero Flip Corkin in the syndicated newspaper strip Terry and the Pirates and later co-commander of the 1st Air Commando Group, who enthusiastically went out of his way to give the pilots combat training.

Lt. Spann Watson remembered Cochran as “a great guy” and said, “Cochran helped the 99th learn how to fight.” Davis added his praise, noting, “We all caught [Cochran’s] remarkable fighting spirit and learned a great deal from him about the fine points of aerial combat.”

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

Pantelleria would be the 99th’s baptism of fire. The squadron averaged two missions a day. In addition to escorting bombers, the pilots also conducted dive-bombing and strafing missions. Though the pilots did not shoot down any enemy planes, they did damage several and were successful in driving away air attacks on the bombers – which suffered minimal or no losses, a foretaste of defensive tactics that would define the Tuskegee Airmen’s reputation in the war.

In the three-week air campaign, 6,400 tons of bombs were dropped on targets on Pantelleria. On June 11, assault craft carrying troops from the British 1st Division headed toward Pantelleria’s beaches. But, contrary to British predictions of beaches bathed in blood, before the troops could land, the Italian governor capitulated. The garrison on Lampedusa surrendered the next day. The only casualty was a soldier bitten by a mule.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
Eight Tuskegee Airmen in front of a P-40 fighter aircraft | U.S. Air Force photo

The swift fall of the islands went straight to the heads of some senior strategic air commanders, who now believed airpower alone could change the course of the war. Spaatz went so far as to claim “the application of air [power] available to us can reduce to the point of surrender any first-class nation now in existence, within six months from the time that pressure is applied.”

For the 99th, Corkin’s training assistance had a payoff beyond the battlefield. Following the surrender of Pantelleria, Davis received a message from area commander Col. J. R. Watkins: “I wish to extend to you and the members of the squadron my heartiest congratulations for the splendid part you played in the Pantelleria show. You have met the challenge of the enemy and have come out of your initial christening into battle stronger qualified than ever. Your people have borne up well under battle conditions and there is every reason to believe that with more experience you will take your place in the battle line along with the best of them.”

Davis would have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, retiring in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1998, he was advanced to the rank of general (retired list). He died in 2002.

Articles

Someone wrote a list of 65 ways civilians can simulate military life and it’s hilarious

Almost everyone gets email forwards from their family. In the days before social media, people emailed the jokes, memes, and urban legends that populate Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest today. These days, it’s mostly older people that stick to forwarding emails instead of sharing via social media.


Loved ones forward things to veterans wanting to know if something about the military or life in the military is true.

This one has been circulating around the internet for a while. Its origins are hard to trace, but the authors — whomever they may be — pinpointed some of the more bizarre aspects of military life by trying to find a civilian equivalent. It’s funny to look back at things military personnel and veterans accept as a part of life, no matter how strange it may seem from the outside looking in.

65 ways civilians can simulate military life:

1. Dig a big hole in your back yard and live in it for 30 days straight.

2. Go inside only to clean the house. On weekends, you can eat in the house, but you can’t talk.

3. Pour 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your hole, then shovel it out, stack sandbags around it and cover it with a sheet of old plywood.

4. Fill a backpack with 50 pounds of kitty litter. Never take it off outdoors. Jog everywhere you go.

5. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.

6. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower.

7. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn the water pressure in your shower down to a trickle, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn it up so hard it peels skin. On Saturdays and Sundays, declare to your entire family that they can’t use the shower in order to keep it clean for inspection.

8. Go inside and make your bed every morning. Have your wife tear the blankets off at random during the day. Re-make the bed each time until it is time to go back outside and sleep in your hole.

9. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Get up! Get up! You are moving too slow! Get down and do push-ups!”

10. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6am and read it to you.

11. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock yourself out of the bathroom for 12 hours. Hang a sign on the bathroom door that says, “Unserviceable.”

12. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 5pm.

13. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over. Have them all dig holes in your yard to live in. After 30 days, fill in the holes and wave at your friends and family through the front window of your home as you set out for a 25 mile walk and After-Action-Review.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

14. Shower with above-mentioned friends.

15. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.).

16. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away.

17. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours with the windows down before going anywhere. Tune the radio to static and monitor it while letting the car run. If it is cold outside, don’t run the heat. Sleep on the hood or roof of your car.

18. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.

19. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red.

20. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.

21. Use eighteen scoops of budget coffee grounds per pot, and allow each pot to sit 5 hours before drinking.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
That government coffee.

22. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item.

23. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel when you are inside to eat. Tune the tint on the TV to green.

24. Avoid watching your green tinted TV with the exception of movies which are played in the middle of the night. Have the family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.

25. Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
The barracks barber or the Exchange barber? Roll the dice.

26. Sew big pockets to the legs of your pants. Don’t use them.

27. Spend 2 weeks sleeping in holes in your neighbor’s lawns and call it a deployment.

28. Spend a year sleeping in holes in your local area and call it world travel.

29. Attempt to spend 5 years working at McDonald’s and NOT get promoted.

30. Ensure that any promotions you do get are from stepping on the dead bodies of your co-workers.

31. Blast heavy metal music on your stereo and conduct Ranger PT, grass drills, and sprints on your front lawn after your neighbors have gone to bed.

32. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to man their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days.

33. Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without checking the pantry and refrigerator.

34. Post a menu on the refrigerator door informing your family that you are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for at least an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them that you are out of steak, but you have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they don’t pay attention to the menu anymore so they just ask for hot dogs.

35. When baking a cake, prop up one side of the pan while it is in the oven. Spread icing on real thick to level it off.

36. In the middle of January, place a gate at the end of your street. Have your family stand watches at the gate, rotating at 4-hour intervals.

37. Make your family live with you in your hole for 6 weeks. Then tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’re going to take them to Disneyland for “block leave.” When the end of the 6th week rolls around, inform them that Disneyland has been canceled due to the fact that they need to get ready for Individual Skill Certification, and that it will be another week before they can go back into the house.

38. In your hole (refer to #1), with 200 of your not-so-closest friends (see para. 13), get the flu.

39. Sleep in a thicket of blackberries or rose bushes. Tie a string to your foot that runs to the house. Have your wife yank on the string about 3 hours after you go to sleep. Crawl out of the bushes and go to the house to see what she wants. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Just making sure you’re okay.”

40. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake.

41. When there is a thunderstorm in your area, dig a trench into your hole so that it fills up with water. During the worst part of the storm, get out of your hole and go for a 12 mile walk.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
How you feel after that hike.

42. Don’t change your socks for a week. After they disintegrate off with pieces of your feet, put on an unbroken pair of new boots and go for a 12-mile walk.

43. For mechanized infantry or armor types: leave the lawn mower running next to your hole 24 hours a day. When you get an opportunity to sleep in your house, put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.

44. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.

45. Set up a port-a-potty in the corner of your yard. Once a week, have the service truck back into your yard and pump it out. Make sure the wind carries the smell into your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.

46. Every other month pull every single possession you own out of your house and line everything up on your lawn from smallest to largest, front to back. Count everything and write it down to file with your insurance company. Give your wife the list to throw away.

47. Lock wire the lug nuts on your car.

48. Buy a trash can, but don’t use it. Store the garbage in your hole.

49. Get up every night around midnight and stroll around your yard to “check the perimeter.”

50. Run the garden hose to your hole and turn it on. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. Jump up and get dressed as fast as you can. Run out into the backyard and get in your hole.

51. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home and put them back together again.

52. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference.

53. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside.

54. Every so often, throw the cat in front of your hole and shout “Enemy in the wire! Fire Claymores!” Then run into the house cut off the circuit breaker. Yell at the wife and kids for violating security and not maintaining good noise and light discipline.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
You’ll never be squad leader with that attitude, Billy.

55. Put on the headphones from your stereo set, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck with string. Go sit in your car. Say to no one in particular “Lost-One, this is Lost-Three, are you lost too, over?” Sit there for three or four hours with the engine running. Say again to no one in particular “Negative contact, Lost-Three out.” Roll up your headphones and paper cup and place them in a box.

56. Cook a gourmet meal then eat it in the middle of a McDonald’s play place.

57. Receive 500 gallons of purified water. Only eat snow.

58. Find out your house was built on an erosion point. Burn your house down. Build new one 3 feet away.

59. Buy 10 pairs of sunglasses for your neighbors to steal.

60. When you catch above mentioned neighbors, only blame the neighbors that just moved in.

61. Dig a new hole in your front yard for a bathroom next to your original hole. Only piss in Powerade bottles.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
Home is where you dig it. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

62. When above-mentioned hole is washed away, dig a new bathroom hole 6 inches from your fresh water supply.

63. Every 2 or 3 days take your closest not-so-close friends camping across the street.

64. Shower semi-annually.

65. Have your parents take away your allowance on weekends that were a part of your vacation.

Articles

It’s not the Beretta M9 that sucks, it’s the ammo

There’s a decades-old argument about which pistol round is better that stems from a more basic argument about terminal ballistics – which is just a fancy term for what happens when bullets hit living things.


The two sides of the argument are between those who believe fast, lightweight rounds do more damage, and those who believe heavy, lower-moving rounds impart more energy and “stopping power” on the target.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M9 and why ammo matters: 

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Given its history of weapon adoption, it seems the Army is a proponent of the fast, lightweight department. First it swapped out the 7.62mm M14 for the 5.56mm M16, then the .45 1911 for the 9mm M9. While many agree with the first change (sorry M14 lovers) some still think the M9 should never have been adopted without changing the ammunition recipe beforehand.

Here’s why.

Full metal jacket ammo is really great for sending rounds through paper, but its aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design makes it zip through tissue without dumping most of the energy behind it into the target. Shot placement can compensate for this by hitting harder stuff like bones or vital organs, but under the stress of returning fire, that’s damn tough for even the seasoned Delta operator to land perfect hits with a sidearm.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
An M9 service pistol’s magazine rests on the firing line next to a scoring sheet during a pistol qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 7, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell/released)

Ideally, a round will dump all of its energy into a target, which reduces the need for shot placement at the cost of reduced penetration. On a rifle, this is a big drawback. It means if Johnny-Jihad is hiding behind a plywood shack, the rounds will expand in the wooden walls and lose most of their power. With a sidearm, most shooters aren’t trying to blast bad guys through walls – it’s a weapon of last resort.

So when a trooper needs to draw his M9, he shouldn’t have to worry about the bullets failing to stop his attacker.

If the military wants to put the M9 on even-footing with the M1911’s fight-stopping power, it might only need to swap out the M882 round with the good stuff being issued to American law enforcement officers.

Heck, Rangers have been running heavier, jacketed hollow-points for years. This isn’t news to the brass.

A little more than a year ago, the Army declared its Modular Handgun System should be able to operate with special ammunition like jacketed, hollow-point rounds.  The so-called XM17 is slated to replace the M9.

In fact, one recommendation is to replace the lightweight 112gr M882 FMJ cartridges with heavier 147gr expanding hollow-point rounds like those employed by Ranger elements during combat operations. These heavier rounds don’t just expand better in their targets, they’re also subsonic.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Paquin, assigned to Expeditionary Combat Camera reloads an M9 pistol during practical weapons course training at Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex, July 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric Dietrich)

This has two major advantageous. First, it makes them better suited to pistols and submachine guns equipped with sound suppressors. And second, it provides a more consistent flight path since the bullet doesn’t go transonic.

That all said, many agree the M9 does have some serious mechanical shortcomings. Slides cracking, junk magazines in the early days of the G-WOT, and the gun’s open-slide gobbling up sand all contribute to a pistol clearly not at home in desert warfare.

But with new magazines that work much better, reinforced slides and a proper maintenance schedule, many experts say the M9 beats the hell out of the 1911 it replaced — but only with proper ammo. Hague convention be damned, expanding ammunition isn’t designed to cruelly maim soldiers but to drop them more reliability. Plus, these same rounds are nearly always stopped by walls, putting fewer civilians at risk in adjacent rooms.

Lastly, if you’re worried about our guys getting hit with these types of rounds, don’t be. Expanding ammunition amplifies the effectiveness of body armor, since both are designed to dissipate force. So as long as Joe has his body armor on, hollow points won’t do any more than a standard pistol round.

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This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

Kenny Bass liked his job. As a 22-year-old Marine participating in the initial invasion of Iraq, life couldn’t have been more exciting.


“I was part of the combined anti-armor platoon,” he explained. “It was the ‘CAAT platoon.’ We were doing a lot of counter-ambush patrols, the insurgents were attacking Red Cross personnel, civilian contractors and other non-combatants. So we were tasked with going out and trying to solicit an attack. We were Infantry Marines, and young, so most of us were pretty excited about doing that kind of work. We had heavy-duty machine guns and anti-tank missiles.”

Nothing Major

About four months into his tour, the odds caught up with the young Infantry Marine. The unarmored Humvee he was riding in struck an IED.

“I was sitting in the passenger side rear, and the IED blew up by the right front bumper,” he said. “Nobody got killed, and I just took a couple pieces of shrapnel to my face, nothing major. I think the blast wave injury was the major thing.”

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
When Veteran Kenny Bass was at the Dayton VA, receiving medical attention for a kidney stone, Atlas was there by his side.

Nevertheless, by the time he returned home from Iraq in early 2004, Bass was a different man.

“My friends noticed a change in me,” he said. “I was depressed. And I was anxious. I remember going to a flea market one time and that’s when I had my first panic attack, because of all the people there. It was like I was still in Iraq, where just about everyone you see is a potential threat. I hated going out to eat or going to the mall or anything like that.”

104 in a 65 Zone

As if depression, anxiety and panic weren’t enough, another symptom began to surface.Anger.

“I was walking around with an anger level of about seven or eight,” Bass explained. “One time I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for doing 104 mph. I got mad at the cop for pulling me over. I was such a jerk. It didn’t take much to tip me off.”

At home, the 33-year-old Veteran’s garage became his haven.

“I’d sit out there all day smoking cigarettes,” he said. “I could see the street from there, which made me feel safe, and I could also hear what was going on in the house. So I had everything covered.”

From Bad to Worse

To dull the anxiety and the fear, the former Marine turned to alcohol.

I started drinking a lot,” he said. “Of course the alcohol just made things worse. I got to the point where I hated to wake up in the morning. I hated my life. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to work again and not be on disability.”

In an effort to get his life back, Bass headed over to the Dayton VA Medical Center in 2007. There he began therapy sessions with Bill Wall, a clinical social worker who had served in the military for 30 years.

“Kenny went through our therapy program here at Dayton,” Wall explained, “but it was clear that he was still having some issues with personality changes, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger and other symptoms related to post traumatic stress. When he would go out in public, he just didn’t feel safe or in control. I thought maybe a psychiatric service dog might be a good next step for him, so I recommended he look into it.”

Safety Net

Wall, a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had good reasons for thinking a service dog might be the game-changer Kenny Bass was desperately in need of.

“You can feel a lot more safe with a dog around you,” the social worker observed. “The dog has been trained to pick up on any fear or anxiety you might be feeling. They can actually smell it. The dog then does something to distract you or make you feel less anxious. When you become overloaded, the dog knows it and helps you refocus. Even before you realize you’re overloaded, the dog will pick up on it. For example, if you’re in a crowd of people and you begin showing subtle signs of distress, your dog will try to create a buffer zone around you. The dog is trying to give you a sense of safety.”

“A psychiatric service dog is…always focused on taking care of you.”

And when the world seems like a safer place, chances are you’re more likely to get out there and participate in it, Wall observed.

“The dog can help you have successful outings,” he said, “and the more successful outings you experience, the better you get at it. Your new experiences gradually begin to replace your old, traumatic experiences. You’re re-learning your behavioral script.”

Back From the Brink

In 2012, after doing a little research, Kenny Bass was able to get himself paired up with an 18-month-old German Shepard named Atlas, a highly-trained service dog provided by a non-profit called Instinctive Guardians.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
Kenny Bass and his dog Atlas

“If you’re a Veteran, and suicidal, a little thing like that can be lifesaving,” Bass continued. “Atlas definitely brought me back from the brink. He’s such a character now. He gets me laughing.”“Atlas became my support system,” Bass said. “He could tell when I was having nightmares. He’d jump on the bed, lick my face and wake me up. A few weeks after I got him I was sitting alone in my garage, as usual. He came over and dropped his ball in my lap. Five minutes later I was out in the backyard with him, in the sunshine, throwing the ball for him.

The Watcher

Aside from being a natural comedian, Atlas also serves as a competent body guard.

“When we’re out, I can trust Atlas to be vigilant for me,” Bass said. “I’m experiencing more things now because of him. When we’re somewhere crowded, he’ll block for me. He’ll walk back and forth behind me to keep people from getting too close.

“And when I tell him to ‘post,’ he sits down on my right side, facing the other way. If somebody approaches me from behind, he’ll nudge me. He’s alerting me. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s watching and that I don’t have to.”

Having turned his life around two years ago with the help of Atlas, Bass decided it was time to start giving back. In 2013 he helped found The Battle Buddy Foundation, a non-profit that trains service dogs for Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.

“When you’re in combat, you don’t go anywhere without a buddy, someone to watch your back,” Bass said. “That’s where the term ‘Battle Buddy’ comes from.”

He added: “It’s a good feeling to know someone always has your back.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit the VA National Center for PTSD Website at www.ptsd.va.gov

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

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Watch this test pilot pull 83 G-Forces and live

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Test pilot Lt. Col. John Stapp rides a rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by U.S. Air Force.


Most people pass out from 5 G-forces. Some of the best fighter pilots can withstand 9. Test pilot Eli Beeding experienced 83 and lived to tell about it.

Before explaining how it’s possible, the following is a loose description of G-forces — or G’s — on the body, according to Go Flight Med.

Everyone walks around at 1 G, the natural gravitational force of earth. But if you go to space, you experience 0 G’s, or weightlessness.

Related: Watch as flight students gut out high G training

For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).

A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.

G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.

via GIPHY 

Beeding was sitting up going backwards, that is, he experienced the force back-to-front when he came to a screetching halt from 35 mph.

“When I hit the water brake, it felt like Ted Williams had hit me on the back, about lumbar five, with a baseball bat,” Beeding said, according to the video description.

via GIPHY 

Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.

He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.

When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.

This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siau78EFLgc
Jeff Quitney, YouTube
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Navy announces applications for tuition assistance are due

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Petty Officer 1st Class Abdul Yusef teaches a Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) business course in a training classroom aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower


The Navy announced Wednesday that sailors interested applying for fall classes should get their applications for tuition assistance turned in as soon as possible.

The Navy tuition assistance program covers up to 100 percent of tuition for eligible sailors. Eligibility depends on grades, active duty time (for activated reservists), accreditation of the chosen institution, and whether the sailor agrees to fulfill an obligatory 2 years of service beyond the his or her scheduled end of active service.

Covered under tuition assistance are high school and general equivalent degrees, vocational and technical programs, undergraduate and graduate programs, and certification programs. The funds can only be applied toward tuition, and may not be used for books, fees, and other course materials.

Tuition assistance is capped at 16 semester hours at $250.00 per semester hour, 24 quarter hours at $166.67 per quarter hour, and 240 clock hours at $16.67 per clock hour.

The Navy requires that sailors wishing to utilize tuition assistance follow these steps:

  • Notify the command
  • Complete required training
  • Complete education counseling and formulate an education plan
  • Submit education plan to Navy and review with counselor
  • Submit WebTA application at My Education Portal
  • Generate voucher and submit to institution

Command approval is required for tuition assistance, and that approval must come from the sailor’s commanding officer or by Direction Authority. Sailors will be required to enter their commanding officer’s email into the application.

There are specific obligations required for sailors utilizing tuition assistance. Grades must be a C or higher for undergraduate studies and a B or higher for graduate studies. Tuition assistance must be reimbursed for any grades that are determined to fall below those requirements.

Sailors must notify their Virtual Education Center of any changes in courses (including those changes which are not controlled by the sailor). Failure to notify the Virtual Education Center of changes can result in loss of tuition assistance and a requirement for reimbursement to the institution.

For more information and to apply for tuition assistance, Sailors can visit the Navy College Program.

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Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”


It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.

Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.

“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.

Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.

But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”

 

But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.

Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.

In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.

“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the ‎dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”

Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.

Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.

“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”

And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.

“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”

The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.

“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”

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This shows why the battle for Fallujah is so important to Marine Corps history

It still remains one of the bloodiest battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was a 48-day house-to-house urban nightmare that left a major city in ruin and an insurgency reeling.


But while Marines (and their Army brothers) lost many men in the fight for Fallujah, Iraq — including 82 Americans killed and more than 600 wounded — it remains a vivid memory for the thousands of Leathernecks who fought there and has earned its place as an iconic battle in the history of the Corps.

Dubbed “Operation al Fajr,” or New Dawn, the battle served as a major test for modern urban fighting in a counterinsurgency and tested many newly emerging theories on how to confront guerrilla armies. It also drew on the Marines’ history, recalling battles like Hue City, and Okinawa.

In the end, it was about the Marines and their brothers, fighting for each and every inch and looking after their own.

Happy 241st birthday United States Marine Corps!

Marines had to engage insurgents in house-to-house fighting.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
A U.S. Marine watches for anything suspicious from a building in Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 10, 2004. The Marine is assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Marine Division. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Trevor R. Gift, U.S. Marine Corps.)

Marines moved in small, squad-sized units to clear buildings block-by-block.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
041126-M-5191K-005U.S. Marines prepare to step off on a patrol through the city of Fallujah, Iraq, to clear the city of insurgent activity and weapons caches as part of Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 26, 2004. The Marines are (from left to right) Platoon Sergeant Staff Sgt. Eric Brown, Machine Gun Section Leader Sgt. Aubrey McDade, Radio Operator Cpl. Steven Archibald, and Combat Engineer Lance Cpl. Robert Coburn. All are assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division conducting security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corpss)

For many Marine officers and NCOs, this was their first major test of combat.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
041112-M-5191K-007U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Marine Division, confirm map details about Fallujah, Iraq, before continuing patrols during Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 12, 2004. The 1st Marine Division is conducting security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

When it came to taking down Fallujah, the Marines used everything they had.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
An Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) drives through a wall and locked gate to open a path for Marines assigned to 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, as they gain entrance to a building that needed to be cleared in Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). Operation Al Fajr is an offensive operation to eradicate enemy forces within the city of Fallujah in support of continuing security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan L Jones)

Once Marines secured a building, they rearmed, reoriented and moved on to the next target.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
U.S. Marines huddle behind walls as they receive instructions about their next move after a M1A1 tank eliminates the Iraqi insurgents in a house the Marines were receiving fire from in Fallujah, Iraq, in support of Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Dec. 10, 2004. Operation al Fajr is an offensive operation to eradicate enemy forces within the city of Fallujah in support of continuing security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. The Marines are assigned to 3rd Platoon, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, U.S. Marine Corps.)

When the Marines were done, the city of Fallujah was in shambles.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
Fallujah, Iraq (Nov. 15, 2004) – Iraqi Special Forces Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Marines of 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, patrol south clearing every house on their way through Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). Operation Al Fajr is an offensive operation to eradicate enemy forces within the city of Fallujah in support of continuing security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq by units of the 1st Marine Division. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris.)

Leathernecks went on for days without sleep, sometimes grabbing rest only for a few minutes before taking up the fight once more.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
041109- Marines of 1st Battalion 8th Marines search the city of Fallujah, Iraq for insurgents and weapons during Operation Al Fajr.Operation Al Fajr is an offensive operation to eradicate enemy forces within the city of Fallujah in support of continuing security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq by units of the 1st Marine Division.Official Marine Corps photo by: LCpl J.A. Chaverri


Classic Marine quote…

“We took down the hardest city in Iraq. This is what people join the Marine Corps to do. You might be in the Marine Corps for 20 years and never get this chance again — to take down a full-fledged city full of insurgents,” said Cpl. Garrett Slawatycki, then a squad leader with India Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “And we did it.”

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This Army private is to blame for military cadence calls

Don’t like yelling in formation? Well, you can blame one soldier from World War II for all those early morning sing-alongs.


Pvt. Willie Duckworth was a young soldier at Fort Slocum, New York in May, 1944, whose unit was dragging their feet during a march. To pep his brothers up, he began calling a chant to hep the men keep in step and to give them more energy.

The chant was an instant hit on base. The next year, the Army worked with recording engineers to make a V-Disc, a special recording distributed during World War II to aid morale. It was known as the “Duckworth Chant,” on base, but it was recorded and distributed as “Sound Off.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1v=Q6bhv4i8qso

Many of the traits of today’s calls are apparent in this first cadence. There is a back and forth between the caller and the formation, the lines are catchy, and Jody even makes an appearance (at 2:15 in the video above).

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Photo: Youtube

The chant’s fame worked out very well for Duckworth. He received royalty checks for the recordings and used them to start a successful pulpwood company he operated until his death in 2004. A section of Georgia highway near Duckworth’s former home has been renamed the Willie Lee Duckworth Highway and a granite marker was erected at the county courthouse.

Now, if only we could find the evil genius who came up with “C-130 rollin’ down the strip.”

NOW: 9 firsts in military aviation history

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Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villain

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico


The next villain of the Star Wars franchise also happens to be a military veteran.

Meet Adam Driver, the apparent villain of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” set to be released in December 2015. He’s 31, a graduate of Juilliard, and you’ve seen him in the HBO series “Girls,” along with films such as “J. Edgar,” “Lincoln,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

But before his acting career took off, he was U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Driver. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the San Diego-native decided to enlist.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

“I was having an argument with my stepfather, and he was like, ‘Why don’t you join the Marine Corps?’ And I was like, ‘Noooo! Well, maybe, actually … ‘” Driver told Rolling Stone. “I went and saw the recruiter, who was like, ‘Are you on the run from the cops? Because we’ve never had someone want to leave so fast.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to be a man.'”

Stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines, the infantry mortarman began training for an eventual deployment to the Middle East. From Military.com:

Unfortunately for the young Marine, Driver injured his sternum in a mountain biking accident before deploying. He attempted to mitigate his debilitated state by training harder than before, if for no other reason than to show off that he was okay. However, after two years of service with no time in the field, Driver was medically discharged.

He served for two years and eight months, but was unable to finish his enlistment in the Marines. Still, Driver has continued to serve the military community. He runs a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings contemporary theater performances to troops free of charge. For now, we can speculate on exactly what his role in Star Wars will be, and of course, be sure to check out the movie on Dec. 18.

SEE ALSO: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

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The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.


The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.

As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.

The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico
The icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.

If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.

Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.

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