This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops - We Are The Mighty
Articles

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

In his April 2017 book “Make Your Bed,” Admiral William McRaven described what it was like for him as a leader and military officer to receive the families of fallen troops — including those who died under his command.


This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven, then-commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. (AFSOC photo)

The former SEAL officer vividly paints a scene at Dover Air Force Base, the first stop on American soil for the remains of U.S. troops killed in combat. The waiting rooms are filled with “wives with a far-off look of disbelief, … inconsolable children, … [and] parents holding hands hoping to gain strength from one another.”

A number of Navy SEALs died in 2011 when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan – all 38 men aboard were killed, including 30 Americans. It was the single greatest U.S. loss in the War on Terror. Then-President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the military’s senior leadership were all present to receive the flag-draped coffins.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), assist in a transfer of remains at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Army photo)

The admiral and his wife were there too. He writes in his book that he began to wonder if his words were any solace to the families, if they made any difference at all, or if the shock made his words incomprehensible to the bereaved. He knew what he said was never going to be enough, but he tried to empathize with them.

That’s when he noticed a then-Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly talking to  a number of the families. He could tell that what Kelly was saying was actually hitting home to those who lost their loved ones. The effect was what McRaven described as “profound.” He hugged them and they hugged him in turn.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
General John Kelly (right), speaks with Lieutenant Col. George Hasseltine, commanding officer of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force South aboard the USS America. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

General Kelly talked to every person in the room.

The Marine’s word hit home because they weren’t the words of comfort from a commander to his troops’ families, they were the words of a parent who lost a son in combat, just as they had.

Marine 1st Lt. John Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 after stepping on a land mine. John Kelly knew exactly what the people in that waiting room were feeling and what the days ahead held for the families of the departed.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
(Photo by Arlington National Cemetery )

Only General Kelly could have said anything that would mean something to those who lost their children, parents, and spouses in combat. As McRaven puts it:

“When you lose a soldier, you grieve for the families but you also fear that the same fate may one day befall you. You wonder whether you could survive the loss of a child. Or you wonder how your family would get along without you by their side. You hope and pray that God will be merciful and not have you shoulder this unthinkable burden.”
Articles

This Marine wants to know what songs you’d put on your ultimate battle playlist

Look. Music is awesome. It can be motivating as hell, it can take you back to an important time in your life, or it can be comforting in dark times.


We made a series of playlists to keep you company during life’s moments and we call them Battle Mixes. In this video, U.S. Marine Weston Scott talks about a few of his favorites.

We love the part when he busts up talking about Chris Stapleton.

Check out the video, and let us know which songs you think we should put on our Ultimate Battle Mix:

Articles

These colorized photos show a new side of World War II

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Marines finishing training at Parris Island in South Carolina./Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress


The 1930s and 1940s were a time of upheaval for the US and the world at large.

Reeling from the start of the Great Depression in 1929, the world soon faced a greater disaster with World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Though the US did not enter into the war officially until after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the global war still affected the country.

The following photos, from the US Library of Congress, give us a rare glimpse of life in the US during World War II in color. They show some of the amazing changes that the war helped usher into the US, such as women in the workforce and the widespread adoption of aerial and mechanized warfare.

Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repairs department of the naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a National Youth Administration trainee from Michigan, in Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training, he will go into the civil service.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congres

Answering the nation’s need for woman-power, Davis made arrangements for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work at the naval air base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed in a US Navy plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

A sailor at the base in Corpus Christi wears the new type of protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed on a US Navy plane in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Feeding an SNC advanced-training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Av. Cadet Thanas at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Pearl Harbor widows went into war work to carry on the fight in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis was appointed by the civil service to be senior supervisor in the assembly and repairs department at the naval base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

After seven years in the US Navy, J.D. Estes was considered an old sea salt by his mates at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, painting the American insignia on an airplane wing. McElroy was a civil-service employee at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadet in training at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Ensign Noressey and Cadet Thenics at the naval air base in Corpus Christi on a Grumman F3F-3 biplane fighter.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Working with a sea plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadets at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mechanics service an A-20 bomber at Langley Field in Virginia.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-3 tank and crew using small arms at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-4 tank line at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle at Fort Knox.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Servicing an A-20 bomber at Langley Field.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A US Marine lieutenant was a glider pilot in training at Page Field on Parris Island in South Carolina.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Marines finish training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Articles

Here are the meanings behind 19 classic sailor tattoos

These days, tattoos are so commonplace in the U.S. military that every branch has its own policy as part of its uniform regulations, but a few years ago that wasn’t the case. The U.S. Navy, however, has a long tradition of tattoos.


Here’s the meaning behind a few of the classics:

1. Fully-Rigged Ships

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

A tattoo of a fully-rigged ship from the age of sail means the sailor had been around Cape Horn, the rough, stormy waters around the southern tip of South America. A fully-rigged ship is one with three or more masts, square sails fully deployed.

2. Nautical Star

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The star is a symbol of a sailor always to be able to find his way home. The nautical star is a five-pointed star in dark and light shades counterchanged to resemble a compass rose.

3. Shellback Turtle

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Sailors can wear the Shellback Turtle when they get initiated into King Neptune’s Court after crossing the equator. If you’re unsure what exactly this means, We Are The Mighty has an explainer for you:

RELATED: 8 Weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

4. Crossed Cannons

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The crossed cannons mean a veteran has seen military service as a sailor.

5. Swallows

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Sailors earn a new swallow tattoo for every 5,000 nautical miles traveled, which is about 5,754 regular miles, roughly the distance between New York City and Tel Aviv. The circumference of the earth is 21,639 nautical miles, just about 4.16 sparrows.

6. Anchor

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

A single anchor means the sailor crossed the Atlantic or has been a member of the merchant marine, a fleet of civilian ships that carries military cargo. In wartime, this fleet is mobilized to carry war materiel, including troops and supplies.

During World War II, the Merchant Marine took a beating with high casualties, entering the European war long before the United States itself. Since the U.S. was delivering war supplies to Britain through Lend-Lease, Nazi u-boats targeted U.S. shipping bound for the UK. The Merchant Marine casualty rate was 3.9 percent, whereas the Marine Corps’, the next highest, was only 2.94 percent.

7. Rope on the Wrist

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

A knot of rope on a sailors wrist identifies him as a deckhand, someone who maintains the hull, decks, superstructure, mooring, and cargo handling. Deckhands are still common in ocean-going vessels, though they’re far less likely to be maintaining wooden ships.

8. Hula Girl

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Hula girls signify the sailor has been to Hawaii.

9. Crossed Anchors

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Sailors wearing the crossed anchors on the webbing between their thumb and index finger are identifying themselves as boatswain’s mates, the guys who maintain the deck and take care of smaller boat operations and damage control parties.

10. HOLD and FAST

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

These words are a charm spelled out on the four front-facing fingers on each hand. Sailors hope it brings them good luck while gripping the rigging. Holding fast means the sailor isn’t going to let the line go, no matter what. Sailors were a superstitious bunch and life on a sailing ship was tough (to say the least). Anything that gave them the edge in saving their own lives was worth doing.

11. Pig and Rooster

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The foot tattoos of pigs and roosters were worn by sailors in WWII in the hopes it would keep the sailor from drowning. The Navy shipped these animals in crates at the time. When ships went down, the crates floated, and the animals inside would sometimes be the only survivors

12. Compass Rose

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Another good luck charm that allows a sailor to find his way home.

13. Crosses

Worn on the soles of a sailor’s feet, these are thought to ward off sharks

14. Dagger through a Rose

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Sailors aboard the USS New Jersey (National Archives)

This tattoo means the sailor is loyal and willing to fight anything, even something as sweet and beautiful as a rose

15. Dragon

Wearing a dragon means the sailor has served in China.

16. Golden Dragon

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

When a sailor crossed the International Date Line, he earns the right to wear the Golden Dragon tattoo. The International Date Line is the imaginary line of longitude that separates two calendar dates. When someone sails from East to West, they set their clock back one hour for every 15 degrees of longitude they pass. When they pass the date line, they’ve gained a full 24 hours.

17. Harpoon

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Sailors tattooed with harpoons were serving or had served in a whaling or fishing fleet.

18. King Neptune

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Another badge of honor earned for crossing the Equator.

19. Palm Tree

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The palm tree has two meanings, depending on your navy. Sailors in the Royal Navy during World War II could wear it after sailing on Mediterranean cruises. It can also be worn by U.S. sailors who served in Hawaii.

Articles

This is where the Navy just found a sailor believed lost at sea

A sailor reported overboard and missing since June 8, has been found in the place the Navy least expected — aboard the ship he was thought to have gone overboard from.


According to the US 7th Fleet’s public affairs team, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Peter Mims, assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh, was reported missing a week ago and was assumed to have fallen overboard at night during normal operations approximately 180 miles east of Okinawa, Japan.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Petty Officer 3rd Class Mims during a promotion ceremony (US Navy)

An exhaustive search across a 5,500 square mile block yielded nothing on the whereabouts of the missing sailor. The search encompassed a 50-hour period, and involved Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force warships, as well as Japanese Coast Guard vessels, working together to sweep the area where it was most likely that Mims would be spotted.

Land-based P-8 Poseidon aircraft were also involved in the search, using visual and electronic scans in a concentrated attempt to locate the missing sailor. Three days later, the search was suspended and it was presumed that Mims was tragically lost at sea.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
USS Shiloh operating in the Philippine Sea (US Navy)

A memorial service was to be held aboard the Shiloh, and Mims’ family had already been notified of their son’s status by the Department of the Navy.

But his shipmates never gave up and continued to poke around aboard the Shiloh, according to 7th Fleet public affairs. Just four days later, Mims was found, alive and well on the Ticonderoga-class cruiser, having been missing for a total of seven days and believed dead.

The engine technician had apparently sequestered himself inside the ship’s engine room without anybody the wiser — a failure to report in would have been the trigger for a ship-wide search.

Mims has since been airlifted to the USS Ronald Reagan where he’ll be medically evaluated and assessed. The investigation launched into Mims’ untimely disappearance will now be realigned to look into the circumstances surrounding his finding aboard the Shiloh.

“We are thankful to have found our missing shipmate and appreciate all the hard work of our Sailors and Japanese partners in searching for him,” says Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5, in an official statement. “I am relieved that this sailor’s family will not be joining the ranks of Gold Star Families that have sacrificed so much for our country.”

This would have been the second loss of a sailor at sea for the US Navy just this month. On June 6th, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Christopher W. Clavin went missing from the USS Normandy, another guided missile cruiser, operating off the coast of North Carolina. In this particular incident, Clavin was actually seen falling overboard by deck personnel, and the cruiser immediately shifted into man-overboard recovery operations to find and rescue the sailor.

This search involved an expansive grid of 6,300 square miles, though it was known where and when Clavin had gone overboard. It was possible that the sailor could have been rendered unconscious in his fall, and had drifted by ocean current far away from the Normandy.

When the search brought back no results, other vessels were called in to assist, including the USS Abraham Lincoln super carrier, fresh from a lengthy overhaul period, a Coast Guard cutter and three guided missile destroyers. However, no trace of the missing sailor was ever found and the search and recovery mission was ended with Clavin declared lost at sea.

It’s likely that these two incidents will prove to be an impetus for the Navy to look into enhancing the safety of its sailors while deployed in rougher-than-normal sea states.

Articles

This Army doctor made the Panama Canal possible by killing mosquitoes

U.S. Army doctor Col. William Gorgas paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal by destroying the mosquitoes that spread disease and doomed an earlier French effort.


When the Panama Canal Commission began construction in 1904, they began with the remains of a failed French canal. The French effort ended in bankruptcy in part because too many workers were hospitalized or died due to infections of malaria and yellow fever. Some estimates put it as high as one-third of all workers.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
The excavation of the Panama Canal was back-breaking work. Photo: H.C. White and Co.

In Colón, an important city near the future Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, about 1 out of every 6 people was infected with malaria at any given time.

When the U.S. bought out the French company and began work, Gorgas was named the chief medical officer of the project. He immediately set his sights on controlling malaria. Gorgas had previously controlled yellow fever and malaria in Havana, Cuba by applying the research of U.S. Army Maj. Walter Reed and British Army Dr. Ronald Ross.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
US Army Maj. Walter Reed. Photo: National Library of Medicine

Ross and Reed had previously proven, during experiments with other doctors, that mosquitoes were the primary way that many diseases spread.

Gorgas drew up a $1 million plan with engineers and other doctors to reduce or eliminate the mosquitoes along the route of construction. Unfortunately, many other decision makers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, supported the “bad air” theory that said the diseases came from the soil and vapors in the air.

Roosevelt was eventually persuaded by his personal physician to back Gorgas’ plan.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
US Army Maj. Gen. William C. Gorgas during his tenure as US Army Surgeon General. Photo: US Army

Once he had the funding and support of the president, Gorgas launched one of the largest sanitation campaigns ever. More than 4,000 people were enlisted into mosquito brigades that deployed across the isthmus.

Workers cut all grass to less than 12 inches high, drained open water where possible or sprayed a film of oil on it where it wasn’t. Custom poisons were spread across areas where larvae grew. Workers cleaned homes regularly and placed screens over windows and doors.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photo: The Field Museum Library via Wikipedia

Progress was slow, but success did come. The campaign launched in the summer of 1905. In Aug. 1906, new yellow fever cases were at less than half of their historical norm. After Nov. 1906, no more canal workers would die of yellow fever. Malaria never went away completely, but in Jan. 1910 the death rate fell to 1 percent of the historical norm.

Gorgas went on to fight disease in South African gold mines before becoming the Army’s 22nd Surgeon General.

Articles

A-10 looks like it’s here to stay after new Air Force upgrades

In another positive sign for the beloved A-10, Air Force maintainers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona have outfitted the Warthog with an upgrade for combat search and rescue missions, or CSAR.


Dubbed the lightweight airborne recovery system, the upgrade helps A-10 pilots “communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen, and joint terminal attack controllers,” according to an Air Force statement.

Also read: F-35 fighter pilot says he can take on any stealth fighter in the world

Of all the fixed-wing aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory, no plane carries out CSAR missions like the A-10.

CSAR missions jump off with little warning and often involve going deep into enemy territory, so becoming certified to perform CSAR missions takes tons of training, which only A-10 pilots undergo.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen

The A-10’s rugged survivability, massive forward firing power, newly acquired communication capabilities, and long loiter times at low altitudes make it ideal for flying low and slow and finding the lost person.

According to the Air Force, an “urgent operational need arose in August” for increased CSAR capabilities. Within a few months, the “massive logistical challenge” that required the Air Force to “build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement” came together, and now 19 A-10s sport the upgrade, according to the Air Force.

“A-10 pilots take the combat search and rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot, according to the Air Force statement. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to US soil safely.”

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Government Office of Accountability

While the A-10 still faces the chopping block in 2018, new investment in the Warthog and the reopening of the production lines in October bode well for the plane’s future protecting American interests and infantry soldiers.

Articles

The 5 coolest things in the Army’s massive treasure room

With 240 years of history, the U.S. Army has been around the block a few times. Artifacts from its history are put up in museums around the country, but a surprising number of awesome artifacts are kept in storage at a facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Here are five of the coolest things tucked away in the U.S. Army Museum Support Center.


(The Army is attempting to build a museum to display many of the artifacts in their collection. To see how to support its construction, check out the museum website. You can also find information on their Facebook.)

1. Badass weapons from history

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photos: Youtube

The firearm collection in the Museum Support Center features weapons used since the start of the American Army. In addition to weapons carried by the average soldier, they have weapons that belonged to historic figures such as the sidearm carried by Maj. Walter Reed, the Army doctor credited with defeating yellow fever.

2. Original artwork by Norman Rockwell

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photo: Youtube

The center is filled with awesome artwork commissioned by the Army, but the crown jewel of the 16,000 works of art is this painting by Norman Rockwell depicting a machine gunner firing into the night. Two other Norman Rockwell paintings are also in the collection.

3. Paintings from active duty soldiers

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photos: US Army

Famous civilians aren’t the only artists represented in the collections. Since World War I, the Army has maintained an art program in every major conflict. Now, artists in residency usually work in studios at the Museum Support Center in tours of duty two-three year long. They create original artwork that captures the emotion of the Army at war.

4. Uniform items from the Revolution to today

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photo: US Army Museum Support Center

Carefully preserved in a series of shelves, gear and uniform items from the last 150 years are stored in the collection. This drum and hat were worn by Buffalo Soldiers in the Civil War. Gen. William Westmoreland’s uniform is in the collection as well. They even have a powder horn from 1775 that belonged to a Minute Man.

5. Captured enemy artwork and propaganda

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photo: Youtube

Some of the most stunning displays in the collection were captured during war. This depiction of Hitler was bayoneted by the soldier who found it. America has 436 artifacts taken from Nazi Germany under the peace treaty as part of an effort to ensure the Nazi Party never rose again.

To learn more about the collection, check out the video below.

Articles

This World War I ace went on to survive two plane crashes and 22 days lost at sea

Capt. Edward Rickenbacker was a hero of World War I who earned the title, “Ace of Aces,” a French Croix de Guerre, and a Medal of Honor despite joining the flying corps at 27, two years over the then-maximum age of 25.


This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

After the close of the Great War, the former race-car driver got into business. At first, it was automobiles and racing but he returned to aviation and ran Eastern Air Lines. In Feb. 1941, he was riding on one of the company’s planes when it crashed on a hill near Atlanta.

Rickenbacker was severely injured in the crash. His pelvic bone, a leg, and multiple ribs were broken and an eyelid was torn.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Edward Rickenbacker escorts a lady off one of his Eastern Air Lines planes in 1935. Photo: Public Domain/Harris Ewing via Wikipedia

In spite of his injuries and the fact he was pinned down by a dead body and the wreckage, he took control of the situation and sent a group to call for help. He kept everyone safe and calm for the nine hours it took for rescue workers to arrive and get him out of the wreckage.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t done with plane crashes. In 1942 Rickenbacker had mostly recovered from his earlier crash, though he continued to limp. The Army Air Force asked the aviation pioneer, then 52 years old, to consult on operations in the Pacific theater.

With a $1 a day salary, he set out for a tour of the Pacific. He first visited Hawaii en route to bases from Australia to Guadalcanal. On a B-17 with 7 other men, Rickenbacker departed Hawaii for Canton Island, but the B-17 got lost en route.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
A B-17 like the one Edward Rickenbacker crash-landed in. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikipedia

No one is quite sure how the B-17 got off course, though the navigator later suggested the octant may have been jarred during an aborted takeoff attempt. Regardless of how it happened, the B-17 found searched for Canton Island for hours without ever finding it and was eventually forced to ditch at sea.

Rickenbacker again took command, even though he was technically outranked by a colonel who was accompanying him as an aide. Floating in the ocean on three smalls rafts, the Army airmen were subjected to extreme cold at night and blistering heat in the day.

Rickenbacker oversaw the distribution of the four oranges the men managed to escape the sinking plane with, making them last six days. They had stored water for the crash landing, but it was lost in their hasty evacuation of the plane.

The eight men caught a small break two days later when Rickenbacker, who was sleeping with his hat protecting his face from the sun, woke up and realized that a sea gull was sitting on his head.

He managed to grab the gull and wring its neck. The men ate everything but the feathers and intestines raw, even the bones. The intestines were used as bait, allowing them to catch a few fish.

The audio is a bit hard to make out, but Rickenbacker told the story of the sea gull capture himself at a press conference:

(Note: The video erroneously identifies Rickenbacker as an admiral. He actually left the Army as a major but preferred to be referred to as a captain, the last rank he held in combat.)

That night, they got a second break when a storm hit. They spread all the fabric they could across the raft, socks, shirts, and handkerchiefs, and continuously wrung them out over a bucket, collecting a small quantity of water.

Despite these small successes, Sgt. Alexander Kaczmarczyk died on the 13th day. He had been returning to Australia after recovering from illness and had drank a large quantity of seawater on the escape from the plane. The added toll being soaked with sea water and exposed to extreme temperatures for nearly two weeks overcame him.

A few days later, on the 17th day, the group spotted a scout plane flying about 5 miles away. Efforts to flag it down failed, as did attempt to flag down the next six planes that appeared over the the two days after that.

Tired of waiting for rescue and believing that their chances would be better if they split up, two rafts left the flotilla, leaving Rickenbacker alone with two sick survivors.

Luckily, the plan worked. One raft found land where the natives and an English missionary nursed them while waiting on doctors to arrive. The other dispatched raft was spotted by a Navy patrol plane who picked them up. The survivors told the Navy where to look for Rickenbacker’s raft.

A Kingfisher plane then found Rickenbacker’s raft using the information from the other survivors and delivered Rickenbacker and another man to a Navy PT boat where they drank pineapple juice, soup, and water en route to an island medical facility.

One survivor, too sick to be moved, remained on the plane which delivered him to the same island.

Rickenbacker had lost 40 pounds, developed a number of sores from the salt water, and was severely dehydrated, but he spent only two weeks recovering in a Navy hospital before insisting on completing his mission.

He visited Australia, New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and Samoa, riding to each destination in planes at night while he slept, apparently unconcerned about the possibility of a third crash. When he arrived in Washington and spoke to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, he added into his report some suggestion for how to improve the survival kits installed in planes.

Articles

What you need to know about North Korean threats


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

For the past 40 years, the United States and South Korea participate in a joint military training exercise simulating a war against the Communist north.

The exercise mobilizes around 20,000 U.S. and South Korean troops in land, sea and air maneuvers. In return, North Korea typically responds with missile launches and nuclear tests — increasing tensions and the potential for conflict on the peninsula.

In this episode of the We Are The Mighty Podcast Mark Harper and Shannon Corbeil — two former Air Force officers — share their experience with these war games and what you need to know about the threat from the DPRK.

Related: When life gives you Tootsie Rolls, use them to escape North Korean forces

Hosted by:

Guests:

  • Mark Harper: Air Force veteran and SVP of Creative and Business Development at WATM
  • Shannon Corbeil: Former Air Force intelligence officer

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

Articles

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.


That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”

“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
A Viet Cong prisoner is interrogated at the A-109 Special Forces Detachment in Thuong Duc, 25 km west of Da Nang, 1967. Photo under Public Domain,

Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”

Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Members of the military police keep back protesters during their sit-in at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. Image from US Army.

Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.

“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”

The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.

Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Filmmaker Ken Burns. Wikimedia Commons photo from user David Hume Kennerly.

“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”

The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.

“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”

According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
President Lyndon B. Johnson greets American troops in Vietnam, 1966. Image fro US State Department.

“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”

It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…

“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”

Articles

Russian bombers and patrol planes carry out major probes around Japan

Heightened tensions in the East Asia region increased after Japan scrambled F-15J Eagle fighters in response to Russian military activity.


According to a report by the Daily Mail, the first incident involved a pair of Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers. Japan then scrambled the Eagles, which are locally-built versions of the F-15C Eagle in service with the United States Air Force.

The Russians later sent two pairs of maritime patrol planes. One consisted of Tu-142 “Bears,” the other were Ilyushin Il-38 “May” aircraft.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. (Photo by Ministry of Defense)

The actions come as the United States and Japan are planning what Reuters called a “joint show of force” in the East China Sea. The United States has sent the Nimitz-class carrier U.S. Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to the area as the tensions have risen, and Japan reportedly plans to deploy destroyers alongside the American carrier.

In March 2017, the United States and Japan conducted joint drills, and Japan sent their newest carrier, the Izumo to the South China Sea.

The Tu-95 “Bear” is Russia’s primary strategic bomber. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, it has a range of 8,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling.

Depending on the version, it can carry up to 16 AS-15 “Kent” cruise missiles that have nuclear or conventional warheads. The plane can also carry anti-ship missiles or regular bombs.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The Tu-142 is an antisubmarine-warfare aircraft based on the Tu-95. This plane was exported to India in the 1980s, and it served until late March 2017, when it was replaced with P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

The Il-38 is a maritime patrol aircraft that is smaller than the Tu-142. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the Il-38 has a range of 3,890 nautical miles, a top speed of 390 knots, and can carry up to 11,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Il-38 was involved in a February 2017 incident in which the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information