Corporal Angelique Preston is a marksmanship coach stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. She’s wanted to be in the infantry since she was a young girl, and she enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school.
“I joined the Marines because I wanted to do Marine things,” Preston told KPBS. “. . . like go to combat.”
Her father was a U.S. Army artilleryman when she was young. Preston grew to love Howitzers but when she expressed an interest as a young girl, her father quipped, “Not in my lifetime.” She recently submitted her application to be in USMC field artillery.
“I’m good at it and I can do it better than some of the men here,” Preston said in a KPBS video. “A lot of times, they get kinda butt hurt, you know.”
Butt-hurt Marines aside, Preston was part of the Marine Corps 2015 study on gender integration in combat units. She believes she has more than proved her capability, carrying artillery rounds more than 200 meters at a full run in the desert heat to fire Howitzers with her fellow Marines.
“To be in these jobs, you have to be physically and emotionally strong,” Preston, who is also an avid weightlifter, said. “You can’t just be one or the other … part of my drive comes from being defiant.”
The KPBS story also tells the story of Capt. Brittney Boucher, a Naval Academy graduate who wants to be a tracker. She opted to sign up for a combat job as soon as Navy Secretary Ray Mabus opened the jobs to women. She previously commanded Marines in a motor vehicle platoon in 2013.
“If I were to be one of the first combat arms females, it’s my standard and my internal challenge to be the most effective officer that I can be,” Boucher told KPBS.
Sparsely populated, disconnected from the contiguous states, subjected to a harsh Arctic climate, and almost unimaginably vast, the mere mention of Alaska conjures images of forbidding wilderness. But it’s in these conditions that the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska must operate.
Dedicated to patrolling Alaska’s territorial waters, coming to the aid of damaged vessels, breaking through the routinely sea ice blocked ports, and carrying out scientific studies, the Coast Guard has its work cut out.
The Coast Guard in Alaska operates in some of the most isolated parts of the U.S. Here, a Coast Guard vessel gets underway in their winter Bering Sea patrol.
In this photo a Coast Guard vessel docks at Little Diomede Island in the middle of the Bering Strait. The island has a population of 135.
The Alaskan wilderness offers thousands of square miles of unspoiled natural beauty. Here, a Coast Guard ship makes port call at Kodiak.
Before taking part in operations, Coast Guard service members must receive substantial training, such as how to rescue people from icy waters.
Crew members of Coast Guard ships conduct 100-yard survival swims in 39-degree waters.
Here, a boatswain’s mate conducts surface-rescue training in Hogg Bay, in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
Beyond rescue training, Coast Guardsmen must train on crew-served weapons in the event they’re needed. Here, units conduct night-fire exercises with a M-240B machine gun.
The Coast Guard must be ready for any scenario in Alaska’s unforgiving conditions. Here, a crew trains at recovering oil in ice-strewn water to prepare for possible oil spills.
Here, members of the Coast Guard Fire and Rescue team battle a simulated fire, to prepare for an actual aircraft-fire emergency.
Crew members routinely prepare for fires aboard vessels.
The Coast Guard constantly practices for helicopter evacuation missions at sea.
And the training is put to good use. Here, a Coast Guard MH-60 Jay hawk helicopter rescues two crew members of a fishing boat after it ran aground.
The Coast Guard is responsible for breaking the ice in northern ports for tankers. Here, a Coast Guard cutter breaks the ice near the city of Nome so that a Russian tanker could offload almost 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products to the city.
Cutting through the ice is a multiteam process. Here, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter ascends from Nome after providing ice reconnaissance during the escort of the Russian tanker.
Members of an ice-rescue team survey an ice sheet before allowing crew and passengers of a vessel to disembark.
The Coast Guard constantly looks out to improve its capabilities. Here, Arktos Developments displays their amphibious Arctic craft, with heavy tank-style treads that can move through snow.
Keeping equipment in working order is difficult in Alaska, and a life-and-death issue for the Coast Guard. Here, a distress team leader clears ice and snow from solar panels that power a microwave link site for communications in western Alaska.
Another key job of the Coast Guard is to maintain navigation service aids throughout the waters around Alaska. Here, an electronics technician is lowered to a fixed aid on an island in Cold Bay.
Here, Coat Guard crew members service a shore aid near Dutch Harbor.
The Coast Guard plays the vital role of fisheries enforcement, making sure vessels don’t exceed their legal fishing limit and keeping the ecosystem intact.
The Coast Guard helps to conduct scientific experiments over the Arctic. In this photo, crew members deploy probes that measure sea temperature, salinity, and density to gain a better understanding of the Arctic during the summer season.
The nation’s highest medal for valor under enemy fire dates back over 150 years and has been awarded to well over 3,000 men and one woman in honor of heroic acts, including everything from stealing enemy trains to braving machine gun fire to pull comrades to safety.
This is the true history of the Medal of Honor.
Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott was one of Andrew’s Raiders and the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. Most of the other soldiers on the raid were eventually awarded the medal.
(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)
The bill quickly made it through Congress and President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law on December 21. At the time, the president was authorized to award 200 medals to Navy and Marine Corps enlisted personnel. It would be another seven months, July 1862, before Army enlisted personnel were authorized to receive the medal — but another 2,000 medals were authorized at that time.
The first medal to be awarded went to a soldier, Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott, one of Andrews’ Raiders who stole a locomotive in Big Shanty, Georgia, and took the train on a 87-mile raid across Confederate territory in April, 1862. Parrott received the Medal first, but nearly all Army personnel on the raid eventually received it. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented the first six.
The Navy was the first service authorized to present Medals of Honor, but the Army beat them to the punch. Still, hundreds of medals were awarded to deserving sailors for actions taken during the conflict, including this one presented to William Pelham for actions on the USS Hartford in 1864.
(Naval History and Heritage Command)
Although Andrews’ Raiders were among the first to receive the Medal of Honor, they were not the first persons to earn it. Recommendations for the award trickled in for actions taken earlier.
The earliest action that would earn an Army Medal of Honor took place in February, 1861, when assistant Army surgeon Bernard Irwin rescued 60 soldiers from a larger Apache force with only 14 men. The first naval action to earn the medal took place in October, 1862, when sailor John Williams stayed at his position on the USS Commodore Perry when it was under heavy fire while steaming down the Blackwater River and firing on Confederate batteries.
In 1863, the medal was made permanent and the rules were broadened to allow its award to Army officers. Soon after, in 1864, a former slave named Robert Blake became the first Black American to receive the Medal of Honor when he replaced a powder boy who was killed by a Confederate shell, running powder boxes to artillery crews while under fire.
Seven years later, the Civil War had ended but campaigns against Native Americans were being fought in earnest. It was during these Indian Wars that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody also received the medal despite being technically ineligible.
The medals for Walker and Cody were rescinded in 1917 but later reinstated. Walker’s was reinstated in 1977, Cody’s in 1989.
It’s sometimes noted that the Civil War-standard for the Medal of Honor was lower than the standard applied during World Wars I and II and more modern conflicts. The change in requirements began in 1876 after a surge of recommendations poured in following the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Additional recommendations came from the Legion of Honor, a group led by Medal of Honor recipients that would later become the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. In 1897, President William McKinley adopted new, higher standards that would later be applied during World War I.
Air Force Capt. Jay Zeamer received a Medal of Honor of the Gillespie design featuring a blue ribbon with 13 stars, the word valor, and a wreath of laurels.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
While Civil War and Indian Wars-era Medals of Honor featured designs that incorporated a red, white, and blue ribbon and multiple clasps, in 1904, Medal of Honor recipient and Gen. George Gillespie introduced a new design with a blue ribbon carrying 13 stars. It also added a laurel wreath around the iconic star, added the word “VALOR” to the medal, and made a number of other, smaller design changes.
All Medal of Honor designs approved after 1904 are an evolution of this design.
In 1915, the Navy broadened its rules for the medal so that naval officers, like their Army counterparts, were eligible. In 1918, additional rules for the Army Medal of Honor required that the valorous action take place in conflict with an enemy, that the recommended awardee be a person serving in the Army, and that the medal be presented within three years of the valorous act.
Another change during World War I was that the Medal of Honor was officially placed as the highest medal for valor. While it had always been one of the top awards, it was previously uncertain if the Medal of Honor always outranked service crosses, distinguished service medals, and the Silver Star. In July 1918, the relative tiers of each medal were established, officially putting the Medal of Honor on top.
U.S. Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro and his compatriots work to protect U.S. Marines on the beaches of Guadalcanal during a withdrawal under fire from Japanese soldiers.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
The other military services would later adopt similar restrictions.
Because no Coast Guard version of the medal had ever been designed, Munro’s family was presented the Navy version. A 1963 law allowed for a Coast Guard design but no design has been approved and no medals of such a design have ever been made.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
Dating a service member or veteran can be challenging for a civilian unfamiliar with the world of military life. And it can even throw veterans dating other veterans into unfamiliar ground.
Whatever your background, here are nine things you’re going to have to get used to if you decide to date a servicemember or veteran.
1. Understanding dark humor
Learning a new sense of humor is something that has to happen when you date a veteran. They cope with things with a dark sense of humor, and this can be a little off-putting.
Thing is, you just have to learn to laugh when he takes his leg off at dinner, sets it on a chair and asks the waiter for another menu.
2. The things they carry
When you’re dating a civilian, they might sometimes leave a shirt or socks behind after a late-night visit. But if you’re dating a veteran, you may have to deal with a forgotten piece of their prosthetic, a utility knife, or something else you might not expect.
3. Bobby pins are everywhere
Just like dating a civilian woman, military women will leave bobby pins behind. To keep the crisp, clean bun many women in uniform rely on, it can take 15 or more bobby pins to make it work. Occasionally, they get left behind on night stands and kitchen sinks as an accidental territory marker.
4. Opening up takes a little longer
Any relationship is built on trust and understanding – a relationship with a vet is no different. Special importance has to be put on trust, though. When someone’s ready to open up, you have to be ready to listen and try to understand things you may have never experienced and couldn’t begin to comprehend. Many veterans are used to losing the people who are closest to them, whether from failed relationships, in combat, or to suicide. They may not want to get attached for fear of losing you, but you have to work to build their trust.
5. Inter-service rivalry is all in good fun
If you’re a veteran dating a veteran of another branch, you have to get used to the good-natured teasing of your service coming into all aspects of your life. Whether you forget something at home on a trip and hear “man, that’s why you can’t trust an Airman!” or if you’re late to a date and get a “sailors, always on their own time,” you have to learn to dish it back with a smile.
6. You learn to love listening to stories
Any veteran, young or old, loves to tell stories from their service. Whether they fought the Nazis in 10 feet of snow with an ax handle and a pocket knife, or they battled al-Qaeda as a member of Delta Team Six, the stories are always an interesting look into the way the military works. Whether they’re 100 percent true or a little embellished, you’ll learn to revel in the stories of your veteran significant other — especially over a few drinks.
7. You learn to give your all and try new things
Veterans can be intense people. They’re used to giving a mission their all and take that passion into the things they love most. Learning new things may include backpacking or kayaking or it could be a sport like football or basketball. No matter what, you have to learn to give 100 percent to anything you try.
8. Not every vet has post-traumatic stress, but some do
Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. While visible wounds may make people stare, the invisible wounds can be harder to deal with in a relationship. Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress are big hurdles modern veterans face, and they can affect their closest relationships dramatically. Patience is key in a time where your significant other is facing something they may not want to – or be able to – talk about.
9. Commitment is more than a ten-letter word
Each branch of the military focuses on commitment, duty, honor, sacrifice, and service and others before self. This bleeds into their life outside of the military – dating and marrying a veteran can be one of the most rewarding things someone can do. It isn’t for everyone, but if you meet and fall in love with a veteran, you can be assured their service will be an asset in your life together.
It’s ironic that the Coast Guard’s derogatory nickname is “puddle pirates” since it’s one of the few agencies in the U.S. that actually gets called on to fight modern pirates.
Anti-piracy, along with anti-narcotics missions, are often handled by the Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachments, or LEDETS, and Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, or TACLETs.
These Guardians are deployed on Coast Guard cutters as well as U.S. or allied Navy ships. From there, they are sent to board and search vessels where the crew are suspected of committing a crime, generally piracy or the smuggling or drugs, humans, or money.
Here’s how the Coast Guard catches the bad guys on the high seas:
1. Once Navy or Coast Guard intelligence has identified and approached a suspect vessel, LEDET or TACLETs move in.
2. The law enforcement teams are vulnerable while bunched up on their craft, so they have to approach quickly and carefully.
3. The team members control the suspect crew while they search for evidence of illegal activity. If nothing is found, the crew is released.
4. In this case, the crew was arrested on piracy charges and their craft was destroyed. Ships can also be towed to port when necessary.
5. Larger vessels can pose a greater danger since the teams are forced to scale the side of a potentially hostile craft.
6. The Coast Guard practices with partner law enforcement agencies and other military forces to make the boarding as quick and safe as possible.
7. If the crew fights the boarding, the Coast Guard TACLET or LEDET members are prepared to defend themselves and force their way in.
8. Larger vessels allow more room to hide illegal activity, but the Coast Guard has learned to search thoroughly.
9. They’ve had a lot of experience, after all.
10. Particularly enterprising smugglers have created special vessels, like “Go-fast boats” or submarines to smuggle illicit goods.
11. The Coast Guard maintains mobile labs that can be used to test suspect substances. (Like powdered substances hidden in garbage bags crammed into secret compartments are ever flour.)
12. Any evidence collected is moved off the vessel to facilitate prosecution later.
13. When the Coast Guard cutters return from long tours, the total evidence collected can be literal tons of drugs.
On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Sec. Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99, which said:
“The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any Navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.”
What happened next? One final blowout party to get rid of all that now-illegal booze.
Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group’s positions in Syria, the Russian defense ministry said on May 31.
The announcement came as Syrian government troops pushed ahead in their offensive against IS and militants in central and northern Syria.
Moscow said in a statement that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient town of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched.
Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in northern, central and southern part of the country against IS and U.S.-backed rebels under the cover of Russian airstrikes, gaining an area almost half the size of neighboring Lebanon.
Most recently, Syrian troops and their allies have been marching toward the IS stronghold of Sukhna, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Palmyra.
The strategic juncture in the Syrian desert aids government plans to go after IS in Deir el-Zour, one of the militants’ last major strongholds in Syria. The oil-rich province straddles the border with Iraq and is the extremist group’s last gateway to the outside world.
Russia, a staunch Damascus ally, has been providing air cover to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive on IS and other insurgents since 2015. Moscow had fired cruise missiles from warships in the past, as well as from mainland Russia against Assad’s opponents.
As the fighting against IS militants is underway near Palmyra, Syrian troops clashed with U.S.-backed rebels in the country’s south on May 31, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Mozahem al-Salloum, of the activist-run Hammurabi Justice News network that tracks developments in eastern Syria.
The fighting came days after the United States told Syrian government forces and their allies to move away from an area near the Jordanian border where the coalition is training allied rebels.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on May 30 that the U.S. dropped leaflets over the weekend telling the forces to leave the established protected zone.
In the northern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of IS, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed the main telecommunications center in the city, the IS-linked Aamaq news agency said. The Sound and Picture Organization, which documents IS violations, said land telecommunications were cut in most parts of the city after the center was hit.
The bombing came a day after U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached the northern and eastern gates of Raqqa ahead of what will likely be a long and deadly battle. The city has been subjected to intense airstrikes in recent days.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia that is fighting IS in northern Syria had struck a deal with the IS offering it a safe corridor out of Raqqa. He added that soon after the Russian Defense Ministry had spoken about the agreement, some IS fighters started moving toward Palmyra.
The SDF has denied reports that it allowed IS fighters to leave the city.
“The Russian military spotted the movement and struck the convoy so it never reached Palmyra,” Lavrov said. “And so it will be in all situations when the IS is spotted anywhere on the Syrian territory. It’s an absolutely legitimate target along with all its facilities, bases, and training camps.”
“The current situation shows gaps in coordination between all those who are fighting terrorism in Syria,” Lavrov added, voicing hope that the U.S.-led coalition wouldn’t allow the IS to escape from Raqqa.
Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes captured Palmyra in March 2016 and Moscow even flew in one of its best classical musicians to play a triumphant concert at Palmyra’s ancient theater. IS forces, however, recaptured Palmyra eight months later, before Syrian government troops drove them out again in March 2017.
Russia’s defense ministry said its statement that the strikes successfully hit IS heavy weapons and fighters whom the group who had deployed and moved to Palmyra from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Sunni militant group and its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Moscow said it had notified the U.S., Turkish, and Israeli militaries beforehand of the upcoming strike. It added that the Russian strike was promptly executed following the order, a testimony to the navy’s high readiness and capabilities.
Russia has been busy mediating between Assad and Turkey and the West who seek his removal. Earlier this month Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to establish safe zones in Syria, signing on to a Russian plan under which Assad’s air force would halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country. Russia says maps delineating the zones should be ready by June 4.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.
Generally, American presidents feel an obligation to see situations firsthand when they commit troops to war. To wit, here are 27 times commanders-in-chief left the White House and headed for combat zones:
1. FDR visits Casablanca as Allied forces assault Tripoli, January 1943
2. FDR visits the Mediterranean island of Malta to confer with Winston Churchill, February 1945
3. Roosevelt meets Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, February 1945
4. Ike goes to Korea, December 1952
5. LBJ stops in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1966
6. LBJ returns to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1967
7. Nixon visits in Saigon, South Vietnam, July 1969
8. Reagan stops at the Korean DMZ for lunch, November 1983
President Reagan in the food line during his trip to the Republic of Korea and a visit to the DMZ Camp Liberty Bell and lunch with the troops (Reagan Library photo)
9. Bush 41 drops in for Thanksgiving with U.S. troops during Desert Shield, 1990
10. Clinton with U.S. troops at Camp Casey, South Korea, 1993
11. Clinton visits U.S. troops in Bosnia, January 1996
12. Clinton returns to Bosnia in December 1997 to visit NATO and U.S. troops
13. Bush 43 grabs chow with the troops in South Korea, 2002
14. Bush 43 surprises troops in Iraq, November 2003
15. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, Osan Air Base, 2005
16. Bush 43 visits Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, March 2006
17. Bush 43 visits troops in Baghdad, June 2006
18. Bush 43 visits Al-Anbar province, Iraq, September 2007
19. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, August 2008
20. Bush 43 makes one last stop in Iraq, December 2008
21. Obama stops in Iraq to see the troops, April 2009
22. Obama stops into Osan Air Base, South Korea, November 2009
23. Obama makes his first stop at Bagram Air Base, December 2010
24. Obama visits the DMZ, South Korea, March 2012
25. Obama makes his second trip to Afghanistan, May 2012
26. Obama visits Yongsan Garrison, South Korea 2014
27. Obama makes what could be his last trip to Afghanistan, May 2014
In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.
The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.
(Imperial War Museums)
America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.
This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.
After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.
The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.
Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.
(Imperial War Museums)
On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.
But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.
Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.
Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.
Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.
While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.
The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.
Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.
This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.
It’s a touching scene that even the most stoic of us will get choked up over. The titular character runs into enemy fire to save his brothers-in-arms. Without hesitation, he carries each wounded soldier to safety — all while being severely wounded.
That fantastic scene earned Forrest Gump‘s place in cinematic history. What makes this and the rest of Forrest Gump’s Army scenes so great is that they were entirely based off the career of Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, to include the Medal of Honor ceremony.
Unlike Gump, Davis was an artilleryman. His fateful night began around 2AM when the enemy engaged Davis’ unit with a 30-minute barrage of mortar fire. The moment he got the all clear, he showed them what his 105mm Howitzer could do. He fired the first beehive shot and the enemy returned fire with a recoil-less rifle that hit eight inches from his head.
After recovering from an insanely close call, he grabbed his M-16 and fired on the advancing enemy. When he fired all but three rounds, he then turned back to his Howitzer to get off that beehive. The weapon had taken a heavy beating and much of the powder was scattered. But he loaded what he could find. Under normal circumstances, seven bags of powder is fine. Davis loaded nearly 21. It almost destroyed the cannon but also devastated the enemy.
The Howitzer blew up and rolled over Davis and nearly 30 fragments of the beehive were in his back. Davis, just like Gump would in the film, took the shrapnel in the buttocks. His body and his cannon were in terrible condition.
That’s when he noticed some American G.I.s on the other side of the river.
He had been shot in the leg and was partially deafened, his ribs were broken and his spine fractured, and there was still plenty of beehive in his back — yet he grabbed his Army-issued air mattress and swam to his brothers without even a second’s thought.
Surrounded by enemies, he had to sneak around with nothing but an air mattress until he found the soldier waving at him. There, he found three wounded men in a foxhole — two were ambulatory but one was shot in the head and somehow still holding on. Davis grabbed the soldier with the head wound and placed him on the mattress and the four of them headed back across to safety.
Much of the film touches on Sammy L. Davis’ life, which he openly embraces. Every military scene is based off Davis, including the scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson bestows the Medal of Honor upon Forrest Gump. That was literally Sammy Davis under Tom Hank’s CGI face. Granted, Davis is a much more eloquent speaker.
For more about Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, please watch the American Legion video below.
In 1917, the horrors of World War I were something entirely new to the world. “The War to End All Wars” inflicted horrible casualties and painful deaths in a way no one had ever seen before in the history of warfare. Mechanized vehicles, poison gas, trench-clearing shotguns, and even the constant mud and water that filled the trenches took its toll on the men who fought the war.
Many of those wounded and dying from the new weapons of war found themselves laying next to Red Cross volunteer May Bradford, who would write what for many of her patients, was the last words they would ever say to their loved ones.
Even those who survived were altered forever by the new weapons of war.
For those that were dying, Bradford recorded their last words. For those that were too injured to write, she informed their families of their loved one’s situation. For those who were simply illiterate, she was happy to take care of them too. She was part of the French No. 26 General Hospital, near Etaples, France during the war. She was there following her surgeon husband, Sir John Bradford.
She had been there for the entire war, watching the dying and wounded roll in and out of the clinics and field hospitals. She immediately took up the mantle of “hospital letter writer” for anyone who might want or need her services. Over the course of Britain’s time in the war, she wrote more than 25,000 letters, averaging 12 or more every day for four and a half years.
Bradford later wrote a book of her experiences.
Rather than wear the traditional uniform of the scores of Red Cross volunteers at English aid stations around the world, Lady Bradford wore her usual clothes, which were usually an impeccably clean and neat dress, which made the men in her care feel less like they were in a hospital with a nurse and more like they were dictating a letter with an old friend.
In her relatively short time as a letter writer for the sick, injured, and mortally wounded, Bradford experienced firsthand the horrors of the First World War – and experienced the emotional rollercoaster of fighting that war secondhand.