Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Howard “Howie” Sanborn was an all-star on active duty. He was an Airborne Ranger infantryman who conducted long-range surveillance for the XVII Airborne Corps before doing five years as a member of the U.S. Army’s premier high-altitude demonstration team, the Golden Knights.
As a Golden Knight, it was Howie’s job to share his experiences in the Army with civilians and act as a brand ambassador. Now, he uses a wheelchair and is off active duty, but he still spreads the Army message far and wide as an adaptive athlete.
“For me,” Howie said, “the Warrior Games are an amazing opportunity to get back with my team. I’m part of Team SOCOM. Once you leave the military and you’re retired or you just get out, you don’t necessarily lose that sense of camaraderie but you’re kind of separate from your buddies. So when you get to do events like this together or training events together, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with guys who’ve been through the same thing you’ve been through.”
At the 2016 Warrior Games, Howie competed in his racing chair in track events, taking home three gold medals for Men’s 1500 Run 2.0, Men’s 800 Meter Run 3.0, and Men’s 400 Meter Dash 3.0, as well as one silver medal in Men’s 200 Meter Dash 2.0.
Military veterans and adaptive athletes prepare for the start of the 2016 Warrior Games. Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn is in the grey shirt in the foreground. (Photo: WATM)
Author’s Note: The events are broken down by each athlete’s functional ability. The 2.0 and 3.0 notations in the event titles refer to Howie and his competitors’ functional ratings.
Outside of the Warrior Games, Howe competes on the Parathriathlon Team for the U.S.
As an alumni of the Golden Knights and an adaptive athlete, Howie was the obvious choice for narrator during the Golden Knight demonstration in the opening ceremonies.
As part of his duties in the opening ceremony, Howie presented a special award to Gen. Frederick M. Franks. Franks was pioneer in the wounded warrior community, fighting his way back into combat units after losing his left leg below the knee.
The Soviet Union’s fighting with Fascist Italian forces is not the most widely read or written area of World War II history, but in August 1942 the two sides met along the Don River. On one side was a backward force, seemingly in a place outside of time. On the other side was the Soviet Red Army.
Benito Mussolini sent an Italian army of 235,000 troops to assist Nazi Germany with its invasion of the USSR. The ARMIR, as the Soviets called the Italian force, was not particularly well-suited for the job. Many of them were trained for mountain fighting and the wide expanses of the Asian steppe were not their forte.
Some of the Fascists troops were old-style saber-wielding cavalrymen, complete with horses in an age of increasingly mechanized warfare. But by August 1942, the Soviet Union had yet to become the raging war machine that would cripple the Wehrmacht and roll over Germany on its way to Berlin.
Fresh from assisting the Germans in the conquest of Eastern Ukraine, the Italians made their way to the banks of the Don River. Their next target after crossing the Don would be a city that would soon engulf the Italians and Germans alike, a major manufacturing and transportation hub which sat on the Volga River: Stalingrad.
To get there, however, they first had to contend with the 2,000 Red Army infantrymen armed with machine guns and mortars that were standing in between them and the Don. The Soviets were trying to exploit a gap that had opened between the advancing German and Italian forces.
To end the Soviet threat on August 23, 1942, 600 Italian cavalrymen mounted up and came at the foot soldiers, crashing into the Red Army line in a traditional, tightly-packed formation. They came at the communist troops with sabers flashing, but also lobbing grenades as they galloped – a modern twist on an old idea.
Unlike some of the other cavalry charges of World War II, the Italian gamble worked. The cavalry rode right over the line of infantry and into its flanks and rear. The Red Army made the Italians pay dearly for the effort, but were forced back from their intended goal anyway.
The charge of the Italian brigade was not the last charge in history. It wasn’t even the last cavalry charge of World War II. But it was the last major cavalry charge in a large pitched battle. The United States would effectively use a relatively small cavalry charge in the Philippines against the Japanese and the Japanese would use a cavalry charge against the British in Burma. Both of these also did the job.
But there was no doubt that horse-mounted cavalry was on its way out of the military playbook. The U.S. charge in the Philippines would be the last one used by the Americans. Future cavalry charges wouldn’t meet foot soldiers, they would meet armored tanks – a lopsided effort if there ever was one.
The ARMIR was also on its way out. It was effectively disbanded after the Axis defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad, where much of it was sent into the Red Army’s meat grinder and either killed or captured. What was left of the Italian force walked back to Italy.
With Russia’s announcement of a new permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria – long a port used by Russian (and prior to 1991, Soviet) forces, Moscow’s expansion into that war torn country continues even as the Assad regime is wracked by civil war.
But Russia has had a long history in the Med.
Tartus Naval Base has been used by the Russians since 1971. In those 45 years, it served as a forward operating location for the Fifth Eskadra (5th Operational Squadron). This unit was intended to counter the presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Med. The base had not been able to permanently support major vessels like the Kuznetov-class carrier; the Kirov-class battlecruisers; the Slava-class cruisers; or even modern destroyers and frigates in Russian service. The new construction at the base is intended to make it a permanent base for carriers and larger vessels as opposed to just a place to park.
The Fifth Eskadra was formed in 1967 after the Egypt-Israel Six Day War. The Soviets had been unable to find a way to inflict damage on the Sixth Fleet in the event of a war with the United States. This was not a solid strategic position from its perspective, and Russian naval legend Sergei Gorshkov pestered his superiors until the unit was formed.
The unit usually consisted of as many as 80 vessels, including two guided-missile cruisers and a number of smaller escorts like the Mod Kashin-class destroyer or Krivak-class frigate, ten diesel-electric submarines, and a host of auxiliary vessels. The Sixth Fleet usually had half that total, but much of its strength would be concentrated in a carrier battle group which could make life exciting (not to mention short) for the Soviet vessels.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians disbanded the Fifth Eskadra at the end of 1992 — a little over 25 years after the squadron was formed. Two decades later, in 2013, the Russians re-formed the squadron as the Syrian civil war heated up.
Now with about 10 vessels, it is a shadow of the force that faced off with the Sixth Fleet. Still, it is a sign that Russia is reasserting itself in the region.
A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.
Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.
“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”
Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.
She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.
Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.
Bayonet fighting is a lost art to many, but it has served as a tried and true tactic since the first riflemen realized they could use a blade if they found themselves wanting to kill something when their ammunition went empty.
Here are 6 times America and its allies decided to press cold steel into their enemies chests, including two charges from the Global War on Terror.
1. Two National Guard battalions shove an entire Chinese division off a hill with their bayonets.
While attempting to take two hilltops to the south of Seoul, South Korea in early 1951, the 65th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division fought for two days up a Chinese-held hill. On the morning of the third day, the crest of the hill was in sight and the Puerto Rican fighters decided that it was time they were atop it.
In one of the most famous counterattacks in American history, the 20th Maine under Union Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain found itself running out of ammunition on Little Round Top, an important hill at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Chamberlain and his 386 men, including 120 mutineers added to the regiment just before the battle, charged down the hill and defeated two Confederate regiments. Chamberlain himself was nearly killed multiple times during the charge.
3. Marines take Peleliu Airfield with a daring bayonet charge across open ground.
The 1st Marine Division was attempting to take the Japanese-held Peleliu Airfield on Sep. 16, 1944. When they realized they weren’t making enough progress through rifle-fire, they lined up four battalions and charged against the open ground with fixed bayonets. While they took heavy losses, they reached the enemy, engaged at close quarters, and took the airfield.
4. Revolutionary War Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne orders a daring charge and threatens to kill any soldiers who fire.
To retake a position at Stony Point, New York, Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne ordered his outnumbered and outgunned men to not fire under punishment of death.
The Americans crept up to the British defenders at night and charged through the lines with fixed bayonets and sabers. When it was all over, the Americans had retaken Stony Point with 15 men killed and 85 wounded while the British suffered 63 dead, 70 wounded, and 442 captured.
5. The British dismount their heavily-armed vehicles in Iraq to attack insurgents with their bayonets.
A group of British soldiers from the Prince of Wales’ Royal Regiment were ambushed by fighters from Mugtada Al-Sadr’s forces May 14, 2004.
The enemy was firing from an actual trench, so Company Sgt. Maj. David Falconer ordered his men to fix bayonets and enter the trenches. The British charged across open ground and dropped into the trenches. With bayonets and rifles, the men fought for the next four hours, killing about 30 enemy soldiers with no major casualties before a British tank arrived and ended the battle. Falconer and another soldier were awarded the British Military Cross.
6. Capt. Lewis Millett orders two bayonet charges in 4 days during the Korean War.
On Feb. 4th, 1951, then-Capt. Lewis Millett led a bayonet charge an occupied hill in Korea and one of his platoon leaders went down. Millett organized a rescue effort with bayonets while under fire and finished taking the hill.
Then, only three days later, he was leading an attack up Hill 180 when one of his platoons was pinned down by enemy fire. Millett took another platoon up to rescue them, ordered both platoons to fix bayonets, and led a charge up the hill and captured it. He’s personally credited with bayonetting at least two men in the assault while clubbing others and throwing grenades.
When Jeremy Penderman joined the Army, he wasn’t quite sure what his job would entail.
“I’m not even sure the recruiter knew what the job was,” he said.
But Penderman, a multichannel transmission systems operator/maintainer, said the job hasn’t disappointed.
Now serving in Iraq with Fort Bragg’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Penderman has an undeniable impact on his unit and the ongoing fight to retake the key northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State terrorist group, officials said.
So undeniable that Penderman, who has spent nearly seven years in the Army, was the recipient of a rare battlefield promotion in April of 2017.
In an impromptu ceremony near Al Tarab, Iraq, Sgt. Penderman became Staff Sgt. Penderman when Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin pinned the new rank to his chest.
Penderman, who was at the base repairing communications equipment, said the visit — and the promotion — were unexpected.
Martin, the commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command — Operation Inherent Resolve and the 1st Infantry Division, was able to promote Penderman after determining that the soldier “demonstrated an extraordinary performance of duties” while filling a job that’s typically held by someone of a higher rank.
It was a special recognition for Penderman, who had spent nearly two years awaiting a promotion but still lacked the requirements for a typical bump in rank.
“It was a complete surprise,” Penderman told The Fayetteville Observer from Iraq last week. “I didn’t know anything about it.”
Penderman, 25, is a Durham-native who oversees communications for the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute infantry Regiment, which has about 700 soldiers in Iraq and deployed late last year.
In that role, he leads a small team of soldiers who work to ensure troops can communicate across the battlefield, keeping a network in place to spur a constant flow of information from advise-and-assist teams embedded with Iraqi forces and between unmanned aerial vehicles and soldiers on the ground.
The job often sees him working with complex communications equipment, tapping into satellites and generally maintaining a tactical communications network in an austere and ever-changing environment.
Not bad for someone who knew little to nothing about his career when he joined the Army.
“I didn’t even know what an IP (address) was,” Penderman said. “I didn’t know anything about computers.”
Instead, Penderman had high hopes that baseball would be his future.
“I played everywhere,” he said of his time at the Durham School of the Arts. “But I went to college as an outfielder.”
That college was Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, where Penderman received a scholarship to play baseball.
But after being redshirted his freshman year, he began to reconsider another dream.
Penderman always wanted to join the military. He wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a Marine, although his parents urged him to try college instead.
He made a promise that he would give college a year, and, if that didn’t work, he’d be free to enlist.
Today, Penderman might have been a Marine if it wasn’t for one more discovery.
“I found out about the airborne,” he said.
Over spring break his freshman year — March 2010 — Penderman walked into a recruiting center and enlisted in the Army.
At first, he wanted to be an airborne infantryman, but a recruiter instead guided him through a list of available jobs.
He described Penderman’s current military occupational specialty, known as a 25Q, as “half infantry, half radios” and promised he could still become a paratrooper. Also, the job came with an enlistment bonus.
Since enlisting, Penderman spent more than four years in Germany with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team before joining the 82nd Airborne Division about two years ago.
He has seven years in the Army and plans to apply to become a warrant officer in the Signal Corps. While he wants to stay in the Army as long as possible, he said the skills he’s learned have opened the door to a bright future no matter if he wears the uniform or not.
“It’s really set me up for success, whether I stay in or get out,” he said.
Penderman is noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of his battalion’s S6, or communications, shop.
Typically, that organization would have upward of a dozen soldiers, including an NCOIC and an officer. But Penderman’s shop has three soldiers and no officer.
That shows the faith and trust that leadership has in the soldier, officials said.
In training while preparing for the deployment, the battalion trained with the smaller force. But Penderman said little could have prepared him for another aspect of the deployment — a constant leapfrogging of the battlefield.
When Penderman’s battalion arrived in country, they set up more than 20 miles from Mosul to partner with the 9th Iraqi Armored Division, one of the local forces looking to take back the city.
“And we moved six times,” Penderman said. “As they gain ground and they move forward, we move forward with them.”
Today, he’s based out of a tactical assembly area near the village of Bakhira. From there, he’s near the border of the city and close to the fighting.
“We can hear them shooting off mortars,” Penderman said.
He’s also seen forces treating wounded. And he said that knowing he has played a role in the march into the city has been humbling.
“It’s fulfilling work,” Penderman said. “I get to impact the battalion on a daily basis… It definitely feels like I’m making a difference in my battalion and helping to make a difference in the fight in Mosul.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
F-15E Strike Eagles, assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, rest on the flightline at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain, Sept. 16, 2016. During Tactical Leadership Programme 16-3, U.S. service members trained side by side with NATO allies and partners, preparing them to meet future security challenges as a unified force.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
A B-52H Stratofortress taxis down the runway during Prairie Vigilance 16-1 at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 16, 2016. As one leg of U.S. Strategic Command’s nuclear triad, Air Force Global Strike Command’s B-52s at Minot AFB, play an integral role in nation’s strategic deterrence.
A U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldier walks across a rope bridge during the 2016 Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Sept 27, 2016.
The U.S. Army protects our Nation and its vital strategic interests, preventing conflict through forward presence, building partnerships, and conducting operations around the world.
PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 22, 2016) Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Demetrice Cox secures an MH-60s Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, with chocks and chains on the flight deck of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) during Valiant Shield 2016.
APRA HARBOR, Guam (Sept. 25, 2016) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), flagship of Carrier Strike Group Five is moored in Apra Harbor, U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG), after the completion of Valiant Shield 2016.
Cpls. Jakob Stark and Michael Sleeting riding in a UH-1Y Huey helicopter during COMPTUEX off the coast of Southern California.
Lance Cpl. Rick Mercer emerging from the tree line during the Advanced Infantry Course in Kahuku Training Area.
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry pilot from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama, surveys the Apalachicola, Florida, area with night vision goggles for damage caused by Hurricane Hermine, Sept. 2, 2016. Hurricane Hermine was a Category 1 hurricane was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2005 before proceeding up the east coast of the United States.
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Honolulu transport members of the Honolulu Police Department Specialized Services Division aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium offshore of Honolulu, Sept. 26, 2016. Station Honolulu served as a platform for HPD to conduct underway ship-boarding exercises aboard the Star of Honolulu.
Tripler Army Medical Center air evacuation from Hickam Airfield.
It’s the biggest event that happens every year in Moscow, a Russian extravaganza that rolls out weapons new and old and continues the war of words between Russia and the United States.
On Monday, Russia will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II – known there as The Great Patriotic War – with it annual Victory Day celebrations and parade.
More than just a commemoration of Russian sacrifices during the war, since Soviet times the celebration is part of a carefully crafted military spectacle intended to tell the U.S. and the West that Russia is a world power worthy of respect – and even fear.
That’s a message that Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin wants the United States to hear loud and clear.
“The Victory Day parade, with all its loudly trumpeted pomp and technology, is also a clear message to Russia’s perceived threats and enemies that Russia is not to be trifled with militarily,” Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former U.S. military attaché to Russia, told We Are The Mighty.
“The 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is the underlying theme, but in reality these recent parades are a robust display to the world and also Russia’s domestic population of Russia’s modern military might,” Zwack said. “While initially there are vehicles and troops in commemorative World War II battle dress, overwhelmingly this is an aggressive assertion of today’s Russian military which has had recent, widely publicized successes in Syria.”
Russians hold the impressive parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Traditionally, the parade is in three parts: a procession of the Ground Forces, the “military hardware demonstration” that showcases weapons systems new and old, and the “fly-by of the air forces.”
One of the ways Russia asserts its might is the tradition of rolling out new hardware for the entire world to see. This year’s parade and aerial flybys will be no different – and the Kremlin uses its Twitter and Instagram presence to gain maximum publicity.
According to the Kremlin’s recent English-language social media postings, at least one new example of Russian military hardware will appear for the first time during the Victory Day celebration on Monday.
It is the Su-35s fighter, which is reportedly an upgraded version of the tried-and-true Flanker multirole air superiority fighter. Earlier this year, the Russian government placed a $1.4 billion order for 50 of the fighter planes to expand the Russian Air Force.
In February, the Russian military deployed four of the Su-35s to Khmeimim air base near Latakia for combat operations in Syria, according to a Russian news report.
The Kremlin says altogether 128 pieces of military equipment will participate in this year’s Victory Day parade. That also will include reappearances by hardware that debuted last year such as the T-14 Armata tank.
T-90 main battle tanks, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and several other classes of armored vehicles will also appear.
Zwack said that in recent years Putin revived much of the Soviet-era pomp associated with the celebration as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to bolster Russian pride. But not only will rolling tanks and soaring aircraft be on display – so will the Russian political leadership.
“Vladimir Putin is always front and center of the Victory Day parade with his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu,” Zwack said “He is clearly the ‘Alpha Leader’ in charge, and he conveys that he will at all costs and any sacrifice protect and defend the Russian populace against all threats. In his mind he benefits internationally, and most importantly, domestically from this full blown display and resurgence of Russia’s military capability and competence.”
Celebrated since 1946, День Победы – Victory Day – displays the exceptional status that Russians believe they possess because of their sacrifices during the war. It is even celebrated on a different day than Victory in Europe Day – otherwise known as VE Day.
As far as most Russians are concerned, the celebration of their victory over Nazi Germany and the commemoration of the nearly 25 million soldiers and civilians who died during World War II is an affirmation of the eternal validity of Russian nationalism, the importance of Russian identity, and the necessity of Russia’s place in the constellation of “great power” nations.
Germany signed a surrender agreement in France with the Allied Powers on May 7, 1945 – but the Soviet Union wanted a separate peace with Nazi Germany for a variety of political reasons.
While the rest of the world celebrated VE Day on May 8, Nazi representatives and the Allies repeated the surrender in Berlin where supreme German military commander Wilhelm Keitel, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and others signed the instrument of surrender. It was May 9 in the Moscow time zone when the agreement took effect – hence the date for Victory Day.
Since last year, one of the themes repeated by Moscow is the United States does not respect the sacrifice of the Russian people during World War II. It appears that is also a message that will accompany this year’s Victory Day celebration.
For example, the message from the Kremlin to the United States regarding the upcoming anniversary is bitter. Its English-language social media site recently published photographs of post-war banners that said in Russian “Americans will never forget the heroic deeds of Russians” and “America says ‘Hi’ to our valiant Russian allies.”
The Moscow-written tag-line to the recent post is: “How sad that you’ve already forgotten.”
But since he’s a Fort Bragg soldier, there’s also a real chance he’ll spend his money this way:
1. Taxes will be taken out
30.75 percent, or $615,000 goes right back into government coffers. That leaves the enterprising soldier with $1,385,000.
2. Dip and jerky
The winner’s first stop will be base shoppette where he’ll pick up the proper amount of dip for millionaire soldiers, as well as a little jerky to much on.
3. New car
This is an obvious stop, but for some reason, the new millionaire will still take out loans of 20 percent or more. Over the next five years, that b-tchin’ Corvette will cost him as much as a Lambo would’ve if he’d paid cash.
4. Electronics store
Every new video game console, 10-20 games for each, a huge TV, and surround sound. A few movies will round out the purchase, about 500 of them. Most of the movies are about World War II paratroopers.
5. Adult “book” store
This is for other movies. We will not explain further.
Finally, the soldier will find a new place to live. Unfortunately, he’ll only realize after the fact that his surround system doesn’t properly fill the new entertainment room with sound. Since he threw away the receipts, he’ll buy a new one and give the old system to a groupie (he’ll have those now).
7. Energy drinks
This will take up more money than any non-soldiers would expect.
8. All the booze
There are roughly infinity liquor stores at the Fort Bragg perimeter, as well as a Class VI store on base. These will become empty.
9. Noise citations
Once the party starts, Fayettnam police officers will be visiting every 15 minutes or so and writing a ticket. By the end of the night, the lottery money will be almost played out.
By the second week, the former millionaire will be attending finance classes on base and applying for an Army Emergency Relief loan to make his payments for the Corvette.
For the first time in 14 years, one of the most iconic planes in American history has earned its wings.
Restorers have reattached the wings to the B-17F Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Wednesday, the museum provided a behind-the-scenes look as aircraft workers reattached more pieces to the bomber’s wings in preparation for a public unveiling next year.
“It’s amazing,” said Casey Simmons, a restorer who has labored on the project since 2008 . “I don’t know if there’s words that really say it because you’re little and you build this kit as a little model (airplane) and now you’re actually doing the real thing.
“My favorite part about working on it is just the fact that I get to work on it,” added Casey, 36, of Dayton. “It’s the Memphis Belle. It’s one of the most famous planes. Everything about it, it doesn’t seem like a job. It’s what I’d be doing in my free time if I got to do whatever I wanted to do.”
The Army Air Forces plane is set to make its debut among fabled aircraft inside the World War II gallery at the museum on May 17, 2018, the date that marks the 75th anniversary of the 25th and final wartime mission of the storied bomber that battled Nazi Germany.
The final crew and the bomber gained fame on a nationwide wartime bond tour, which stopped in Dayton, and for a 1944 movie “Memphis Belle” that documented its combat exploits over Europe.
“The big significance of the Belle is it’s an icon and it represents those heavy bomber crews that helped win the war against Germany,” said Jeff Duford, a museum curator.
The Memphis Belle will sit as the centerpiece of a large-scale exhibit on strategic bombing. Archival footage of the historic plane’s missions retrieved from the National Archives, crew artifacts flown in combat and interactive screens will tell the tale of thousands of bombers and their crews in the bloody aerial battles that killed more airman than any war American airmen have fought in.
Crews have roughly 13,000 hours of work left, said Greg Hassler, restoration supervisor. The museum was not able to provide a cost estimate or how many hours workers and volunteers labored so far to bring the Belle back to its former end of combat luster.
Restorers have labored to meticulously off and on to scrape paint, bend metal and fabricate parts since the Boeing built-bomber arrived in 2005 hauled in on a truck from near Memphis, Tenn.
“You get lots of parts and boxes and things that aren’t marked and it’s trying to figure out where things go (you) look at the drawings and it’s like a puzzle,” Simmons said.
The plane will be repainted to reflect how it looked at the end of its combat bombing runs and before flying across the nation on the war bond tour, Duford said. The paint on the plane today is not the original markings, he said.
“The skin all over the the fuselage is engraved with the names when it went on its war bond tour so you want to try and keep all that as much as you can because if you replace that, that’s history gone,” Simmons said.
The reborn Belle will have a woman in a red dress on one side of the plane and in a blue dress on the other side of the nose to reflect the original look. A row of swastikas added for the war bond tour will be removed because they weren’t on the bomber immediately after it finished its days in combat, Duford said
The wings were last attached in 2003, officials said.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Fiffie, a reconnaissance Marine from Edgard, La. assigned to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, drinks cobra blood during jungle survival training Feb. 19, 2018, in Sattahip, Chonburi province, Thailand. The training was conducted as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2018. In a survival scenario snake blood can be consumed to keep an individual hydrated while the meat can be used as a source of nutrition. The annual exercise is conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony).
This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.
Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.
The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house.
Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking.
PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries.
The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games.
It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016.
But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”
PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues.
Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.
“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”
On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony