In February 2017, a Russian spy ship was spotted off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. That ship was named the Viktor Leonov, named for one of Russia’s most storied heroes – twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union. He also received the Order of Lenin and two Orders of the Red Banner, all for outstanding bravery.
As a young sailor, Leonov began his career in the Red Navy’s submarine service. Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union forever altered his career. He became a Naval Scout performing special reconnaissance, a Soviet frogman, sabotaging Nazi ships and troop movements along the coastlines — some 50 missions in the first year of the Eastern Front alone.
Fighting the Nazis, Leonov led missions that covertly took out anti-aircraft batteries, captured hundreds of prisoners, and even led a two-day march overland to capture Nazi gun emplacements and use them against other German artillery positions.
He landed at a Japanese airfield near the Korean port of Wonsan with a force of 140 men, led by a higher-ranking officer. The airfield, supposedly lightly defended, was actually manned by 3,500 Japanese defenders. Horribly outnumbered, 10 Spetsnaz officers were forced to surrender.
The commander of the Russian force asked to speak with the Japanese garrison commander. As the negotiations started, Leonov angrily interrupted, saying:
“We’ve been fighting in the West throughout the war and we have enough experience to assess our situation. We will not allow ourselves to be taken hostage! You will die like rats when we break out of here!”
He then pulled out a grenade and threatened to kill everyone, including his fellow Russian. The Japanese surrendered on the spot. The Russians captured 2,200 troops, three artillery batteries, five aircraft, and a lot of ammunition.
For that outburst, Senior Lieutenant Viktor Leonov received his second Gold Star Medal.
After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.
During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.
The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”
DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.
Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.
DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.
“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.
Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.
The US Navy has reportedly launched 59 cruise missiles at airfields controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Monday.
Tomahawk missiles were launched from two Navy warships stationed in the Mediterranean according to CNN, and NBC News.
No casualties have yet been reported but officials tell NBC News that no people were targeted.
Missiles hit runways and military infrastructure used by Syrian and Russian forces, who the US blames for using chemical weapons in the attack on Monday.
Several prominent GOP Senators and Representatives urged strikes on Syria after evidence of chemical attacks surfaced. The strike, while not targeting troops themselves, carried a high risk of killing Syrian and Russian servicemen in collateral damage.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it was pretty clear everybody in the government had to get into the anti-terrorism game.
From the formation of the Department of Homeland Security out of a host of separate law enforcement and police agencies, to a more robust role for Joint Special Operations Command in the hunt for terrorist leaders, the American government mobilized to make sure another al Qaeda attack would never happen again on U.S. soil.
For years, the Coast Guard had occupied a quasi-military role in the U.S. government, particularly after the “war on drugs” morphed its domestic law enforcement job into a much more expeditionary, anti-drug one.
But with the World Trade Center in rubble, the Coast Guard knew it had to get into the game.
That’s why in 2007 the Deployable Operations Group was formerly established within the Coast Guard to be a sort of domestic maritime counter-and-anti-terrorism force to address threats to the homeland and abroad. As part of SOCOM, the DOG trained and equipped Coast Guardsmen to do everything from take down a terrorist-captured ship to detecting and recovering dirty nukes.
For six years, the DOG executed several missions across the globe and prepared for security duties in the U.S., including deploying for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and helping with anti-piracy missions off the African coast (think Maersk Alabama). The DOG even sent two officers to SEAL training who later became frogmen in the teams.
But in 2013, then-Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp disbanded the DOG and spread its component organizations across the Coast Guard. And though they’re not operating as part of SOCOM missions anymore, the Coast Guard commandos are still on the job with a mandate to conduct “Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security” missions in the maritime domain.
“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System and those who live, work or recreate near them; the prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks, sabotage, espionage, or subversive acts; and response to and recovery from those that do occur,” the Coast Guard says. “Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”
The primary units that make up the Coast Guard’s commandos include:
1. Port Security Units
Boat crews from Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313in Everett, Wash., conduct high-speed boat maneuvers and safety zone drills during an exercise at Naval Station Everett July 22, 2015. The exercise was held in an effort to fine tune their capabilities in constructing and running entry control points, establishing perimeter security, and maintaining waterside security and safety zones. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford)
These Coast Guard teams patrol in small boats to make sure no funny stuff is going on where marine vessels are parked. The PSU teams work to secure areas around major events on the coast or bordering waterways, including United Nations meetings in New York and high-profile meetings and visits by foreign dignitaries in cities like Miami.
2. Tactical Law Enforcement Teams
These Coast Guard teams are an extension and formalization of the service’s counter drug operations. The TACLETs also execute the same kinds of missions as SWAT teams, responding to active shooter situations and arresting suspects. These teams also participated in counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and in the Suez Canal.
3. Maritime Safety Security Teams
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91114 patrols the coastline of Guantanamo Bay, Jan. 14. MSST 91114 provides maritime anti-terrorism and force protection for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. (photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins)
When the security situation goes up a notch — beyond a couple minimally-armed pirates or a deranged shooter — that’s when they call the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Security Teams. Think of these guys as the FBI Hostage Rescue or LA SWAT team of the Coast Guard. They can take down a better armed ship full of pirates, can guard sensitive installations like the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison or keep looters in check after Hurricane Sandy.
4. Maritime Security Response Team
Tosca and her Maritime Security Response Team canine officer sweep the deck of Mississippi Canyon Block 582, Medusa Platform during a joint exercise May 21, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Robert Nash)
The Maritime Security Response Teams are about as close to Navy SEALs as the Coast Guard gets (and many of them are trained by SEAL instructors). The MSRT includes snipers, dog handlers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians who are so highly trained they can detect and dispose of a chemical, biological or radiological weapon.
MSRT Coast Guardsmen are the counter-terrorism force within the service (as opposed to an “anti-terrorism” which is primarily defensive in nature), with missions to take down terrorist-infested ships, hit bad guys from helicopters and assault objectives like Rangers or SEALs. The force is also trained to recover high-value terrorists or free captured innocents.
“It’s important to know that the MSRT is scalable in the size of their response to an event or mission,” said a top Maritime Security Response Team commander. “Depending on the scope of the mission or the event, will determine how many team members are needed to deploy and their areas of expertise, in order to effectively complete the mission.”
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.
Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.
Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.
But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.
“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”
Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.
Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”
In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.
Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.
More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.
Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.
The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.
Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.
Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.
In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.
On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI. Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.
The hotline was the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which profiles several Veterans’ Crisis Line counselors who work the 24-hour service to provide support and guidance to active and retired servicemen dealing with emotional, physical and financial troubles.
“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said a VA report filed in February 2016.
The VA estimates every sixth call is going to the backup center, where callers listen to Muzak while they wait for an operator. The VA has no information on how long the callers wait or how many give up because the backup centers are not monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since the suicide hotline was created in 2007, it has received more than two million calls and intervened on 53,000 separate occasions. The new report recommends obtaining and analyzing data on hold times, implementing call monitoring for the crisis line staff, more rigorous training with a rigorous quality assurance process.
Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.
Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.
Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.
The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.
The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.
The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.
The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Maybe the greatest thing about the French Foreign Legion for many of its enlistees is the ability to get an entirely new life upon joining. At least back in the days following World War II, you could. This meant anyone escaping their old life could earn anonymity and a new, French life after a few years of service.
In the years following World War II, this also meant it was (potentially) full of war criminals. For Eliahu Itzkovitz, a Romanian Jew, there was only one war criminal he cared about, and that criminal did join the foreign legion. Itzkovitz was not about to let him get away with his crimes.
Itzkovitz was born to Jewish parents in Chișinău, which is today the capital of Moldova but in his time was in the Kingdom of Romania. When World War II broke out, Romania’s King Carol II opted to maintain his country’s neutrality, but the stars weren’t aligning for Carol and his traditional allies. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from continental Europe and the fall of France in 1940 led to opposition to that policy.
Romania’s king turned to Nazi Germany to secure its borders, but the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ceded Romanian territory to the Soviet Union and King Carol II was powerless to do anything about it. He was soon deposed in a Fascist coup that led the new power to join the Axis pact in 1940.
Jewish people in Romania began to meet the same fate as others in Nazi-dominated Europe. They were herded into concentration camps, ghettos or were outright murdered in pogroms by Romanian and German soldiers. Eliahu Itzkovitz and his family were deported to a concentration camp in their native Moldavia.
It was in this prison that young Eliahu Itzkovitz watched a prison camp guard named Stănescu murder his parents. The young boy vowed to get revenge on Stănescu. HIs demand for vengeance helped him survive the war, but when he was liberated by the Soviet Union, he couldn’t find the guard.
He returned to Romania looking for Stănescu while still a young man. He tracked down a location where he thought he would find his parents’ murder in 1947, but found only the man’s son. Itzkovitz stabbed his son with a butcher knife. He was caught and sentenced to a juvenile prison. Upon his release, the now-communist government of Romania allowed him to emigrate to Israel.
Now an orphan living in the Jewish homeland, he joined the Israeli Defence Forces, determined to never let something like the Holocaust orphan any more Jewish children. Itzkovitz joined a paratrooper brigade a year after joining the IDF. It was here he learned how and where Stănescu managed to escape the Soviet troops in 1945 – he had moved into the French occupation zone of Germany and joined the French Foreign Legion.
Itzkovitz came up with a plan to exact his revenge. First, he transferred to the Israeli Navy, where he was stationed in Haifa. Eventually, he was sent to the Italian port of Genoa on a supply mission. Once back in Europe, he deserted from the Navy and joined the Foreign Legion himself.
While undergoing basic training in Algeria, he learned that his prey had been sent to French Indochina with the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment, where he was a noncommissioned officer and a squad leader. Itzkovitz volunteered for that same regiment and ended up in Indochina, in Stănescu’s unit. Itzkovitz didn’t strike right away – he waited for the perfect moment.
The day he long waited for finally arrived on a 1958 patrol near the Vietnamese city of Bac Ninh. Itzkovitz finally confronted the guard that killed his parents in the Holocaust and killed him. He served out the rest of his enlistment with the Foreign Legion. Afterwards, he returned to Paris to face the music for deserting the Israeli Navy.
The IDF court-martialed Itzkovitz and sentenced him to one year in prison.
While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.
Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.
As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.
After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.
Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.
Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.
More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.
Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.
VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.
He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.
“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”
Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.
“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.
The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.
Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.
“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.
“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.
Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.
“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”
About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.
In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”
The Soviet Union disagreed.
Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.
That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”
That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.
Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.
Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.
The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:
“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”
“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)
“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”
Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.