This Wild Weasel didn't want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Long before the first bombs fell on Baghdad Jan. 16, 1991, the man who would be in charge of one of the most effective air campaigns in history was hearing whispers from another war.


Then-Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, who, as a young captain, flew Wild Weasel missions attacking radar sites during two tours in the Vietnam War, was determined to avoid the same strategic mistakes in the Persian Gulf that plagued the U.S. military in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, his boss – Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – and other military leaders executing Operation Desert Storm had Vietnam, and the hard lessons learned there, in their memories, as well.

An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border. An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.

Twenty-five years later, Horner, now a retired four-star general residing in northwest Florida, looks back on the Air Force that struck Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm as perhaps the best-trained force to date. Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, a U.S.-led coalition of about 30 nations placed more than 900,000 troops in the Arabian Peninsula in what became known as Operation Desert Shield, the campaign to prevent Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and build up forces to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait should diplomacy fail to secure a peaceful solution. When the United Nations Security Council for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went the following January, Desert Storm kicked off with an air campaign that would become the largest employment of U.S. airpower since the war in Vietnam.

Related: “How the bravery of the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies”

“When I think back on the past 25 years after Desert Storm, I see the immense impact that particular war had on how we planned to fight in the future and the kind of equipment we would need,” Horner said. “But most of all, I think about the spirit and attitude of our young warriors who were going to be faced with the next battle.

“I’m so proud of the way we performed in Desert Storm because of the leadership we had from Schwarzkopf and (Gen. Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech, former Tactical Air Command commander), and the way we had equipment that worked. We had all of the advantages the world had not seen before Desert Storm.”

A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, in front of his F-15 at Luke AFB, where he was wing commander in March of 1981. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Lessons learned

One of Horner’s first priorities, while planning the air strategy as Schwarzkopf’s joint force air component commander, was to avoid making what he considered the main mistake from Vietnam. He didn’t want bombing target selection to come from the president or defense secretary. As the architect of the air campaign against Iraq, Horner wanted targeting decisions to be made by commanders directly involved in the area of operations. “Washington was not the place to plan a war,” he had said. “If people there wanted to fight, let them come to the theater (of combat).

“That is the lesson of Vietnam,” Horner said in “Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Campaign 1989-1991,” a book by Diane Putney for the Air Force History and Museums Program. “Remember our great president (Lyndon B. Johnson) saying, ‘They don’t bomb a shit house in North Vietnam if I don’t approve it.’

“Well, I was the guy bombing the shit houses, and I was never going to let that happen if I ever got in charge because it is not right. If you want to know whether war is going to be successful or not, just ask where the targets are being picked. If they say, ‘We picked them in Washington,’ get out of the country. Go to Canada until the war is over because it is a loser.”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The day Horner, then the commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, received the call that eventually launched Desert Storm, he was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon on an air-to-air training mission near the North Carolina coast with two F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Virginia.

He’d expected the call from Schwarzkopf since the invasion of Kuwait. But once the call came from the Federal Aviation Administration to notify him to return to Shaw AFB, he instantly knew what it meant. He and his staff had to prepare the air portion of a CENTCOM briefing for President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, the next morning.

Kuwait invasion

After the invasion of Kuwait, the coalition’s first priority was protecting Saudi Arabia. Horner developed friendships with the Saudis earlier in his career during Operation Earnest Will in 1987-88 and other exercises and remained in Saudi Arabia after he and Schwarzkopf went there a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. The coalition organized for Desert Shield and Storm gave the U.S. military an opportunity to work closely with each other, as well as with forces from other nations, as they would later do during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

A massive prepositioning of equipment, supplies, munitions and fuels around the Persian Gulf, begun by the Joint Rapid Deployment Force in the 1980s, expedited preparations to conduct military operations in the area of responsibility, Horner said.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Military trucks are unloaded from the nose ramp of a C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Military Airlift Command, in support of Operation Desert Shield.

“When our aircraft landed in the Gulf airfields, they were met with spares, fuel, munitions, living facilities and all the other things they would need to survive and fight,” he wrote in “Desert Storm: A View From the Front.” “This material had been stored on ships anchored in theater and in leased warehouses throughout the AOR.”

Well before the crisis in the Gulf began, the military had trained for an eventual showdown with Iraq. A month before the invasion, a CENTCOM war game used a scenario of a “Country Orange” attacking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the north. When Schwarzkopf, who died in 2012, accepted command of CENTCOM in November 1989, he told his military leaders that since a war with Russia wasn’t likely to happen, “we have to find a new enemy or go out of business,” Horner said.

At the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, it fielded the world’s fifth-largest army at a million soldiers; larger than the U.S. Army and Marine Corps combined, according to a Los Angeles Times article on Aug. 13, 1990. The weaknesses coalition military planners hoped to exploit included an incompetent senior staff chosen for their devotion to Hussein rather than their military prowess, and only about one-third of its soldiers were experienced combat troops, according to U.S. officials quoted in the article.

After its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq owed a huge debt to Kuwait and many other Arab nations, which funded Iraq’s purchase of high-tech weapons, according to an American Patriot Friends Network article published in 2004. Kuwait’s oil made it one of the richest countries in the world and cash-strapped Iraq wanted it.

Courtesy Photo Pilot gazes out into the wild blue yonder.

“When General Schwarzkopf took command of (CENTCOM), he said we have to plan for an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because Iraq came out of the Iran-Iraq War very powerful militarily,” Horner said. “So, of course, they were sitting right next to the Fort Knox in the Middle East. So when it happened, I wasn’t surprised. We’d anticipated it was going to happen, but the speed with which we had to react was surprising.”

A United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait passed on Jan. 15, 1991, with no action from Iraq, so at 2 a.m. Jan. 17 (Baghdad time), coalition forces began a five-week bombardment of Iraqi command and control targets, beginning with eight Army AH-64 Apache helicopters led by two Air Force MH-53 Pave Hawks that destroyed radar sites near the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border, according to Putney. About an hour later, 10 Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, protected by three EF-111 Aardvarks, and Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck targets in Baghdad. The initial attacks allowed the coalition to gain control of the air for its fighter aircraft.

At the cessation of hostilities, coalition forces had destroyed 3,700 of Iraq’s 4,280 tanks and 2,400 of its 2,870 armored vehicles. The bomb tonnage dropped by U.S. planes per day equaled the average tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan during the entirety of World War II, according to the “White Paper – Air Force Performance in Desert Storm, Department of the Air Force,” published in April 1991.”

“The things that guided our strategy was to be unrelenting and to bring such a powerful force, so quickly and so thoroughly on the enemy, that they would be forced to leave Kuwait,” Horner said. “It was not going to be piecemeal. It was not going to be to play Mr. Nice Guy. It was going to be as vicious as possible, and that drove the strategy. The second part of our strategy was to get control of the air first and foremost, which we did not do in Vietnam.”

Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson. Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson.

The result was a prolonged air campaign that set up a short but decisive ground campaign. As the air war kicked off the first night of Desert Storm, Horner watched from the tactical air control center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as coalition aircraft flew north. At first, he wasn’t completely confident about how successful the attack would be or the cost it would take in aircraft and personnel.

However, Horner knew it was going well when he saw CNN’s live feed from Baghdad disappear. As CNN’s television satellite transmission equipment was not allowed entry into the highly controlled, secretive, authoritarian state, they had to transmit through antennas atop the ATT building in downtown Baghdad. It was the same building that housed Iraq’s air defense operations and from which communications emanated from Iraq’s air command control system. It was the target of one of the first bombs dropped from U.S. planes. When CNN reporter Peter Arnett went off the air at the precise moment the strike was scheduled, cheers went through the air operations center, Horner said. If CNN was off the air, so was Iraq’s air defense system.

Also read: “How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare”

“So as the sun came up the next morning and all of our airplanes were coming home except one, we became aware that this was going to go a lot better than even the best critics thought it might,” Horner said.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
The remains of an Iraqi air base, May 12, 2003. After Desert Storm the base was not used for flight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dave Buttner) (Released)

Ground war

By Feb. 23, the air campaign was mostly complete and coalition ground forces swiftly drove the Republican Guard from Kuwait and advanced into Iraq, forcing a ceasefire within 100 hours. Desert Storm was won at a much lower cost than even in the most optimistic prognostications, with 148 Americans killed in action and another 145 non-battle deaths. The Defense Intelligence Agency numbered the Iraqi casualties at about 100,000, although later the figure was disputed to be more in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.

Horner said bombing campaign proved most productive attacking Republican Guard and armor units because Hussein depended on them to retain power. The attacks to gain control of the air, coupled with medium-altitude operations, air-to-air excellence and defense suppression attacks were also effective, he said.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
1,400 soldiers of the 440th Iraqi Brigade surrender to the U. S. Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable on Failaka Island, Kuwait Mar 03, 1991. (Official U. S. Marine Corp photograph by SSgt Angel Arroyo 13th MEU SOC Combat Camera/Released)

“When the ground war started, I expected rapid gains given the fact that we had reduced the Iraqi ground units to a level of ‘not combat ready,’ using our Army’s definition,” Horner said. “What surprised most of us was the surrender rate. That was beyond our expectations. Once I became certain, early in the war, that our losses were manageable, I knew the ground war would go well, but I underestimated how well.”

Horner, who co-wrote his account of the air war with the late Tom Clancy in “Every Man a Tiger,” gives much of the credit for the training of the force he led during Desert Storm to Creech and Marine Corps Gen. George B. Crist, Schwarzkopf’s predecessor as CENTCOM commander-in-chief, who both placed great importance on making training as close to real world as possible. They led the push for more realistic exercises, an emphasis on aircraft maintenance, bomb scores, and the right tactics, which all came together during Desert Storm.

A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm.

Another lesson from Crist that played into Horner’s strategy was to force decisions down to the lowest level and hold those people responsible. Horner saw the benefits of that policy during a meeting with a munitions technical sergeant. Horner was visiting the bomb dock where munitions were built and saw the NCO sitting on a dust-covered wooden crate, and he asked him how things were going and if he was running into any problems.

“He said, ‘Well, those dumb guys in Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), meaning me, told me one day to load 2,000-pound bombs on each F-16,” Horner said, smiling. “Those dummies didn’t know that I didn’t have any 2,000-pound bombs, so I went ahead and put four 1,000-pound bombs on each of the airplanes, and the mission flew. If he had not been empowered, all he had to do was say I don’t have two 2,000-pound bombs, and we would have never gotten those two planes off. It was empowerment that made the difference, and that was one of the secrets we saw in Desert Storm.”

F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo) F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Iraq’s air force was almost non-existent during Desert Storm. Hussein hoped to wait out the coalition bombardment, which he didn’t expect would last more than four or five days. As a result, gaining control of the air almost immediately allowed the coalition forces to interdict supply lines and degrade command and control links, according to a GlobalSecurity.org article. Air supremacy also drastically destroyed the will of the Iraqi army; they surrendered in droves when the ground war began 38 days later.

Photo gallery: Airman Magazine — Whispers of Another War

Aside from the superior training that was on display during Desert Shield and Storm, Horner believes another legacy of the first war in the Gulf was the technological advances it put on display for the Air Force.

Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee) Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“I think the American public and the world were amazed at the technology that was exposed by Desert Storm,” he said. “The stealth of the F-117 and its ability to go anywhere in heavily defended areas of the world and carry out its mission with absolute precision, the training of our air-to-air combat people and the ability to defeat a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile threat all came into play, and they weren’t appreciated because of our experiences in previous wars such as Vietnam. It served us very well and created an illusion that we were more successful than we really were. But I’ll accept that.”

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These are Hollywood’s 5 most awesome military spouses

As any career military person knows, the job is next to impossible without support on the homefront. And making that support happen isn’t easy.


So in honor of #MilitarySpouseAppreciationDay (let’s get it trending, people), WATM presents our choices for 5 times Hollywood did right by military spouses (considering Hollywood’s ability to get it right, period, of course):

1. Madeleine Stowe as Julie Moore in “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Madeleine Stowe portrays Julie Moore, wife of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the commander of the Army unit that finds itself in the middle of the first major battle of the Vietnam War. Stowe does a great job of showing Julie’s support for her husband’s career choice (while making sure he gets over his bad self from time to time) and strength when the word of casualties starts returning stateside.

2. Sienna Miller as Taya Kyle in “American Sniper”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
(Photos: Warner Bros.)

“At its essence, this is a human story between two people: one of whom is doing these extraordinary, unimaginable things so far from home and the other who is trying to hold her family together,” Miller said. “And having met Taya [Kyle] I felt a responsibility to do it justice.”

3. Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager in “The Right Stuff”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Chuck (Sam Shepard) and Glennis (Barbara Hershey) enjoy a quiet moment before he risks life and limb attempting to break the speed of sound. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Barbara Hershey’s tough and sexy portrayal of Air Force legend Chuck Yeager’s wife Glennis is only a minor part of the movie, but her peformance is pitch perfect in terms of capturing what kind of woman it takes to be the wife of a military man who willingly rides into the jaws of death on a regular basis. Signature line: Chuck (played by Sam Shepard) looks at Glennis and says, “I’m fearless, but I’m scared to death of you.”

4. Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw in “Top Gun”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Carole Bradshaw knows how to party and keep her man’s focus where it belongs (“Take me to bed or lose me forever”) as well as take care of the homefront while her husband “Goose” is out there feeling the need for speed. And she’s the model of sorrow and strength after he dies while ejecting from an out-of-control F-14.

5. Debra Winger as Paula Pokrifki in “Officer and a Gentleman”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Paula (Debra Winger) with Zach (Richard Gere) right before he carries her out of the factory and into life as a Navy wife. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Okay, Debra Winger doesn’t play a military spouse in “Officer and a Gentleman,” but she does play a girlfriend who is about to become a military spouse, which is a very important part of the process. Marital success rates notwithstanding, the cities around training bases have bred more military wives than anyplace else, and Winger’s portrayal of the fetching Paula accurately captures how and why that happens.

 

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The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

After testing revealed problems with how standard-issued magazines load certain ammunition into Marine rifles, the Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use the wildly popular polymer-made Magpul PMAG.


This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
The Marine Corps has just authorized Marine units to purchase the Magpul PMAG GenM3 magazine saying government-issued ones don’t work as well with all Marine weapons.(Photo by WATM)

“The Magpul GenM3 PMag was the only magazine to perform to acceptable levels across all combinations of Marine Corps 5.56mm rifles and ammunition during testing,” the Marine Corps’ top gear buying office told WATM.

In a Corpswide message released in mid December, Marine Corps Systems Command issued guidance ordering Marines to use the Magpul Industries-made PMAG Gen. M3 with M-16, M-4 and M-27 rifles, as well as the M-249 machine gun.

Industry sources say the issue stems from how the Army’s new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round feeds from government issued magazines, causing damage to the internal components of the Marine Corps’ M27 — a version of the Heckler Koch 416 rifle.

“It was damaging the feed ramps and the chamber face of the 416,” an industry source told WATM. “It was presenting the M855A1 round at a lower angle and damaging the upper barrel extension.”

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
A soldier packs the popular Magpul PMAG into combat. The Marine Corps has just issued guidance saying all units must use the PMAG since government-issued ones don’t perform well on certain Marine rifles. (Photo by U.S. Army)

In fact, the Army was having its own problems with the standard magazine and the M855A1 round, so it developed a new magazine, dubbed the “Enhanced Performance Magazine” to deal with the issue.

But that one didn’t work for the Corps either.

“The legacy metal 30-round magazines are no longer manufactured and their replacement, the Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), does not perform to acceptable levels with all combinations of the Marine Corps’ 5.56mm rifle platforms and ammunition,” the Corps told WATM.

The Corps — along with the Army — had reportedly banned use of after-market magazines, including the PMAG, in 2012 after troops were having problems with poorly-made knockoffs.

Magpul was one of the first companies to introduce polymer-built magazines for M-16s, and M-4s and the PMAG became increasingly popular among soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new PMAG GenM3 takes advantage of 10 years of experience building magazines for a variety of rifles and calibers, incorporating enhanced geometry, better followers and an optimized round-count window, Magpul officials said.

“We haven’t had a single stoppage in any testing of the PMAG GenM3,” a Magpul official told WATM. “We’re happy to help the Marine Corps in a way that enhances the warfighter.”

The Corps is not buying PMAGs to replace all its current magazines, but is instead giving units the option to buy their own.

“There are currently no procurements for any of the 5.56 rifle platforms and as we normally only issue magazines with a new weapon fielding, there are no plans to issue Magpul magazines at the service-level,” the Corps said. “Unit procurement through Defense Logistics Agency is expected to be comparable to current commercial cost on the open market.”

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The history of Army Rangers from 1775 to now

The U.S. Army Ranger history predates the Revolutionary War. In the mid 1700s, Capt. Benjamin Church and Maj. Robert Rogers both formed Ranger units to fight during the King Phillips War and the French and Indian War. Rogers wrote the 19 standing orders that are still in use today.


This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
An interpretive portrait of Maj. Robert Rogers by Johann Martin Will. Portrait: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In 1775, the Continental Congress formed eight companies of expert riflemen to fight in the Revolutionary War. Later, during 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen, commanded by Dan Morgan, was known as the Corps of Rangers. Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element, known as Marion’s Partisans.

During the War of 1812, companies of U.S. Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army. Throughout the war, they patrolled the frontier from Ohio to western Illinois on horseback and by boat. They participated in many skirmishes and battles with the British and their Indian allies. Many famous men belonged to Ranger units during the 18th and 19th centuries, including Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.

The Civil War included Rangers such as John Singleton Mosby, who was the most famous Confederate Ranger. His raids on Union camps and bases were so effective – part of North-Central Virginia soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Some of Mosby’s Rangers. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

After the Civil War, more than half a century passed without military Ranger units in America. However, during World War II, from 1941-1945, the United States, using British Commando standards, activated six Ranger infantry battalions.

Then-Maj. William O. Darby, who was later a brigadier general, organized and activated the 1st Ranger Battalion at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, June 19, 1942. The 1st Ranger Battalion participated in the North African landing at Arzeu, Algeria, the Tunisian Battles, and the critical Battle of El Guettar.

The 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions were activated and trained by Col. Darby in Africa near the end of the Tunisian Campaign. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions formed the Ranger force. They began the tradition of wearing the scroll shoulder sleeve insignia, which has been officially adopted for today’s Ranger battalions.

The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944. It was during the bitter fighting along the beaches that the Rangers gained their motto, “Rangers, lead the way!” They conducted daring missions to include scaling the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, to destroy German gun emplacements trained on the beachhead.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
World War II Rangers demonstrate the ladders they used to scale Point du Hoc. Photo: US Army

The 6th Ranger Battalion operated in the Philippines and formed the rescue force that liberated American prisoners of war, or POWs, from a Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in January 1945. The 6th Battalion destroyed the Japanese POW camp and evacuated more than 500 prisoners.

The 75th Infantry Regiment was first organized in the China-Burma-India Theater as Task Force Galahad, on Oct. 3, 1943. It was during the campaigns in the China-Burma-India Theater that the regiment became known as Merrill’s Marauders after its commander, Maj. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. The Ranger battalions were deactivated at the end of World War II.

The outbreak of hostilities in Korea, June 1950, again signaled the need for Rangers. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War. The Rangers went to battle throughout the winter of 1950 and the spring of 1951. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment and then to another. They performed “out front” work – scouting, patrolling, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces, to regain lost positions.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
3rd Ranger Company soldiers check their gear before a patrol in Korea. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Rangers were again called to serve their country during the Vietnam War. The 75th Infantry was reorganized once more, Jan. 1, 1969, as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Fifteen separate Ranger companies were formed from this reorganization. Thirteen served proudly in Vietnam until inactivation, Aug. 15, 1972.

In January 1974, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army chief of staff, directed the formation of a Ranger battalion. The 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was activated and parachuted into Fort Stewart, Ga., July 1, 1974. The 2nd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, followed with activation, Oct. 1, 1974. The 3rd Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger), received their colors on Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 3, 1984. The 75th Ranger Regiment was designated during February 1986.

The modern Ranger battalions were first called upon in 1980. Elements of 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), participated in the Iranian hostage rescue attempts.

In October 1983, 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions spearheaded Operation Urgent Fury by conducting a daring low-level parachute assault to seize Point Salines Airfield and rescue American citizens at True Blue Medical Campus.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Army Rangers parachute into Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury Photo: US Army

The entire 75th Ranger Regiment participated in Operation Just Cause. Rangers spearheaded the action by conducting two important operations. Simultaneous parachute assaults were conducted onto Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Airfield and Gen. Manuel Noriega’s beach house, to neutralize Panamanian Defense Forces. The Rangers captured 1,014 enemy prisoners of war and more than 18,000 arms of various types.

Elements of Company B, and 1st Platoon Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Saudi Arabia, Feb. 12, 1991 to April 15, 1991, in support of Operation Desert Storm.

In August 1993, elements of 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Somalia to assist United Nations forces in bringing order to a desperately chaotic and starving nation. The Rangers conducted a daring daylight raid with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Oct. 3, 1993. For nearly 18 hours, the Rangers delivered devastating firepower, killing an estimated 600 Somalis in what many have called the fiercest ground combat since Vietnam.

The 75th Ranger Regiment deployed Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, Team 2, and a command and control element to Kosovo in support of Task Force Falcon, Nov. 24, 2000.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Army Rangers fire a 120mm mortar system during training. Photo: Pfc. Nahaniel Newkirk/US Army

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rangers were called upon to lead the way in the Global War on Terrorism. The 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment spearheaded ground forces by conducting an airborne assault to seize Objective Rhino in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Oct. 19, 2001. The 3rd Battalion employed the first airborne assault in Iraq to seize Objective Serpent in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 28, 2003.

Due to the changing nature of warfare and the need for an agile and sustainable Ranger force, the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, or RSTB, was activated, July 17, 2006. The RSTB conducts sustainment, intelligence, reconnaissance and maintenance missions, which were previously accomplished by small detachments assigned to the regimental headquarters and then attached within each of the three Ranger battalions. The activation of the RSTB signifies a major waypoint in the transformation of the Ranger force from a unit designed for short-term “contingency missions” to continuous combat operations without loss in lethality or flexibility.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Photo: US Army Edward N. Johnson

Today, Rangers from all four of its current battalions continue to lead the way in overseas contingency operations. The 75th Ranger Regiment is conducting sustained combat operations in multiple countries deploying from various locations in the United States, a task that is unprecedented for the regiment. Rangers continue to conduct combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional and coalition force in support of both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Ranger Regiment is executing a wide range of diverse operations that include airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations.

In addition to conducting missions in support of overseas contingency operations, the 75th Ranger Regiment continues to train in the United States and overseas to prepare for future no-notice worldwide combat deployments. The regiment also continues to recruit, assess and train the next generation of Rangers and Ranger leadership.

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How this World War I soldier earned the Medal of Honor in a mustard gas attack

There are few higher compliments for a soldier than when the General of the Armies calls him the most outstanding soldier who fought in an entire war – and the war to end all wars, no less. But Samuel Woodfill wasn’t just a veteran of World War I, he was also in the Philippines and on the Mexican border. He was even around to train U.S. troops to fight in World War II.

But to earn his status as America’s one-man Army, he had to go through hell.


This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Mustard gas is not a weapon anyone would want to fight in. (Naval History and Heritage)

Woodfill was a career military man, spending time fighting Filipino warriors and then guarding Alaska and the Mexican border areas before shipping out to fight in World War I. Though enlisting as a private, Woodfill’s skill and experience earned him a commission before he shipped out to the Great War. The American Expeditionary force needed good officers to fill its ranks as they settled into a defensive position between the Meuse and the Argonne areas of France.

In September 1918, just one month after arriving in France, their defensive position became an offensive move toward the German lines. Woodfill and his company were near the town of Cunel, advancing on the Germans through a thick fog as carefully as possible, when the telltale crackle of machine-gun fire ripped through the fog toward Woodfill and his men.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Woodfill with President Calvin Coolidge after the war. (worldwar1centennial.org)

 

Woodfill’s men threw themselves away from the fire to take cover, but Woodfill himself rushed toward the machine gun. He jumped in the trench and took down three German soldiers manning the gun. That’s when their officer starting lunging toward him. He made short work of their officer just as another machine gun opened up on him. He ordered his men to come out of hiding and attack the latest machine gun, which they did, making short work of it just in time for a third gun to open up on the Americans.

Woodfill joined his men in a charge on the third gun position. He was the first to get to the machine-gun nest and, having fired all the shots in his pistol, was forced to fight both Germans at the gun at the same time. In the middle of the fighting, he searched desperately for any kind of equalizer – which he found in the form of a pickax. Meanwhile, the fog that had been growing thicker and thicker turned out to be growing thick with Mustard Gas. The Americans hightailed it out of the gas area.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
You would too. (imgur.com)

 

The American company was knocked out of the war by the effects of the Mustard Gas and Woodfill would deal with its effects for the rest of his life. But his heroics and daring in the Meuse-Argonne earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him in France by Gen. John J. Pershing himself. Later, Woodfill would have the honor of carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside fellow Army legends and Medal of Honor recipients Charles Whittlesey and Alvin York.

Woodfill would stay in the Army until 1943, having stayed on long enough to train recruits to fight the Nazis in World War II.

Feature image: National Archives

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That time US sailors got a bounty for capturing a Nazi ship

Prior to America’s official entry into World War II, the U.S. Navy was involved in “short of war” operations against Nazi Germany. In some cases this involved escorting merchant ships that were steaming to help supply England.


Tensions between the U.S and Germany increased after a Nazi submarine fired on the destroyer USS Greer (DD 145).

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Theodore E. Chandler, the commanding officer of USS Omaha during the Odenwald incident. (US Navy photo)

But, as Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out in the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the U.S. was still operating under neutrality legislation. So, when they did stuff to Nazi vessels, they needed to have some legal grounds outside of a war declaration.

On Nov. 6, 1941, the light cruiser USS Omaha (CL 4) and the destroyer USS Somers (DD 381) were on patrol in the South Atlantic looking for a German raider. Two months had passed since the Greer had been fired on, and since then, the destroyer Kearny (DD 432) had been torpedoed and the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) had been sunk.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
USS Omaha (CL 4) in 1943. (US Navy photo)

The Omaha and Somers then came across a ship claiming to be an American merchant vessel out of Philadelphia. The interaction with the vessel drew suspicions, and the Omaha, under the command of Capt. Theodore E. Chandler, ordered the vessel to stop. A boarding party came aboard just as scuttling charges went off. The boarding party kept the ship from sinking, and determined its true identity as the German blockade runner Odenwald.

The ship was taken to Puerto Rico, where the cargo – over 6,200 tons, including 103 truck tires and lots of rubber – and the vessel were sold off. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, the Navy justified the intercept by claiming that the Odenwald was a suspected slave trader.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
The Navy prize crew on board the Odenwald. Each of them received $3,000 in 1947. (US Navy photo)

In 1947, the Odenwald’s owners sued the Navy over the seizure. It didn’t pan out for them at all. The boarding party and prize crew assigned to the vessel, though, made out big-time: $3,000 each. Crew on board the Omaha and Somers got two months of pay and allowances.

That’s a prize worth as much as $34,000 today.

Chandler, though, never got that bonus. Although he was promoted to rear admiral, in January 1945, his flagship, the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA 28), was hit by kamikazes off Iwo Jima. While assisting in fighting fires, his lungs were badly injured, and he died of his wounds soon after.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how a physicist lit his cigarette with a nuclear-bomb explosion

There are all kinds of strange ways to light up a cigarette, from blowtorches to magnifying glasses. But few people on Earth have ever used as bizarre or overkill a method as devised by a Cold War physicist: the explosion of a nuclear bomb.

On Aug. 18, 2019, a thread from Reddit’s popular “r/TodayILearned” community mentioned the story of how the theoretical physicist Ted Taylor used the blinding flash of an atomic explosion to light a cigarette in 1952.

Records of “atomic cigarette lighter” events aren’t exactly robust, but it appears Taylor was the first to come up with the idea. That’s according to the author Richard L. Miller, whose 1986 book “Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing” chronicled the event in detail.


Taylor apparently lit his cigarette during Operation Tumbler-Snapper, which was a series of test blasts orchestrated by the US military at the Nevada Test Site. The operation happened in the throes of the Korean War — a conflict in which President Harry S. Truman considered dropping the bomb (again).

Operation Tumbler Snapper (1952)

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Government officials code-named the test explosion or shot in question “George” because it was the seventh in a series (and “G” is the seventh letter of the alphabet). Its purpose wasn’t to light up a smoke, of course: Military researchers placed a roughly 3,000-pound nuclear-bomb design, known as the Mark 5, atop a 300-foot-tall tower in part to try out a new blast-triggering technology, according to the Nuclear Weapons Archive.

The day before the test shot, Taylor apparently found a spare parabolic (cup-shaped) mirror, according to Miller’s book, and set it up in a control building ahead of time. Taylor knew exactly where to place the mirror so that it’d gather light from the test explosion, which would release gobs of thermal energy, and focus it on a particular spot.

Next, Taylor hung a Pall Mall cigarette on a wire so that its tip would float directly in front of the focused light beam. The arrangement wasn’t too different in principle from holding out a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight on a piece of paper and light it on fire.

On June 1, 1952, Taylor and other weapons experts huddled into the bunkerlike control building near Area 3 of the Yucca Flats weapons test basin in Nevada. Then they set off the bomb.

“In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter,” Miller wrote of Taylor’s setup.

‘It is a form of patting the bomb’

Taylor’s nuclear-age antics likely did not stop with him.

Martin Pfeiffer, an anthropologist who researches humanity’s relationship with nuclear weapons (and who frequently forces the release of documents related to the bomb), tweeted that a 1955 Department of Defense film appears to show the concept in action.

About 19 minutes into the half-hour movie, titled “Operation Teapot Military Effects Studies,” a narrator describes how parabolic mirrors were used to concentrate the light-based energy from nuclear explosions on samples of ceramics.

In the clip, a person’s hand holds the tip of a cigarette in a beam of focused light, causing it to smoke and ignite:

gfycat.com

Although this looks like another cigarette being lit by a nuclear weapon, that’s unlikely.

There’s no blinding flash — a telltale effect of a nuclear explosion — and the length of time the light beam stays on-screen is far too long as well. The person being filmed probably just held out his cigarette for the videographer so as to demonstrate the concept of a parabolic mirror focusing would-be bomb energy.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine the story of Taylor’s feat spreading among his colleagues over many years and hundreds of above-ground US nuclear test shots. A few others probably tried it themselves.

In any case, Pfeiffer isn’t enamored by such stunts.

“Lighting a cigarette with a nuclear weapon … is at least in part an effort of domestication of nuclear weapons through a performance articulating it to a most quotidian act of cigarette lighting,” he tweeted. “It is a form of patting the bomb.”

That is to say: The act risks trivializing nuclear weapons, which can and have inflicted mass death and destruction. The 1945 US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, for example, led to approximately 150,000 casualties, and decades of suffering for many who survived the attacks.

Today, above-ground nuclear testing is mostly banned worldwide, since it can spread radioactive fallout, mess with electronics, be mistaken for an act of war, and more. But US-Russia relations have deteriorated to the point that each nation is racing to develop and test new nuclear armaments.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, endeavors to ban nuclear explosions “by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground.” Russia has signed and ratified the treaty, but eight other nations have yet to complete both steps and bring it into effect.

The US signed on to the CTBT in 1996, but Congress has yet to ratify the nation’s participation in the agreement. There are also nearly15,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, which means the atomic-cigarette-lighter trick could, almost certainly for worse, be tried again.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Marines look to ease strain on special operators in Middle East

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Knudson and Sgt. Mark Herd survey the landscape during a Combined Anti-Armor Team patrol at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel


The commander of Marine units across the Middle East sees opportunities for the Corps to take on more missions in the region that would typically be tasks for special operations forces.

In a recent interview with Military.com, Lt. Gen. William Beydler, commander of Marine Corps Central Command, said there were multiple traditional special operations mission sets that competent Marines could take on, freeing up the forces for more specialized undertakings.

“I’m not for a moment suggesting that Marine capabilities and SOF capabilities are the same, that’s not my point, but I do think, and I think that SOF would agree, that some of the missions they’re executing now could be executed by well-trained and disciplined general purpose forces like U.S. Marines,” Beydler said.

Marines maintain a constant presence in the Middle East between Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a roughly 2,300-man unit that operates across six Middle Eastern countries with an emphasis on supporting the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

They also operate consistently in the region off amphibious ships attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, that routinely provide presence in the Persian Gulf.

Beydler, who assumed the command in October 2015, said these Marines could take on quick-response force operations, security missions, maritime and land raids, and ship visit-board-search-seizure operations, all of which Marines train to do as part of the MEU pre-deployment workup.

“There’s a range of things Marines are especially well trained to do — they can offer up capabilities that might free SOF forces to do other things,” Beydler said. “We’re not trying to encroach on what they do, but we think that we can be better utilized at times and free them up to do even more than SOF does right now.”

Beydler said the Marine Corps was already stepping into some of these roles, though he demurred from specifics.

In one instance that may illustrate this utilization of conventional troops, Reuters reported in May that “a very small number” of U.S. forces were deployed into Yemen to provide intelligence support in response to a United Arab Emirates request for aid in the country’s fight against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Defense Department did not identify the service to which these troops belonged, officials told Reuters that the amphibious assault ship Boxer — part of the deployed 13th MEU — had been positioned off the coast of Yemen to provide medical facilities as needed.

In a January fragmentary order, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized his desire to see Marines operate more closely with SOF troops and develop a deeply collaborative working relationship.

To this end, six-man special operations forces liaison elements, or SOFLEs, began to deploy with MEUs in 2015 to improve communication between Marines and SOF forces downrange and coordinate efforts. Beydler said professional rapport had increased as a result of these small liaison teams.

“A part of this is again developing professional relationships, developing professional respect and having SOF appreciate that which Marines can do,” he said.

Currently, he said, the Marine Corps is considering creating SOFLEs for the Marines’ land-based Middle East task force. While there is no timeline to test out the creation of new liaison elements, Beydler said the unit informally looks for opportunities to coordinate with special ops in this fashion.

“I think that we’ve valued the SOFLEs at the MEU level,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with SOF to see if we can’t have more of these liaisons, more of those touch points.”

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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:


AIR FORCE:

Oklahoma Air National Guard Airmen from the 138th Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 6, 2016, in Tulsa, Okla.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft after finishing end of runway checks Oct. 10, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A simulates the first 10 combat sorties of an initial surge during a conflict, enabling pilots to better understand the stresses of the environment.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

 

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier attending Ranger School simulates being wounded and yells for help while lying in the river during a mass casualty exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Sept. 28, 2016.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Florida National Guard Soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, cross a rope bridge during a mountain obstacle course, part of the final day of the French Marines Desert Survival Course at Arta Plage, Djibouti, Oct. 10, 2016.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
United States Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany DeNault

NAVY:

CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines and Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces stage their vehicles in preparation for the final exercise of Exercise Valiant Mark 2016 Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California Oct. 11, 2016.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

Marines with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (2d ANGLICO) prepare for tactical beach landing drills with 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery, as part of exercise Joint Warrior on Cape Wrath, Scotland, Oct. 13, 2016. Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise which increases 2d ANGLICO’s capacity to operate and integrate with Joint, International, Interagency, and Multinational (JIIM) partnerships.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

COAST GUARD:

A U.S. Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk departs Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 10, 2016, following a a damage assessment of North Carolina. Coast Guard personnel have been working with numerous state and local agencies in response to the storm damage.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Coast Guard Aux. Trey Clifton

USCG Cutter Thetis crewmembers assisted the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and American Red Cross with loading supplies for the World Food Program USA at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes, Haiti, this week.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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Watch this Army colonel take the ACFT in space

Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.

Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.

In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.

(U.S. Army)

Featured image: US Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

This African American Green Beret battled communists and racism in Vietnam

Colonel Paris Davis is one of the first Black officers to earn the coveted Green Beret of U.S. Special Forces. In the 1960s, America underwent the trials of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, both of which Davis took head on. “I said, ‘Look, you can call me Captain Davis, but you can’t call me a n****r,'” he said of his experience as a Black officer. In spite of the discrimination that he faced, Davis was a bonafide hero.

On May 13, 1965, Davis earned the Soldier’s Medal for actions at Bong San. An aviation fuel truck jackknifed and rolled on its side, pinning the driver against the steering wheel. He reacted quickly and ordered his men to stay clear of the truck. With complete disregard for his own safety, Davis ran to free the driver from the now burning truck. Despite the driver’s pleas to abandon him, Davis refused to leave a man behind. His citation reads, “Major Davis worked his comrade loose and then carried him away from the truck just as it exploded.” The award was presented in 1968, by which time Davis had been promoted to Major. Davis is a real-life action hero and his story only get better.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
A special forces team in Vietnam (Billy Waugh)

The month after his heroic rescue of the fuel truck driver, Davis commanded what would become a 19-hour raid and a fight for survival. On June 18, Davis led an A-Team of 90 men to hit what they thought was a Viet Cong camp. However, it turned out to be a group of 4,000 North Vietnam regulars. In 1965, it was rare for U.S. troops to come across conventional soldiers. Still, Davis and his men hit and hit hard. “We were stacking bodies the way you do canned goods in a grocery store,” Davis said of the raid. Absolute badass. However, things soon went wrong for the A-Team.

During the raid, Davis was wounded by enemy gunfire and grenade shrapnel. He wasn’t the only one who got hit. Two of his men, Billy Waugh and Robert Brown were gravely wounded. Waugh was hit in the knee, foot, ankle, and head, and so was Brown. “I could actually see his brain pulsating. It was that big,” Davis recalled of Brown’s wound. “He said, ‘Am I gonna die?’ And I said, ‘Not before me.'” With the raiders under heavy fire, Davis was ordered to withdraw. “Sir, I’m just not gonna leave. I still have an American out there,” was Davis’ reply. Refusing to abandon his men, Davis disobeyed the order. Another Green Beret on the raid, Ron Deis, recalled Davis’ commitment to his men. “Captain Davis refused and said, ‘No, I’m not leaving while I still have men out on the field,'” he emotionally recalled.

During the fighting, Waugh became separated from the team and lost consciousness. He was stripped naked and left for dead by the Vietnamese soldiers. Davis, with the help of a Sgt. First Class John Reinburg, carried Waugh to a hill where they could be extracted by helicopter. As Reinburg crested the hill above Davis and Waugh, he stood up to catch his breath. As soon as he did, he was shot twice and fell. With Reinberg dead, the wounded Davis carried Waugh by himself on his shoulders to the Huey and got him out of there.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Davis (center) gives a tour of his special forces camp to Gen. Westmoreland (left), commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (Ron Deis)

For his actions during the raid, Davis was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commander, Billy Cole. However, the paperwork vanished. An army review in 1969 revealed no such file for Davis. The recommendation was resubmitted following the review. However, army records still showed no paperwork for Davis’ Medal of Honor. In an effort to recognize Davis’ heroism, many of the soldiers who served under him lobbied Congress. Waugh, who went on to serve in special forces and the CIA until Operation Enduring Freedom, submitted a statement in 1981. “I only have to close my eyes to vividly recall the gallantry of this individual,” he wrote.

Davis’ heroism in Vietnam cannot be overstated. His dedication to the mission and his men embodies everything that the army and the Green Berets stand for. “When you’re out there fighting, and things are going on like that, everybody’s your friend, and you’re everybody’s friend,” Davis said of combat. “The bullets have no color, no names.” An expedited review of Davis’ twice-lost Medal of Honor nomination has been submitted. When asked what it would mean to him to receive the medal, Davis said, “It would mean all the things that I haven’t been able to dream about.”

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This impostor was hanged for being the biggest Jody ever

In the 16th century a Frenchman named Martin Guerre from the Pyrenees region of Southern France suddenly left his wife and children and disappeared. This sparked the most infamous incident of imposture, when one person tries to slip into another’s life, in recorded history. The story has been retold and sensationalized in fiction since it happened, from Alexandre Dumas’ stories, to “Mad Men,” to “The Simpsons.”


In exhaustive research on the origions of this impostor story, Natalie Zemon Davis referenced contemporary reports from relatives and locals indicating Guerre left to ultimately join the Army of Pedro de Mendoza where he participated in the attack St. Quentin during the Italian War of 1551-1559.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Siege of St. Quentin

Guerre, a peasant, married the daughter of a local landowner, Bertrand, when both were 14 in the year 1527. They had a child eight years later. In 1548, Guerre disappeared after being accused of stealing grain from his father.

In 1556, a man claiming to be Martin Guerre appeared in the village. He had similar features and knew much of Guerre’s life and that was good enough for his wife and most of the townsfolk. For three years the new Martin Guerre lived with his wife. They had two more children and Martin would claim the inheritance of his father, much to his Uncle’s Pierre’s chagrin.

Pierre tried to convince Bertrand, Martin’s wife, that the new Martin wasn’t Martin at all, but an impostor. A soldier passing through the village claimed the new Martin couldn’t be the real Martin because the real one lost his leg in battle. Uncle Pierre and his sons attacked the would-be impostor with clubs, but Bertrande intervened on his behalf. The new Martin was put on trial for falsely claiming the identity of Martin, but with Bertrande on his side he was found innocent.

Pierre wasn’t finished. He launched a full-scale investigation and found the impostor was really Arnaud du Tilh, a drifter with a terrible reputation from a nearby village.

At a new trial, Bertrande accused the new Martin of being an imposter. But then Martin shared an intimate story from their relationship before Martin disappeared. Bertrande confirmed to the court that the story was accurate. Despite her corroborating the memory, 150 witnesses testified that the new Martin was really Arnaud du Tilh. The man was sentenced to death by beheading.

Tilh appealed his case to a Parliament in Toulouse and Bertrande and Pierre were arrested for perjury and bearing false witness. The judges in the new trial tended to believe the New Martin’s story more than seemingly-greedy Pierre’s.

That’s when the real Martin Guerre showed up at the trial. He had a wooden leg and was positively identified by Pierre, Bertrande, and his own four sisters. Arnaud was sentenced to death for adultery and fraud.

After he had left his family in 1548, the real Martin had joined a Spanish militia, guarded a cardinal, and then entered Mendoza’s army. That’s when he went to St. Quentin, a city on the French border with modern-day Belgium.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

After the Battle of St. Quentin Guerre spent years living in a monastery before returning to his wife. Guerre did not initially accept Bertrande’s apologies, because he believed she shouldn’t have been with another man.

The night before his execution, Arnaud du Tilh confessed he learned about Guerre and his life after two men confused him with Guerre. He was hanged in front of the real Martin Guerre’s house days later. Bertrande, Davis hypothesizes, agreed to the fraud because she needed a husband and was unable to remarry in a strictly Catholic society.

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This wounded “Harlem Hellfighter” held off a dozen Germans almost single-handedly

Sgt. Henry Johnson received the Medal of Honor for his actions taken on May 15, 1918, when he beat off a German attack with grenades, his rifle, a knife and, finally, his bare hands to protect a fellow soldier and his unit, the “Harlem Hellfighters.”


This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam
Photo: US Army

The Harlem Hellfighters were a “colored unit” attached to French forces because segregationist policies at the time discouraged allowing black and white U.S. forces to serve side by side. Pvt. Henry Johnson was assigned to sentry duty on the night of Feb. 12 with his fellow soldier, Pvt. Needham Roberts. The pair were attacked by a raiding party of at least 12 Germans. The attackers quickly gained the upper hand against the two soldiers.

This directly threatened not only Johnson and his friend but the Harlem Hellfighters and the French soldiers they were with.

Johnson fought bitterly to protect himself and his friends even after he and Roberts were wounded. Roberts fed Johnson hand grenades as Johnson made it rain on the enemy fighters. Johnson also used his rifle to hold the enemy off until he ran out of both grenades and rifle rounds.

The Germans even tried to abduct Roberts and Johnson protected him with just a knife and personal grit. Johnson was eventually wounded 21 times in the fight but still managed to bring down a few Germans and stab one of them through the head with a bolo knife.

Yeah, even severely wounded he had the strength to shove a knife through a man’s head.

While Johnson soon received the French Croix de Guerre and was eventually promoted to sergeant, he wouldn’t receive an American medal while he was alive. He received a Purple Heart in 1996, a Distinguished Service Cross in 2002, and a Medal of Honor in 2015.

This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Still, his actions were a big deal when they happened. Johnson’s deeds inspired a lithograph depicting his bravery and Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the head of the American Expeditionary Force and one of America’s highest-ranked generals, personally praised him and Roberts:

Pte. Henry Johnson and Pte. Roberts, while on sentry duty at some distance from one another, were attacked by a German raiding party estimated at twenty men who advanced in two groups, attacking at once from flank and rear.

Both men fought bravely in hand-to-hand encounters, one resorting to the use of a bolo knife after his rifle jammed and further fighting with bayonet and butt became impossible.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of Johnson as well, calling him “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.”

After the war, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native returned to New York where he had been living since his teens. He lived there until his death in Jul. 1929 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Author’s note: This story originally stated that Henry Johnson’s valorous actions took place on Feb. 12, 1919. Johnson actually saved his unit on May 15, 1918. He received France’s highest valor award, the French Croix de Guerre, on Feb. 12, 1919. We regret the error.

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