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.”
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.
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.
The Air Force is offering high year of tenure extensions to active-duty Airmen in certain shortage Air Force Specialty Codes and grades effective August 1.
High year of tenure, or HYT, refers to the maximum number of years enlisted Airmen in each grade may remain on active duty.
This voluntary extension opportunity focuses on retaining experienced Airmen in shortage specialties such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, maintenance, nuclear, cyber, and special operations to help improve readiness.
“Squadron commanders may approve extensions for qualified Airmen, which reinforces the Air Force Chief of Staff’s efforts to revitalize squadrons,” said Col. Erik Bovasso, Military Sustainment and Transitions Programs division chief at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “This purposeful empowerment places the approval authority and responsibility at the right level, with commanders who know their mission and Airmen best.”
The HYT program allows eligible senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants in targeted AFSCs and grades to apply for a high year of tenure extension between 12 and 24 months in order for the Air Force to retain experience and enhance mission effectiveness and readiness.
“Although retention is high in some career fields and FY16 and 17 retention programs were successful, the Air Force needs to ensure experienced Airmen are available to complete the mission as well as train new Airmen,” Bovasso said. “HYT extensions will help improve mission capability in key areas where readiness is currently strained.”
Eligibility for HYT is limited to those AFSCs and grades posted on the matrix on myPers, and is based on the Airman’s control AFSC as listed in the Military Personnel Data System on July 21.
“The Air Force will notify Airmen via email of their eligibility to request an extension,” Bovasso said. “Airmen must have a HYT date of Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, to be eligible under this program.”
Airmen with a previous HYT extension approved for a period of less than 24 months may, if otherwise eligible, request an extension under the FY17/18 program. However, the total number of months of HYT extension for their approved AFSC and grade cannot exceed 24 months.
“For example, an Airman approved for a Hardship HYT extension for a period of 12 months, who meets the eligibility criteria, may request an additional extension of up to 12 months under the FY 17/18 program,” Bovasso said.
The window for submitting a HYT extension request via the application on myPers is August 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018. Qualified Airmen should check with the Career Development element at the local Force Support Squadron for details, as specific timelines depend on the Airman’s current HYT date.
Find additional information about eligibility criteria, application process and other specifics on myPers. Select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the dropdown menu and search “HYT.”
For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following instructions at http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.
China’s increasingly powerful navy launched its most advanced domestically produced destroyer on June 28, at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the United States, Japan, and India.
The first 10,000-ton Type 055 entered the water at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard on June 28, the navy said in a news release.
It said the ship is equipped with the latest air, missile, ship, and submarine defense systems. China is believed to be planning to launch four of the ships.
“The launch of this ship signifies that our nation’s development of destroyers has reached a new stage,” the release said.
A photo on the Chinese Navy’s website showed multicolored streamers being shot out of tubes while sailors and shipyard workers stood dockside next to a massive Chinese flag. It said chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Armaments Department Zhang Youxia presided over the ceremony, in which a bottle of champagne was broken over the ship’s bow.
The Type 055 is significantly larger than China’s other modern destroyer, the Type 052, representing the rising sophistication of China’s defense industries. Once heavily dependent on foreign technology, China in April launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, based on an earlier Ukrainian model.
In terms of displacement, it is roughly equivalent to the Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.
China’s navy is undergoing an ambitious expansion and is projected to have a total of 265-273 warships, submarines, and logistics vessels by 2020, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Naval Analysis. That compares with 275 deployable battle force ships presently in the US Navy, China’s primary rival in the Asia Pacific, although the once-yawning gap between the two is narrowing rapidly.
China says it needs a powerful navy to defend its 14,500 kilometers (9,010 miles) of coastline, as well as its crucial maritime shipping routes.
However, it also appears increasingly willing to challenge actions by the US — long the region’s pre-eminent military power — especially in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.
Beijing has also long nurtured resentment against Japan over its past invasion of China, and their dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has at times threatened to break out into open confrontation.
India, meanwhile, also shares a disputed border with China and has grown increasingly concerned over the Chinese navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, facilitated in part by Beijing’s close alliance with New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan.
War is a dangerous thing, often necessitating actions that — in any other circumstance — would be absolutely insane.
Here are six of the things that make sense in war, but are still pretty ballsy regardless:
6. Flooding your own territory
The idea for most defenders is to keep their territory whole for their own people, even in the face of enemy forces. But for defenders in low-lying areas facing a potentially unstoppable force, there’s always the option of making sections of it impossible via water (though mines, obstacles, and a few other maneuvers work also).
This forces the enemy to attack through narrow channels determined by the defenders, and limits the territory that has to be protected. Does make for a hell of a cleanup problem, though.
5. Night raids
Night raids have all the same drawbacks of normal raids in that the attackers are trying to conduct a quick assault before the defenders can rally, but with the added confusion of limited visibility and increased sound transmission — sound waves typically travel farther at night and have less ambient sound with which to compete.
Of course, the U.S. enjoys a big advantage at night against many nations. While night vision goggles and other optics provide less depth of field and less peripheral vision, if any, they’re a huge advantage in the dark against an enemy without them.
4. Submarine combat
Submarines face a lot of jokes, but what they do is pretty insane. A group of sailors get into a huge metal tube with torpedoes, missiles, or both, dive underwater and sail thousands of nautical miles, and then either park or patrol under the waves, always a single mechanical failure from a quick and agonizing death.
The reasons to go under the waves anyway are plentiful. Submarines can provide a nearly impossible-to-find nuclear deterrent, molest enemy shipping, sink high-value enemy vessels, place sensors in important shipping lanes, or tap into undersea cables.
But the guys who sail under the water are crazy to do it.
Either way, it leaves a large group of soldiers with relatively little armor and artillery trying to quickly mass and fight an enemy who was already entrenched when they arrived, hopefully with the element of surprise.
It’s risky for the attackers, but it allows them to tie up or destroy enemy forces that could threaten operations, such as when Marines air assault against enemy artillery that could fire on a simultaneous amphibious assault.
2. Assault through ambush
When a maneuver force finds itself in a near ambush — defined as an ambush from within hand grenade range, about 38 yards — with the enemy sweeping fire through their ranks, it’s trained to immediately turn towards the threat and assault through it, no matter the cost.
Each individual soldier takes this action on their own, not even looking to the platoon or squad leadership before acting. While running directly towards the incoming fire takes serious cojones, it’s also necessary. Trying to go any other direction or even running for cover just gives the enemy more time to fire before rounds start heading back at them.
And the number 1 ballsiest move:
1. Ships ramming submarines
It’s hard to get more ballsy than one of the earliest methods for attacking submarines: taking your ship, and ramming it right into the enemy. This is super dangerous for the attacking ship since the submarine’s hull could cause the surface ship’s keel to break.
But surface ships do it in a pinch anyway, because there’s more risk to allowing a submarine to get away and possibly into position for a torpedo attack. And the surface ship is generally more likely to limp away from a collision than the submarine is, which is still a win in war.
“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”
Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars. Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.
“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.
“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world. So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.
“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”
“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”
The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.
The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue. It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.
“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”
The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.
“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”
The U.S. military has a reputation for being overworked and underpaid.
But we all knew that going in.
The virtue of service and pride of wearing the uniform makes up for much of the disparity in pay compared to the civilian market. Still, it’s nice to get that bump in our paychecks every year.
Yet, the pay increase for 2017 won’t be so big. In an August 2016 letter to Congress, President Obama announced a 1.6 percent raise for the armed forces, consistent with the budget he sent to The Hill earlier in the year.
Across-the-board pay increases for other federal employees will be 1 percent.
“These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified Federal workforce,” Obama said in his letter to Congress.
Pay raises for the military peaked in 1983 when President Reagan instituted a 14.3 percent pay raise. Since then, the increase hovered steadily between 3 and 5 percent, with an average of 4.2 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service.
When Leif Babin was training to become a US Navy SEAL officer, he didn’t expect to spend so much time working out combat mission briefs in Powerpoint presentations, he explains in his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.”
It was a common feeling, and the reason why in training sessions, he and other officers-in-training had a tendency to create briefs with the intention of impressing their instructors, as opposed to crafting plans that would actually be valuable to an entire team.
When Babin joined Task Unit Bruiser in 2006 as the officer in charge of Charlie Platoon, his commander and future co-author Jocko Willink told him to forget about Powerpoint. As part of a final exercise that would determine if they would be sent to fight in an incredibly dangerous part of Iraq (a desirable scenario for them), Babin and another platoon commander needed to create a mission brief that was more impressive than two other task units.
“The true test for a good brief is not whether the senior officers are impressed,” Willink told them. “It’s whether or not the troops that are going to execute the operation actually understand it. Everything else is bull—.”
Babin and his fellow platoon leader stopped worrying about being impressive and focused on how to make their mission brief as clean and easy to follow as possible. They worked with their subordinates to ensure that if they had to put the brief into action, every member of the team would clearly understand the mission required of him.
The commanding officer in charge of judging the briefs determined Task Unit Bruiser had the most understandable and thus the best of the three, even if the others had more impressive-looking PowerPoint slides. It placed an emphasis on what Willink calls “Commander’s Intent,” which is when the team understands its commander’s purpose and the mission’s endstate so thoroughly that they can act without further guidance.
Task Unit Bruiser was sent to Ramadi, where it became the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.
It was a valuable teaching experience for Babin. In “Extreme Ownership” he outlines the planning checklist that he used as platoon commander:
Analyze the mission. Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission.
Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available.
Decentralize the planning process.Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action.
Determine a specific course of action.Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action.
Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action.
Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation.
Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible.
Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. Stand back and be the tactical genius.
Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation.
Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. Emphasize Commander’s Intent. Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand.
Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning.
Babin writes that this checklist can be easily adapted to the business world, and it’s what he and Willink have taught executives they’ve worked with through their leadership consulting firmEchelon Front since 2011.
“Implementing such a planning process will ensure the highest level of performance and give the team the greatest chance to accomplish the mission and win,” Babin writes.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.
The venerable Vietnam-era OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopters have done the job as the valued eyes and ears of the Army‘s 82nd Airborne Division, but today’s more complex battlefields demand the switchover to AH-64 Apaches, Col. Erik Gilbert said Monday.
In a telephone conference from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Gilbert, commander of the 82nd Airborne’s Combat Aviation Brigade, said the Army’s “last pure Kiowa Squadron,” now deployed to South Korea, is preparing for the switch.
When the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, returns to Fort Bragg early next year, the Kiowas will likely be available for foreign sales; some will be put in storage; and others may go to the National Guard, Gilbert said.
“This rotation will be the final Kiowa Warrior Squadron mission in the Army,” Gilbert said of the South Korea deployment. He praised the Kiowa’s versatility but said the Apache has more speed, durability and firepower, and “is just a far more capable platform.”
However, Gilbert acknowledged that the Apaches still can’t match the speed at which the smaller and lighter Kiowas can be deployed to a remote airfield and be in the air to provide cover and reconnaissance for ground troops.
Kiowas can go aboard C-130 Hercules aircraft and be in the air within a half hour of landing, Gilbert said, while the bigger and heavier Apaches aboard a C-17 Globemaster take three hours.
The difference, Gilbert said, is that the Kiowas can simply be pushed off the C-130 while the Apaches have to be winched out of the C-17 and “their blades fold up a little differently.”
“No other unit in the Army is capable of such rapid night-time employment of AH-64 Apaches,” Gilbert said, but “frankly, I think we can get faster.”
The great advantage of the Apaches will be their ability to marry up with expeditionary Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to provide commanders with more battlefield options.
“The UAS is a game-changer for us,” Gilbert said. The 82nd Airborne currently has the RQ-7 Shadow UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, which can be controlled by an Apache crewman to survey enemy positions and relay information to ground forces.
For commanders, “it gives them another data source,” Gilbert said.
In the coming months, the Combat Aviation Brigade also will be acquiring the MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS, similar to the Predator UAV, which has greater range, Gilbert said.
Against more advanced enemies, the Apaches tend to loiter low to avoid enemy radar, making it “harder for them to pick out targets,” Gilbert said, but the UAVs can provide that intelligence at less risk.
The transition from the Kiowa to the Apache was part of the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative, a five-year plan aimed at retiring “legacy systems” to make way for newer technologies.
The Kiowa first flew in 1966 and was used extensively from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kiowas first came to Fort Bragg in 1990.
But, one single element doesn’t make an aircraft “stealth” to radar; several features have to be applied. And, the 2-29 made use of many of these principles in its design.
“These guys knew about this stuff,” said aviation historian David Myhra in an interview for National Geographic News. “When I talked with Walter Horten in the 1980s and ’90s he always referred to his aircraft as low-observable.”
To test the stealthiness of the 2-29, Northrop Grumman built a full-scale replica made out of materials and techniques of the time and tested the aircraft with World War II-style radar.
Tom Dobrenz — a Northrop Grumman stealth expert — told National Geographic, “This design gave them just about a 20 percent reduction in radar range detection over a conventional fighter of the day.”
While the Nazis understood the principles of stealth, they were a long way off from building a maneuverable flying wing aircraft. But had the Nazis achieved the technology during World War II, it would have been a game changer.
This video shows the complexity of stealth and why the Nazis were too ahead of their time to achieve it.
Former Marine Mike Farrell has enjoyed a long career in the movie industry much attributed to his work ethic, abilities and the values learned in the Marines. Farrell joined the Corps in 1957 and served initially in the infantry as a rifleman. He then transitioned over to acting post his time in the Marines where he found success across many famous TV shows at the time such as Lassie, The Monkees, Combat!, Bonanza and Bannacek. His career took off with the role of Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H starting in season four of the show. He continued working in TV and eventually formed a production company with producer Marvin Minoff to make motion pictures. One of Farrell-Minoff’s most known productions is Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.
Farrell was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He grew up in West Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. He shared, “It was an interesting place to grow up at the time.” Farrell said he is “a fortunate recipient of things other kids may not have had, including a mother and a father at home.” His father was a big, tough man who worked hard to support the family. Though he has fond memories of childhood, he also recognizes that he was a “frightened child,” due to his father’s rough manner and hard drinking, which weighed on the family.
When asked his values, Farrell said, “You told the truth and you stay out of trouble by minding the rules, whatever they are.” He said, “…if you pay attention and don’t cross any forbidden lines then you were fine. I was very careful about where the lines were.” His parents were strict Catholics and took the family to Mass every Sunday. He attended public school where he and his brother mixed with people of other belief systems, which was good, he said, for them. He recalled, “Being good was defined by others to me, and I was trying to figure how to stay within the lines.” Frustrated, he found difficulty growing emotionally given the strictures at home.
He became a Marine for two reasons. He was “smitten” with the Marines from a very young age. And so was Pat, his best friend from grade school through high school and into married life. So they joined together. Farrell remembers, “I was alive during World War II, but it was a distant reality for me. I remember coming home, getting out of my Dad’s car in 1945 when we heard on the radio the war was over.” He recalled, “…my mother having plastic coupon-coins to go shopping during the war…we were told we couldn’t get bubble gum because rubber needed to be saved for the war effort,” and laughed at the memory.
He mowed lawns to earn money and delivered papers after purchasing a used bike. He sold papers on the corner. He always had to chip in so the family had enough to get by on. His mother took him and his brother to buy clothes at the “old store” which was probably a Good Will or a Salvation Army store. He was ashamed and embarrassed at having to wear used clothes. He remembers selling papers on the corner in Beverly Hills “…when a girl from high school drove by with her mother and saw me. Boy, was I embarrassed.”
Farrell described his father as “John Wayne” and shared he was, “big, handsome, popular, smart and I now know he was frustrated because he didn’t have an education, but he was a really smart man.” He believes his father’s tough manner stemmed from his lack of education. He describes his parents as distant and “tough” people made so by their experience of The Great Depression. He stated, “There was not a lot of touching or embracing in our family.”
He said, “My friend Pat became close to our family because he didn’t have much of a connection to his family. He bonded with us and went to church with us.” Farrell touches on his admiration for the Corps with, “Pat and I thought the Marines were just the best. We thought the Marines were the toughest, the most elite and we looked up to John Wayne in the Sands of Iwo Jima.” He didn’t understand the politics of the 40s and 50s and he shared, “We just loved the Marines.” He and Pat went to see the Jack Webb film The D.I. in the 50s as well. Once graduated from high school, they both knew they were going to be drafted so they decided to join the Corps. He stated, “We both went down and signed up at the (Marine) reserve unit in Chavez Ravine.” This unit is now gone and the reserve unit building is used for training by the LAFD.
Farrell stated, “Unfortunately, we thought we would stay together. We went in together but were put in separate platoons at MCRD. We didn’t see a lot of each other during Bootcamp.” They then came out into different units in Infantry Training Regiment (ITR). Pat had signed up for a six-month program and Farrell signed up for a two-year program. Farrell had three DIs: Technical Sergeant Kelly (E-7 at the time) was the senior DI and SSg Reyes and Cpl Stark were the other two instructors. Farrell believes Kelley identified with him and Reyes favored another recruit named Moreno.
During Bootcamp, Farrell became ill with the flu and was sent to the infirmary. This was at a critical time in boot camp. He thought he would be set back and not get the chance to graduate with his platoon. He was afraid of leaving Platoon 374 and being placed back in a later platoon of recruits. He said, “I was miserable about the idea of being set back.” Then he was awakened one morning in the infirmary by Corporal Stark, who said, “How are you doing? Kelly wants you back.” Farrell was thrilled “beyond words to hear that.” He described Kelly, “He saw something in me that made him not want to lose me and that made me want to try harder to be the Marine that he (Kelly) thought I could be.” He considers this a great lesson from the Corps.
While at MCRD Farrell went to Camp Matthews for rifle training, which was before the Corps started taking recruits to Camp Pendleton to qualify on the rifle. After that, Farrell said a fellow recruit, who was known to be rough around the edges, threatened his life. Farrell stated, “I had been in fights before and when someone says they are ‘going to kill you, you take it as talk.” But the next morning during a snap inspection live rounds were found in that recruit’s footlocker. He had stolen them from Camp Matthews. The inspection thankfully stopped anything from happening, but the incident stays with Farrell and opened his eyes to the world.
Boot camp continued. Increasingly, Farrell and Moreno, the platoon’s left and right guide, were pitted against each other. The two were being considered to be named the Honor Man of the platoon. Ultimately, Farrell got lucky, he said and was named the Honor Man of the platoon. He stated of graduating as Honor Man, “Marching in my dress blues was quite a thing.”
Farrell confided, “I wanted to be stationed in Camp Pendleton so I said I wanted to just be a rifleman. I thought I could outsmart them.” He thought if he was a grunt at Camp Pendleton, he could go home on weekends and, “strut around in my uniform.” But after the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) he was surprised to be assigned to the 3D Marine Division in Okinawa.
Aboard the USS Gaffney on the way to Okinawa, he recalls an alert came in to prepare to go to a different station. He shared, “We had to wait for a possible change in orders and a change in destination. We stood guard on ship and periodically swabbed the deck as well.” An all-clear was sent and they continued to Okinawa. He was glad, he said because he later learned they had almost been sent to French Indochina, later known to America as Vietnam.
In Okinawa, he was sent to typing school by the Corps to become the company clerk for an Ontos Battalion at Camp Hansen, then a tent camp. He stated, “I am sure things have changed at the camp by now. But then it was like living in ‘the swamp’,” where “the swamp” is the nickname for the camp he later served at 20th Century Fox for the show M*A*S*H.
On liberty in Okinawa, he went to the Kadena Air Base because “The Air Force had everything on base. They had a malt shop, a motion picture theater. It was surprising how well the flyboys had it over there.” We laughed at the luxuries of the Air Force when compared to the thriftiness of the Corps.
Farrell said, “I had developed an issue with my foot during ITR and got orders to go from Okinawa to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.” He fondly recalls his time in Yokosuka where he spent time with a fellow Marine. He and the Marine went out on liberty and traveled around the country. But he talks about his return, “When we got back to the ward there was tension that I could sense. I later understood that the issue had to do with my friend Tyus, a black man. In 1957/58 our friendship was not looked upon happily. This even though President Truman had desegregated the military ten years prior.” It troubled him that there was still a sense of it being inappropriate for a black and a white Marine to spend time together.
The Corps then decided to send him back to the Naval Hospital at Coronado to work guard detail. His final place was being sent back to MCRD for discharge for having “flat feet”.
Farrell states, “There is a sense of pride attached to being a Marine…you can’t avoid having that sense of pride because they just beat the crap out of you in order to make you what you need to be.” He was invited by a Force Recon Marine while on the way to Okinawa to join their unit. He declined the offer after thinking about it for a couple of days. He states, “I wonder about that Marine and you hear about all of the special ops these days where Force Recon is still a part of the Corps.” He does touch on how he became lifelong friends with fellow Marines, one of which was stationed at MCAS El Toro that he met at the US Naval Hospital Balboa. “I have made some lifelong friends through the Corps because of the shared experience.” Farrell helped fellow veterans as well when he took a car to a friend from Los Angeles that was stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC. The soldier’s parents wanted Farrell to take it to NC, so he did. On the trip he drove along a southern route through the US in 1959 where he witnessed, “real nasty segregation….that was a mind-blowing experience.”
Farrell still has high praise of his service. “My proudest achievement of my time in the Corps was graduating as the Honor Man of my platoon. I still have the Dress Blues hanging in my closet. I weigh the same as when I got out of bootcamp so I probably can still fit in them.” He further elaborated, “Completing the Marine Corps boot camp itself is a hell of an accomplishment.”
He is grateful to have had such a great career in Hollywood where he has worked with many storied actors. Farrell hears from people every day from autograph requests to even more deeply meaningful connections. Some people talk about the inspiration they got from the show and its meaning. He said, “It is really thrilling to hear from people and how deeply they are touched by the shows.” He is proud of having worked with the great actor Anthony Quinn for a year on the TV show The Man and the City. Farrell has high praise for having worked with Broderick Crawford on The Interns as well. Crawford was an Oscar-winning actor and known for his talents; however, he had an alcohol problem.
A few years before working together on The Interns, Farrell had been working with a halfway house in LA that dealt with people living with various issues. On the show he confronted Crawford. “I confronted him about his drinking and said ‘you are not doing the show any good or yourself any good. We need to find a way to temper it if not control it so we can get the work done.’” Farrell shared that, “He was phenomenal… he thanked me…we did the show for a year and every New Year’s Day after that until he passed away he called and thanked me.” He was deeply touched by Crawford’s continued contact. .
Farrell has been a part of many Human Rights campaigns. He is deeply grateful for the opportunities his association with M*A*S*H has provided.
Farrell met the famous Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams on a person-to-person diplomacy trip to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. The group initially stopped in Helsinki, Finland, for orientation before going into the USSR. He saw a man wearing a clown suit and a rubber nose at the meeting. He initially thought the man was from “Pluto”. A woman in the group made a show of her belief in the power of crystals. She stood at the front with a bag of them and urged people to take a crystal that resonated with them, suggesting they hold it near their heart and find someone in the Soviet Union to give it to. Farrell said it sounded to him a bit looney. The clown-suited man then got up, said he was a doctor and said, “he believed in clowning and that laughter is the best medicine.” The man then took out a bag and did what the woman had done, saying he believed in the power of rubber noses. He held out a bag of rubber noses and urged everyone to pick a rubber nose they resonated with. The “clown” turned out to be Dr. Patch Adams. Farrell said, “I fell in love with the man and we became great friends.”
On their way to the Soviet Union our train was stopped by Russian troops. The train was searched by armed men from the USSR. Outside of the train he saw Patch Adams giving rubber noses to the Russian troops. Farrell laughed and stated, “I knew that this guy was going to change the world.” Farrell and Adams became very close friends while in the USSR. A few years later Adams contacted Farrell about how he had written a book and movie studio executives were looking to make his book into a film. Adams wanted Farrell to produce the film because he trusted him. Through a Hollywood connection Farrell took on the project and went to a studio with it. Farrell is happy that the film made a lot of people laugh and helped get Patch Adams noticed, however he wishes it would have had more depth and focused on Adams’ heart. Patch was grateful to Farrell and thanked him for his work on the film. Farrell is appreciative of Robin Williams’ work as Patch and considers him a, “wonderfully talented person and…a really deeply sweet, good man.”
Farrell believes deeply in the inherent decency of all people. He learned discipline and a lot about life through his experience in the Corps. He said, “The Marines gave me the sense of capability that comes from surviving the circumstances they put you in.” He believes stories like those shown in An Officer and Gentleman in which Louis Gossett Jr. plays the part of a DI should be top of the list for veterans and Marines. These stories touch on the camaraderie, discipline and merits of service. Farrell shared he, “…is most proud of his children. And he’s happy his career has given him the ability to touch people’s hearts.”
Military and Veterans Affairs officials are digging up the remains of 94 unidentified Marines and sailors killed on a remote atoll in the Pacific during one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.
The servicemen were killed in the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 and buried as unknowns at a national cemetery in Honolulu after the war.
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner said March 28 advances in DNA technology have increased the probability of identifying the unknowns.
More than 990 U.S. Marines and 30 U.S. sailors were killed in the three-day battle. About 550 are still unidentified, including some still in Tarawa, Waggoner said.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific spokesman Gene Maestas said the disinterments began in October. The cemetery, which is also known as Punchbowl, expects to transfer the last eight servicemen to the military next Monday.
The exhumations come two years after the Pentagon announced new criteria for exhuming remains from military cemeteries for identification.
Shortly after, it dug up from Punchbowl cemetery the remains of nearly 400 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma who were killed in the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The work to identify them is expected to take about five years.
Waggoner said her agency doesn’t have an estimate for how long it will take to identify the Tarawa remains. That’s because some of the skeletons from Punchbowl are incomplete and parts of some bodies are still in Tarawa.
The agency recently received Pentagon approval to exhume some 35 Punchbowl graves believed to hold the unidentified remains of servicemen from the USS West Virginia, which was also hit in the Pearl Harbor attack.
The agency will schedule these disinterments after it gets a permit from the state of Hawaii, she said.
Tarawa, which is some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, is today part of the Republic of Kiribati.