That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II - We Are The Mighty
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That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II

In 1944, pilots shot down over Chichi Jima Island in the Pacific were captured and executed by the Japanese before being turned into gruesome dishes for the soldiers defending the island.


That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Photo: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

The U.S. Navy bombed and shelled the Bonin Islands from late 1944 to early 1945 in anticipation of the invasion of Iwo Jima and the eventual attack on Tokyo. One of the islands, Chichi Jima, had a small airfield, crack anti-aircraft gunners, and communications that supported Japanese positions on other islands.

A number of planes were shot down while attacking Chichi, including one piloted by Navy Lt. (and future President) George H. W. Bush. Bush was rescued by a submarine and was one of the few aviators to go down around Chichi and survive.

A more grisly fate awaited at least four of the 20 Americans who bailed out near the island. Japanese defenders were led by navy Rear Adm. Kunizo Mori and army Maj. Gen. Yoshio Tachibana who approved executions and allowed cannibalism on the island.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Australian Sgt. Leonard G. Siffleet is executed by a Japanese soldier in World War II. Photo: Australian War Memorial

Tachibana, with the approval of Mori, had the American prisoners executed by beheading. The day after an early execution, a Japanese major had flesh of the executed prisoner prepared for a feast. The island doctor removed a liver and a portion of the human thigh.

The body of the flyer was served at a large, alcohol fueled banquet that night.

The practice continued on the island for some time, and at least four victims were partially or fully eaten.

Marve Mershon, Floyd Hall, Jimmy Dye, and Warren Earl Vaughn were all victims of the practice, according to James Bradley in his book, “Flyboys.”

American aviators weren’t the only ones to fall victim to Japanese troops practicing cannibalism. Chinese, Australian, and Indian troops were all executed and eaten by Japanese soldiers.

In some cases, including those of the Americans on Chichi Jima, the leaders responsible were tried for war crimes and executed. Tachibana was hanged for his part in the atrocities.

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8 brutally honest depictions of vets and troops in fiction

We sometimes overlook the accurate and fantastic portrayals of veterans and troops in fiction, instead criticizing Hollywood’s typical depiction of us as hyper-macho, high-speed ass-kicking machines or broken and fragile husks of human beings.


For a good portion of the armed services, this is far from the truth. This isn’t a grunt versus POG (Person Other than Grunt) thing. It’s a symptom of the civilian-military divide.

There seems to be a perpetual cycle of fiction blowing real military service out of proportion. Civilians who never interacted with service members often believe that fictional portrayal.

Let’s be honest. Veterans are combating the stigma, but it’s an uphill battle.

Hell, most of the stories we tell at bars aren’t helping.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
No judging. I will totally back up your claim as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner.

This one goes out to the creators, writers, directors, and actors that gave the world a veteran and stayed away from the stigma. Either intentionally or not, these characters either embody what it was truly like in the service or have exceptional moments that can overlook some of the more silly moments.

If you can think of any others left out, leave them in the comment section.

1. Sgt. Bill Dauterive – “King of the Hill”

Though the 022 MOS doesn’t exist anymore, Bill from “King of the Hill” was a U.S. Army Barber. There are several episodes dedicated to his military service. The 2007 episode “Bill, Bulk and the Body Buddies” even revolved around him trying to get in shape to pass his APFT.

How he manages to go on all the adventures in the show and not be considered AWOL is also a plot point.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Character by Mike Judge and Fox Studios)

2. Capt. Frank Castle, aka “The Punisher” – Marvel Comics

Not every superhero gets their powers from a science experiment, being an alien, or just being super rich.

Frank Castle, The Punisher, learned his skills in the Marine Corps. Sure. He’s an extreme representation of a veteran. But The Punisher earns his spot on this list because of Jon Bernthal’s monologue in Season 2 of “Daredevil.” His performance and his story about his return from a deployment hits close to home for many people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdMQk2fL_qA

(YouTube, Rastifan)

3. King Robert Baratheon – A Song of Fire and Ice, “Game of Thrones”

Let’s take away medieval fantasy elements of “Game of Thrones” and recognize that Robert Baratheon used to be a proud, respected, and feared soldier on the front lines.

Ever since putting his service behind him, he got fat, grew a glorious beard, spent his time drinking, hunting, and talking about his glory days. Sound like anyone you know from your old unit?

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Character by George RR Martin and HBO)

4. Pfc. Donny Novitski and his band — “Bandstand”

A Tony Award winning musical may seem an unlikely place to find a true to life depiction of a WWII veteran, but it’s the only Broadway musical with an official “Got Your 6” certification.

The musical is about a group of young vets returning home who form a band to try to reach stardom (the same half thought out plan we all had while we were downrange).

The lead character, Donny, spends most of the story showing his bandmates and the world their sacrifice and talents.

Veterans who’ve seen the show praise it. At the end of every show, they thank the troops around the world and dedicate each performance to a different veteran.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Characters by Richard Oberacker)

5. Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – “M*A*S*H”

The Capt. Hawkeye character is beloved by many for its accuracy. He was drafted right after his medical residency to deploy to the Korean War. Everything about his character was a fresh change to the ordinary war hero cliche.

He resented the Army for drafting him. Each loss of life affected him as the series progressed. He used humor to help cope with the daily stress of combat.

In the 1978 episode “Commander Pierce,” Hawkeye is temporarily in charge of the 4077th. For one episode, he drastically made the very real change to become the leader that his soldiers needed before reverting back to fit the semi-episodic formula.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Character by Richard Hooker and CBS)

6. Capt. Kathryn Janeway – “Star Trek: Voyager”

While on the topic of the burdens of leadership, the character that best exemplifies this is the commander of the USS Voyager. Many of the ongoing struggles in the series revolve around how Capt. Kathryn Janeway deals with the safety of the crew, the dream of returning home, and hiding her internal doubt.

Oh, and she always drinks coffee, and she always drinks it black.

via GIPHY

 7. Master Sgt. Abraham Simpson – “The Simpsons”

The senile grandpa of the Simpson family is often the butt of many jokes. His long term memory is hazy and his short term memory isn’t any better.

But then there’s the 1996 “Flying Hellfish” episode. Art and story-wise, this episode is vastly different from most, and is regarded as one of the best in the series.

Grandpa Abe and Bart go on an adventure to reclaim the treasure Abe found back in World War II. Back in the day, Grandpa was a very competent and tactful leader.

When his unit, which also included series antagonist Mr. Burns, discover a fortune in stolen Nazi paintings, they place a life bet on who keeps them.

While Mr. Burns is willing to kill for the prize, Abe still holds onto his honor and loyalty to his unit after all those years. At the end, when the paintings are confiscated by police, Abe tells his grandson why he went after the paintings. “It was to show you that I wasn’t always a pathetic old kook,” he said.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Character by Matt Groening and Fox Studios)

8. Sgt. Donald Duck – Disney

The sailor suit he always wears isn’t just for show or stolen valor, Donald Duck legitimately was in the Navy and Army Air Force (hence why, in 1984, he was officially given the rank of sergeant and discharge by the real world Army on his 50th anniversary).

Hear me out on this.

In World War I, Walt Disney attempted to join the U.S. Army but was rejected for being too young. He then forged documents to join the Red Cross.

In France, the cartoons he sketched grabbed the attention of Stars and Stripes, later becoming the icon we all know today. In WWII, his love of country and understanding of how propaganda worked lead Disney to use Donald Duck to help the troops.

The “Buck Sergeant Duck” was used in counter-propoganda cartoons and recruitment shorts, even winning an Oscar for “Der Feuhrer’s Face.”

His time in both the Army and Navy is well depicted in many forms — from cartoons to comics. In “DuckTales,” Donald leaves his nephews because he’s being shipped out, which starts the series. The cartoon “Donald Gets Drafted” shows Donald learning (in an exaggerated manner) that recruiters sometimes tell fibs to get bodies in the door.

Even his short temper, aggression, loud voice, cynical attitude, and unprovoked tantrums aren’t a concept lost on veterans.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Character by Walt Disney and Disney)

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Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The Army is working on engineering unmanned systems and tactical robots that can both help and evacuate casualties from the battlefield by transporting injured soldiers out of dangerous situations, service officials said.


“We are evaluating existing and developmental technologies that can be applied to medical missions,” Phil Reidinger, spokesman for the U.S. Army Health Readiness Center of Excellence, told Scout Warrior.

The idea, expressed by Army leaders, is aimed at saving lives of trained medics to run into high-risk combat situations when soldiers are injured. For example, medical evacuation robots could prevent medics from being exposed to enemy gunfire and shrapnel.

“We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire,” Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Medical Corps, said in a written statement. “With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties.”

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

The Army has operated thousands of cave-clearing, improvised explosive device-locating robots in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.  The majority of them use sensors such as electro-optical/infrared cameras to detect and destroy roadside bombs and other explosive materials.

“We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them,” Jones said. “With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that.”

Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home.

But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them.

“What happens when a member of the team comes down with cellulitis or pneumonia? We have got to use telemedicine to tele-mentor them on the diagnosis and treatment,” he said, adding that UAVs could be used for delivering antibiotics or blood to those units to keep them in the fight. “So you don’t have to evacuate the casualties, so the team can continue its mission.”

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The USMC War Memorial is about to get a $5 million facelift

Some much deserved tender loving care begins August 22 in the nation’s capital. The revered US Marine Corps War Memorial — often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — will get new gilding on its engravings and pedestal, plus a meticulous cleaning and wax of its five immense 32-foot bronze figures, a 60-foot flagpole, and granite base.


There also will be updated lighting, new landscaping for the surrounding parkland, and improved infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

The rehabilitation is a big project. It also uses no taxpayer funds.

The upgrade was made possible through a $5.4 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, a man who believes in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.”

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
David M. Rubenstein. (Photo from Flickr user Jean-Frédéric.)

Besides his many donations to academic, art, or hospital-related institutions, Mr. Rubenstein has donated close to $100 million in recent years for historic preservation projects to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other major sites. Now, it is Iwo Jima’s turn.

“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system,” Mr. Rubenstein said on announcing his donation.

The Marine memorial draws 2 million visitors a year and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. The entire original cost of the statue — $850,000 — was donated by individual Marines, friends of the Corps, and members of the naval service. Again, no taxpayer funds.

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Former Navy Commander: What the US should have built instead of the F-35

Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.


But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Lockheed Martin photo

Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.

However, defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, but rather aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, can simply shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.

These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas photo

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.

But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.

“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”

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The 5 biggest stories in the military world right now (July 1)

It’s Hump Day, and here is what you need to know around the national security space this morning:


  • The death toll from the Indonesian Air Force C-130 mishap yesterday has risen to 142, according to Yahoo News.
  • WATM’s bud and Washington Post military correspondent Dan Lamothe reports on evidence that Russia has a secret base in Ukraine.
  • New images show the Chinese are building military facilities on reclaimed land in the South China Sea. WaPo has the full report here.
  • WATM’s other bud (yes, we have two), Leo Shane III of Military Times, writes that Congress is approving military nominations while sitting on civilian ones.
  • Man accused of taking bribes and paying kickbacks to obtain military contracts in Iraq is being sentenced today in Ohio. The Associated Press has coverage here.

Now read this: Russia has a ‘troll farm’ of people posting crazy internet comments all day long

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Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II

Norman J. “Dusty” Kleiss was a dive-bomber pilot in the United States Navy during World War II. He fought in the Battle of Midway where he was the only dive-bomber pilot to hit two Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser.

Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Cross. He served in the Navy until retiring as a captain. He lived to be 100 and the last surviving dive-bomber pilot from the Battle of Midway. 

Humble Beginnings and Early Career

Dusty Kleiss was born in Coffeyville, Kansas on March 7, 1916. In his diary, he writes that he learned to be a crack shot with a BB gun before he could ride a bicycle. He worked as an apprentice toolmaker while waiting for his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

At an early age, he learned of the importance of airpower. At the age of 15, he joined the 114th Cavalry of the Kansas National Guard. During an exercise at Fort Riley, KS, his unit was wiped out when the opposing force used aircraft to “strafe” his unit that didn’t have any aircraft of its own. 

In June of 1938, he graduated from Annapolis. In those days, the Navy required new ensigns to serve in the fleet for two years before attending flight school. The reasoning was that aviators had to know the strengths and limitations of the surface fleet.

So, Dusty Kleiss served on the cruiser USS Vincennes and destroyers USS Goff and USS Yarnall.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Dusty Kleiss’ SBD (foreground) getting ready to take off from the Enterprise during the Battle of Midway.

At the end of the two years, Dusty went to Pensacola Naval Air Station, FL, for flight training. After 11 months of flight training, he earned his wings on April 27, 1941. One of the more important lessons that he learned was the art of dogfighting, which would serve him well later during the air battle over Midway. 

Read Next: Book excerpt: ‘Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway’

After graduating from Pensacola, Dusty Kleiss was assigned to Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6), the scout-bombing squadron assigned to USS Enterprise (CV-6). Kleiss and the other Scouting Six pilots flew the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber, a two-seater that had a rear-facing gunner in the back. 

The Enterprise headed for Hawaii. There the men began training in earnest for the war that everyone knew was coming. Kleiss earned his nickname just a month later after a landing of his caused an inordinate amount of dust blowout. 

The First Engagement of Dusty Kleiss 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, their primary targets, the American aircraft carriers, were not in port. However, the carriers’ scouting squadrons did engage with Japanese aircraft off the coast of Hawaii and lost six pilots and gunners during the battle. On December 8, Dusty Kleiss was fired upon by nervous American gunners over Pearl Harbor who had mistaken his SBD for a Japanese aircraft. 

Kleiss saw his first action during the Battle of the Marshall Islands (February 1, 1942), where he attacked the Japanese base at Kwajalein Atoll. During the airstrike by the Enterprise’s aircraft, Kleiss’s Dauntless SDB dropped his incendiary wing bombs on a parked plane at Roi Airfield and then dropped his 500-pound bomb on the light cruiser Katori. During a second strike at the Japanese base at Taroa Island, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and his rear gunner John W. Snowden was wounded in the buttocks. 

Kleiss also took part in the air raids during the Battle of Wake Island on February 24, 1942, attacking the Japanese who had captured the island from American Marines in the first few weeks of the war. 

Upon returning to Pearl Harbor, Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his attack on Kwajalein Atoll. 

The Battle of Midway and Dusty Kleiss Versus the Rising Sun

During the Battle of Midway,the United States had partially broken the Japanese Navy’s JN-25b code and had a good idea of the Japanese plans. This allowed the Americans to prepare. As a result, the American carrier force, consisting of the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and the patched Yorktown, was already well on its way to meet the Japanese northeast of Midway.

But a mixup and early disaster set the stage for a crushing American victory. The Hornet’s torpedo squadrons attacked without fighter protection and were all shot down. The subsequent torpedo attack by the Enterprise’s antiquated Devastator torpedo bombers, with only six fighters as cover, was also shot to pieces.

Read Next: Doolittle Raid 75 Years Ago Was the Best Psychological Operation of the War

However, these two uncoordinated attacks brought all of the Japanese air cover away from the Japanese air carriers that were left without an air umbrella. It was then that 32 dive bombers from the Enterprise, led by Lieutenant Commander Wade McCluskey appeared, overhead. They concentrated on the forward carrier the Kaga. Diving from 20,000 feet, they hit the Japanese carriers which were left without fighter protection. 

The Japanese carriers had their decks full of bombs and were preparing to attack the U.S. fleet. Dusty Kleiss was the second pilot to score a direct hit on the Kaga. He and his gunner Snowden lined up on the Kaga and used the red rising sun on the flight deck as their target. His incendiary bombs hit planes parked on the flight deck. His 500-pound bomb hit at the edge of the red circle and went four decks below before exploding, hitting long lance torpedoes. Kleiss nearly crashed into the ocean, barely pulling out of a dive as the Kaga erupted into a blazing inferno. A Japanese Zero immediately got on his tail, but tail gunner John Snowden shot it down.

Years after, Kleiss was asked to write an article about the battle. His excellent article is included in the 2012 Special Midway edition of The Daybookthe Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s quarterly publication.

“Wade McClusky waggled his wings and, in our Scouting Six planes, we followed him into a dive on Kaga, the closest carrier. This was the perfect situation for dive-bombing: no Zeros, no anti-aircraft fire. McClusky and our Scouting Six dive bombers attacked Kaga. Bombing Six planes attacked Akagi. Earl Gallaher scored the first hit on Kaga. I watched his 500-pound bomb explode on the first plane starting its takeoff. It was the only plane on Kaga’s flight deck. His incendiary bombs also hit the gas tanks beside it. Immediately, the aft part of the ship was engulfed in a huge mass of flames. I scored the next hit. My 500-pound bomb and two 100-pound incendiaries landed on the rear edge of the large red circle on the bow of Kaga. The bombs set fire to the closely-parked airplanes below deck, filled with gasoline; a huge fire started. (Note: my bombs hit the target at 240 knots, and exploded 1/100th of a second later!) I had dropped my bombs at 1,500 feet, and I pulled out at 9g, just barely skimming above the water.

A Zero came speeding for us. I gave my gunner John Snowden a good angle, and in two seconds, no more Zero! I sped past numerous ships shooting AA fire at me, so I changed course and altitude every second. I finally made a half-circle, heading towards Midway. I looked back and saw three carriers in flames: many bombs from Scouting Six and Bombing Six had hit Kaga; three bombs from Bombing Six had hit Akagi, and bombs from Yorktown’s dive bombers torched Soryu. Only Hiryu, 20 miles away, was unharmed.”

Dusty Kleiss and Snowden barely made it back to the Enterprise as their fuel was nearly gone. They quickly ate a sandwich, had a cup of coffee, and caught a quick catnap before they went back out searching for Hiryu, the remaining Japanese carrier.

The mission, commanded by Lieutenant Earl Gallagher, spotted the Hiryu who was conducting evasive maneuvers. But Kleiss knew that as a dive bomber, the key is not figuring out not where a ship is but where it’s going. Again, he lined up on the ship’s red circle, and in another steep dive, scored a direct hit.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuna after being devastated by American dive bombers in the Battle of Midway.

“It was a bonfire that could be seen 10 miles away.” Although scoring direct hits on two Japanese aircraft carriers, Dusty Kleiss wasn’t done yet.

On June 5 they missed the Japanese fleet, but on June 6 Kleiss and the Enterprise’s dive bombers attacked the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. Kleiss’s bombs once again were spot on and struck near Mikuma’s smokestack. The Mikuna was a wreck, devastated from stem to stern with multiple bomb hits she soon sank. 

Kleiss was the only pilot to score three direct hits with a dive bomber during the Battle of Midway. For his actions during the battle, Kleiss received the Navy Cross in November 1942.

That was his final combat mission. He was sent back to the United States to be an instructor assigned to an Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG) squadron stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He then married his long-time girlfriend Eunice Marie “Jean” Mochon in Las Vegas and was moved on to the training squadron in Cecil Field, Florida.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II

The couple remained dedicated to each other until Eunice’s death in 2006. “She was three times as smart as me, that’s for sure,” Dusty said in an interview with CNN. 

Dusty’s Post-War Years

After attending the Naval Postgraduate School for aircraft design he worked on improving design features for aircraft, carrier catapult designs. He retired from the Navy on April 1, 1962, with the rank of Captain. 

He worked as an engineer at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia for a few years before deciding to teach mathematics, physics, and chemistry at Berkeley Springs High School for 10 years. In 1987, he and his wife retired and moved to the Air Force Village, a retirement community located near Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. 

Kleiss was frequently asked to be a guest speaker or guest of honor at functions regarding the Battle of Midway. Yet, he was not comfortable with being called a hero. He worked on his memoir Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway. It was published after his death in 2017.

An excellent video interview with Kleiss can be seen here:

Dusty Kleiss lived in San Antonio until he died on April 22, 2016,  shortly after his 100th birthday. He is buried alongside his wife at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.


This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
RS-28 Sarmat ICBM wheeling out of a bunker.


Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.

According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky.

The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises.

For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads.

The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational.

In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable SS-18 ICBM.

The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets.

Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.

Russian sources say Sarmat will be operational by 2018.

However, not much else is known about Sarmat. Various Russian reports indicate that it is a two-stage liquid-fuel missile with an estimated operational range of 6,200 miles weighing about 220,000 pounds and capable of hefting perhaps a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry.

There is no information on the yield of each warhead. However, the hypersonic speed and increased maneuverability of the warheads apparently is an effort to thwart U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said Russia is taking protective measures against the Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems deployed in Romania by the United States. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, told reporters while commenting on the anti-missile system “the question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.”

“From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Peskov said.

Despite economic hardships and Western criticism, Russia has aggressively worked on improving its strategic missile inventory and the destructive power of its ICBMs. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said revamping the nation’s strategic missile forces is a No. 1 priority.

Last year, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces general staff, said the United States and its NATO allies are developing the means to strike Russia precisely and effectively with strategic weapons. The Kremlin intends to introduce weapons that can penetrate the American missile defense shield and thwart this increased capability, Gerasimov said.

Russian writers for Sputnik, a Russian propaganda publication aligned with the Kremlin, have published reports touting the capabilities of the Sarmat. They claim the missile will “determine which direction nuclear deterrence will develop in the world.”

The story even claimed that Sarmat’s warheads could wipe out territory equivalent to a landmass the size of Texas.

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DoD to deliver counter-ISIS review to White House next week

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Iraqi forces practice traveling in tactical formations at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua Wooten)

In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”

Whole-of-Government Plan

The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.

“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”

Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”

Review Involves Many Countries

The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

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History’s 20 coolest floating fortresses

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who get the appeal of floating fortresses, bristling with guns and missiles and all manner of things awesome – and those who drive Priuses. There is no middle ground. And if there were, most of the ships on this list would turn it into a giant, smoking crater.


Yes, there’s definitely something about a big military ship that takes us back to the most primal part of ourselves. There’s a bit of romance to that part; maybe a bit of the old idealist, who appreciates the aesthetic appeal of naval warfare. Maybe it’s the risk-taker, the gambler who understands that all that lay between sailor and sea is one well-placed shot to the stern.  Maybe it’s just the fact that big guns are cool, and ships carry the biggest guns of them all.

But no matter what the appeal, you would have to be of a pretty small group not to find something to love about these cool military surface ships. And if you’re one of those people, please park your Prius on the beach…we’re working up a firing solution… Vote up the coolest military surface ships below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section!

The Coolest (Military) Surface Ships Ever

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This Army officer is bringing a collection to New York Fashion Week

Coming out to his military parents was difficult for Julian Woodhouse. It didn’t turn out the way he thought. He tried to suppress his sexuality and with that, any interest in being a fashion designer.


“I not only found myself as a person, but I also rekindled my interest in fashion and design,” he told the New York Times

That didn’t stop his interest in joining the military, however. Woodhouse is now a 26-year-old Army officer who also has a burgeoning fashion collection.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(photo via Instagram)

“I really love being in the military,” he told the Times. “I love serving my country, and I love the life.”

Woodhouse came to New York on leave so he could present his creations during New York Men’s Day, which opened fashion week.

Woodhouse is currently stationed in Korea, where his label Wood House is based. The New York Times’ Guy Trebay described his clothes as having “elements of soft suiting … infused with sensuality, but they are emphatically made for guys.”

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(woodhouseofficial.com)

“I’m inspired a lot by the design philosophy and aesthetics designers in South Korea are going for,” he said. “I don’t want to push men outside of their comfort zones, but I think they are looking for something a little more directed.”

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Ft. Hood-area woman leaves behind a legacy of 500,000 hugs

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
(Photo: KCEN)


“You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.” – Anonymous

US Air Force Veteran Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, recently passed away at 83 years old. Over the years she wrapped her arms around more than 500,000 soldiers, according to the estimates of Army officials.

Initially, Laird volunteered to shake soldier’s hands. According to an interview with NBC’s Today Show, one soldier offered to give her a hug after she shook his hand. She went from handshakes to hugs from that moment on.

In 2003, she and Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing her mission: Laird was now officially authorized to hug every Fort Hood soldier departing or arriving. She was there with open arms – no matter the time, weather, how large or small of a group, family circumstances, or her own cancer diagnosis.

“[She] wanted to make sure someone here at home is interested and waiting for them to come home again,” Laird’s son Richard Dewee said.

Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, released a the following statement on Laird’s passing:

On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as “The Hug Lady.” She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed.

Laird’s niece Becky Triplett posted the following on her Facebook page:

“When I talked to her the last time, she had been invited to the Rachel Ray show. When I asked if she was going she said ‘No I don’t think so, it wouldn’t be fair to the soldier coming or going. They deserve that hug more.’ She left a very good legacy. RIP Aunt Betty.”

An online petition to name the Fort Hood Deployment Center in Elizabeth Laird’s honor can be found here.

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The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

That time Japanese soldiers cannibalized US pilots in World War II
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

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