You don’t have to play like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus to appreciate a round of golf. Veterans of all ages with many types of disabilities can enjoy playing the game. That was certainly true of Veteran graduates who completed a six-week program through their local VA Recreational Therapy service in October.
With the help of the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno, Nevada, the Professional Golf Association’s “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere” (HOPE) program introduced, and in some cases reintroduced, the game of golf to 14 Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
Seven professional golfers donated their time to share their love of the game. “Golf is a game that can be played for life. There are so many benefits for Veterans who want to learn,” said Mike “Mazz” Mazzaferri, PGA golf pro at Sierra Sage Golf Course.
“What other game do you know where four family generations can play together?”
Mazz remembered the day when he, his father, his grandfather and his son played a round of golf together.
PGA helping to prevent Veteran suicides
“This program is all about Veteran suicide prevention. If a Veteran suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or a traumatic brain injury, is blind, or even an amputee, we can make adaptions to still enjoy playing golf. PGA wanted to join VA to eliminate Veteran suicide,” said Bob Epperly, PGA HOPE lead instructor.
The HOPE Program is free to Veterans who participate.
Three of the 14 Veterans who participated are blind. Dennis, a Vietnam Veteran, can see very little in one eye and is completely blind in the other. But his limitation never bothered him on the golf course. “I just love being outside with other Veterans,” he said, laughing.
“I know I need practice, but it feels good to be active. To do something different than sit at home and listen to the news.” After graduation, Dennis was presented with a new set of golf clubs. He was surprised and grateful to VA and PGA for making this day possible.
Veterans from the Cold War to Iraqi Freedom
The camaraderie between the Veteran golfers was evident by the smiles and banter. Their military service spanned from the Cold War in the late 1950s to serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010, and represented most military branches of service.
One OIF combat Army Veteran, Daniel, brought his family. Daniel suffered severe injuries due to an IED blast that ultimately led to the amputation of his left lower leg. The HOPE Program has put on smile on Daniel’s face and now he is aspiring to go pro. That’s him in the top photo, teeing off, and with his family in the golf cart
For more information of how to bring the HOPE program to your community, contact your local VA Medical Center or reach out to the PGA Foundation.
On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes Forest that caught the Allies off guard. As the Battle of the Bulge erupted, depleted American forces were rushed into the lines to shore up the defense. One of those units was the 1st Infantry Division’s 26th Infantry Regiment.
One of the veterans of the battalion, Henry Warner, was assigned to lead a 57mm anti-tank gun section in the battalion’s anti-tank company.
Warner had joined the Army at the age of 19 in January of 1943. After being assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he fought through northern Europe with the 26th Infantry Regiment and received a promotion to Corporal.
When the Germans launched their major offensive, known to them as Operation Watch on the Rhine, Warner and the rest of his outfit were regrouping in Belgium after bitter fighting.
The 26th Infantry Regiment had been engaged in the brutal fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. The second battalion had been particularly hard hit. The unit had been so depleted that nine out of every ten men in the battalion were green replacements — and they were still understrength. At the outset of the Battle of the Bulge, only seven officers in the entire unit had been with the battalion the previous month.
While the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions blunted the initial German thrust at Elsenborn Ridge, the 1st Infantry Division went south to shore up the defenses and stop any attempts of an encirclement by the Germans. Linking up with the 99th Infantry Division was the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The battalion commander dispersed his understrength unit to hold the Belgian town of Butgenbach.
The defenders at Butgenbach just happened to be right in the way of the planned German assault.
Stationed along a pivotal roadway was Warner’s anti-tank gun section. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions, Warner and his men had ample time to dig in and prepare their positions.
The first German attacks came on Dec. 19, but were beaten back by the American forces. The Germans then continued to probe American lines throughout the night.
On the morning of Dec. 20, the Germans came hard down the road manned by Warner and his men. At least ten German tanks supported by infantry fought their way into the American position. All along the line Americans and Germans engaged in close combat.
Anti-tank gunners and bazookas blasted the German tanks at point blank range as they tried to drive through the lines.
As the tanks continued to advance, Warner skillfully lined up another shot and put a second German tank out of action.
As the third tank neared his position, Warner’s gun jammed. He fought to clear the jam until the German tank was within only a few yards. Then, in a move that can only be deemed crazy, Warner jumped from his gun pit brandishing his .45 caliber 1911 pistol.
With the German tank right on top of him — and disregarding the intense fire all around from the attacking German infantry — Warner engaged the commander of the German tank in a pistol duel. Warner outgunned the German, killing him, and forcing his now leaderless tank to withdraw from the fight.
Warner and the rest of the battalion continued to resist the German onslaught, turning back numerous infantry advances. The Germans rained down mortar and artillery fire throughout the rest of the day and that night, as well.
The next morning the Germans came in force once again. And once again Warner was manning his 57mm gun. As a Panzer Mark IV emerged into Warner’s view, he engaged it with precision fire. He set the tanks engine on fire but paid for it with a blast from a German machinegun.
Not out of the fight, Warner ignored his injuries and struggled to reload his gun and finish off the German tank. A second burst from a German machine gun cut him down before he could complete his task.
For his actions in stopping the German attacks, Cpl. Warner was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The rest of the 26th Infantry Regiment, spurred on by the bravery of soldiers like Warner, held its position against repeated German attacks.
The 1st Infantry Division, along with the 2nd, 9th, and 99th Infantry Divisions, now made up the northern shoulder of “the Bulge” and the strict time table for the attack was severely behind schedule.
In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.
Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.
“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”
Still, Shields kept fighting.
“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”
But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.
“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.
The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.
Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.
“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.
Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.
At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”
The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”
Everyone knows about John Glenn, either as an astronaut (the last survivor of the “Mercury Seven”) or politician (he was a United States Senator from 1975 to 1999).
Few know, however, that John Glenn had a lengthy combat career as a Marine aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with three gold stars and two oak leaf clusters and 18 Air Medals.
After Pearl Harbor, Glenn first tried to sign up with the Army Air Force – but instead ended up as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He transitioned to the Marine Corps, though, and was sent to the South Pacific.
The first plane he flew after graduating training, though, was a far cry from a fighter or a rocket – it was the R4D, the Navy’s version of the classic C-47 Skytrain, accoridng to Paul Kuppenberg’s 2003 biography of Glenn.
Glenn wouldn’t be a trash-hauler forever, though.
Soon, he was flying the F4U Corsair, and took part in combat missions around the Marshall Islands — notably attacking anti-aircraft batteries on Maloelap Atoll.
After a stateside assignment, he was later assigned to VMF-218 in China, where he flew some patrols.
Between World War II and Korea, Glenn was both a flight instructor and a student at the Amphibious Warfare School. When the Korean War broke out, Glenn sought a combat assignment.
According to AcePilots.com, he would serve two tours in Korea — the first with VMF-311, flying the F9F Panther. One famous squadron mate – and wingman – was Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Glenn often had his plane shot up, on one occasion bringing it back with 250 holes in it. He’d been hit five times in World War II, each time nursing his damaged plane home, according to Light This Candle, a 2005 biography of Alan Shepard.
Glenn’s second tour was with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing. Glenn would get his only three confirmed kills, MiG-15s, in a grand total of 27 missions.
After the Korean War, Glenn became a test pilot, making a mark in Project Bullet, using a F8U-1P Crusader (the Navy’s pre-1962 designation for the RF-8A version of the Crusader) to cross the United States faster than the speed of sound – despite the fact he had to slow three times to refuel.
In 1959, Glenn was assigned to NASA, and from there, he went into space – and history. But his combat career is something that also deserves to be remembered.
Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.
Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.
Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.
The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.
The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.
The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.
The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
“Just be quiet for a second. You hear that?” retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rob Disney asks a visitor. When she nods, he says, “Absolutely nothing. That’s what I love the most about this place.”
Disney’s life wasn’t always so tranquil. A 21-year pararescueman in the Air Force, Disney was often being sent in when Army Green Berets, Marine Force Recon, or Navy SEALs had gotten into a situation where they couldn’t get out without help.
During one of his deployments Disney was shot in the face with an AK-47 and lost all feeling in his face for several months. Disney received the Purple Heart for his injury and has a host of awards to show for his bravery.
But to help those combat memories fade, Disney bought an amazing mountain retreat after retirement, saying it was “love at first sight,” with the deal being sealed when he went out on the porch with a cup of coffee.
“It definitely was my destiny,” Disney told the host of the video. The house, built with both log and drywall, has three bedrooms and a finished basement. While the house in the mountains may have been Disney’s destiny, it’s not the first house Disney has owned. The experience of buying homes and closing “quite a few mortgages” during his 21 years of service has given him some valuable insights.
“Something that is very very important in anybody who is going to buy a home is that they need to find a mortgage company that they can absolutely trust and have a rock-solid foundation with,” Disney said, adding that Veterans First was the one he trusted most.
Disney closed on his house of destiny 13 years to the day after he was shot, and moved there exactly a year later.
“I took one of the worst experiences of my life and turned it into one of my best memories,” he said.
Disney also demonstrated some guitar skills. He started playing at age 15, shifting from the banjo, which didn’t attract the attention he sought from girls.
“Still play all the time, every day,” he said, describing it as an emotional release.
The full video from Veterans First mortgage is embedded above.
Joe Owen served as an enlisted Marine in a forward observer squad during World War II, but as the 90-year-old vet looks back on his life, it’s his Korean War experience that really stands out to him.
“I was overseas in WWII when I got selected for OCS,” Owen remembers. “I went to the old man and begged him to let me stay with my squad. He told me I was given an opportunity rare among all Americans to become an officer of Marines and if I were successful I would be leading the finest fighting men in the world. That was the end of it. As it turned out, I am extremely proud that I was able to fight as an officer of Marines. It was my privilege.”
Becoming an officer changed his world, to put it mildly.
Owen was a second lieutenant in command of a mortar platoon when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Later Owen was at the Chosin Reservoir, the site of one of the iconic battles of Marine Corps history. Seventeen Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that saw 10 divisions of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the 1st Marine Division. The Marines were forced to withdraw, but not before inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese.
“Our Marines beat the enemy, position by position, with no safety margin and under heavy fire because the enemy could see everything we did,” he said. “So we had to keep our guys moving in the heavy snow and cold. The fatigue factor is serious. The guys forced themselves to keep going because they had to keep going, first for survival and because that was their nature. That’s the fighting spirit of Marine riflemen. That’s how we beat them.”
“When were fighting in the cold, we couldn’t dig holes in the ground. It was completely frozen,” Owen remembers. “So we would take Chinese bodies, stack ’em up and that would be our position. The sons of bitches would come at us and keep coming and keep going down and they would be piled up, running over each other to get at us. The sons of bitches would never stop, so we had to keep on killing them. Can you imagine that?”
If not for the victory at the Chosin Reservoir, the entire U.S. X Corps, nearly 200,000 troops and civilians, would have been lost and maybe then the entire U.N. effort in Korea. The 1st Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation for their tenacity. The fighting was often close and brutal.
“We never figured out why, but when we go in close, it’d be a fight with grenades,” Owen said. “We had fragmentation grenades. They had concussion grenades. So we would toss frags at ’em and kill ’em and they’d throw theirs at us and stun us. I got hit by one of those things one time. It blew me up in the air and I came back down, I didn’t know where the hell I was. Well, that’s when they broke through. Fortunately, I had my bayonet on my carbine, and I just turned around and the leader of the Chinese ran right into my bayonet and I couldn’t get the thing out. The poor son of a bitch just struggled there. We both went down. I couldn’t get my weapon out. So I picked up his weapon and from there on in it was a fight with rifle butts. I was swinging that thing and knocking ’em out, one by one.”
In Owen’s mind, the confidence enlisted Marines have in their leaders is what sets Marines apart. Lieutenants are the first line of that confidence in combat. This is why Owen calls Korea a lieutenant’s war.
“You have to be visible. Anyone who stands up under enemy fire… that takes balls. You become a target and the sons of bitches try to kill you and you have to return fire or move forward. You gotta keep the men going, give ’em direction, let them know you’re moving with them.”
This spirit was embodied in Chew Een-Lee, the Marine Corps’ first Chinese-American officer, who served with Owen.
“A guy like that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Owen says of Lee. “If you spent time with him it was rewarding. It lasts forever. We said things to each other that can only be stories, experiences that you talk about and you think son of a bitch, I should have done that.”
Lee died on March 3, 2014 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Owen gave the eulogy at his funeral.
“He was a conceited, self-centered sonofabitch but he was my pal,” Owen said. “We had some classic arguments. What I say about him may not be entirely complimentary, but it was a great experience to know him. And when you think of it, that’s better.”
“He and I and another guy named McCluskey, we used to get together to talk about combat leadership,” Owen recalls. “Chinese officers were very emphatic, screaming and yelling at their people to keep on going. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill the foot soldier who didn’t move forward. They had no feeling for the men who got killed under their command. In contrast, every time I lost a man, I felt as though I lost a son. Even though I was only 23-24 years old. I just felt my men trusted me and were entrusted to me. I had to bring them forward with care – to be damn sure that they were in a position where they could effectively use their weapon and defend themselves.”
He never felt sympathy for the enemies at the reservoir, but he remembers the Chinese differently from the North Koreans.
“They were trying to kill me,” Owen says. “I didn’t forget that. Anyone trying to kill me, I’m gonna kill them.”
Owen was injured at the Chosin Reservoir; doctors almost amputated his arm, but his verve convinced them he would survive his injuries without losing his arm.
“When I woke up at the Naval Hospital near Tokyo, I was in an examination room, and I see several doctors looking at X-rays on a light panel,” he said. “One of them says ‘we don’t have any choice, we have to amputate.’ I figured some poor son of a bitch is gonna lose something. I look around, and mind you I just came out of the morphine, and I see I’m the only guy in there. I figure they’re gonna cut something off me. So I yelled out fuck you. In my head I had to go back up on line with my men. If I lost parts, I can’t go back up. That saved it. The spirit saved my arm.”
He did lose full use of the limb and was soon discharged from the service, but Owen’s life didn’t stop there. He credits his longevity to the same spirit that kept his men going and saved his arm.
“If I could muster Baker 1-7 today, I would tell them we’re alive because you kept fighting,” he said. “You were invincible. You maintained the fighting spirit. You went through one of the most difficult fights ever experienced by American fighting men and you damn well held the line. You became the best goddamn rifle company in the Marine Corps.”
From foreign ports to polar explorations, life at sea is an adventure.
Out of all the service branches, the Navy requires the most traveling from its troops. Life at sea is anything but boring and the foreign port visits with your best friends are worth the long stretches of isolation.
Here are 27 amazing photos of life at sea:
1. Sailors conduct a swim call.
2. USS Green Bay conducts amphibious operations.
3. USS Germantown conducts an amphibious assault exercise.
The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.
That 1983 “war scare” was spurred by a large-scale US military exercise in Eastern Europe called Able Archer that the Soviets apparently believed was part of allied preparation for a real war.
The Soviet military mobilized in response.
US-Soviet relations had definitely plunged in the early 1980s, but since then experts have debated how close the US and Soviets had come to the abyss during Able Archer.
Had the Soviets really believed Able Archer was preparation for a preemptive strike? Was the intensifying rhetoric of high-ranking Soviet leaders in the run-up to Able Archer meant for domestic consumption, or was it a reflection of actual fears? Was the 1983 Soviet military mobilization intended as internal and external political messaging, or as sincere preparation for war?
Most important, would the Soviets ever have struck first — and were their conditions for a first strike close to being satisfied during Able Archer?
Its conclusions are chilling, even 32 years later.
It turns out the Soviets believed the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. The US fell victim to the inverse error and didn’t think the Soviets were serious about preparing for war, partly because they didn’t think the Soviets thought the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. As a result, US military and intelligence decision-makers didn’t believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening during Able Archer.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Following are the main findings in the report.
The Soviet leadership and intelligence agencies thought the US was planning to fight and win a nuclear war. In the early 1980s, in response to a US nuclear-modernization drive, “Soviet analysts calculated that the US intended [new generations of ballistic missiles] as a means for developing a first-strike force.” The Soviets may also have “calculated that NATO’s decision to field 600 Pershing IIs and cruise missiles was not to counter their SS-20 [intermediate-range missile] force, but yet another step towards a first-strike capability.”
The report documents how this fear of an American first-strike morphed into a kind of corrosive conventional wisdom. In 1981, the KGB formally sent out instructions to monitor possible NATO war preparations, noting that it is “of special importance to discover the adversaries’ concrete plans and measures linked with his preparation for a surprise nuclear-missile attack on the USSR and other Soviet countries.”
The report flatly states that “KGB bosses seemed already convinced that US war plans were real.”
“KGB officers in [Moscow] agreed that the United States might initiate a nuclear strike if it achieved a level of overall strength markedly greater than that of the Soviet Union. And many agreed that events were leading in that direction,” the report added.
In reality, the US was never contemplating a first-strike. One of the more worrying aspects for the Able Archer incident, in the report’s view, is that “Soviet leaders, despite our open society, might be capable of a fundamental misunderstanding of US strategic motives.”
The Soviets realized they were becoming weaker and thought they’d probably lose the nuclear war they believed the US might be planning. Once the Soviets started thinking in terms of a possible nuclear war, they began to realize they didn’t stand much of a chance of winning it.
As the report states, “There was common concern that the Soviet domestic situation, as well as Moscow’s hold on Eastern Europe, was deteriorating, further weakening Soviet capacity to compete strategically with the US.”
Moscow was in a seemingly weak position for a number of reasons, including an economic slowdown, political unrest in Soviet-dominated Poland, the deployment of the Pershings to Eastern Europe, and the diplomatic fallout from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Intriguingly, the report describes a Soviet computer system that analyzed thousands of strategic variables to determine the Soviet Union’s strength relative to the US. The Soviet leadership would reportedly consider a preemptive nuclear strike if the computer ever found that Soviet power had fallen to 40% or below of US power. It reached 45% at points during the run-up to Able Archer.
The Soviets also determined that growing US missile strength would decimate the Soviet nuclear capabilities in a first strike to the point that a second strike would soon become ineffectual or even impossible. As this chart from the report demonstrates, the adversaries’ nuclear strike capabilities were drifting ever further apart:
The Soviets responded by moving to cut the launch preparation time of second strike nuclear platforms like submarines and battleships from several hours to just 20 or 30 minutes. After a point, second-strike nuclear missions became the primary focus of Soviet bomber-crew training, according to the report. In the conventional realm, the Soviets began calling up reservists, sending Spetsnaz paramilitaries to the Eastern European front line, deploying nuclear-capable artillery pieces in Eastern Europe, and even converting tractor factories for tank production.
In the psychological realm, Soviet leaders grew paranoid, realizing the balance of power that had defined their country’s entire strategic outlook would soon be a thing of the past.
It was in this context that the US’s Able Archer exercise began in November 1983.
There were some odd things about Able Archer, and the Soviets’ response to it.The Soviets’ concern about Able Archer is understandable, at least in the context of their lager paranoia. Able Archer included the airlift of tens of thousands of US troops to Central European front-line areas. The operation had a notable nuclear component to it as well.
“We are told that some US aircraft practiced the nuclear warhead handling procedures, including taxiing out of hangars carrying realistic-looking dummy warheads,” the report states.
The Soviets responded as if war was imminent. As the National Security Archive summary of the document puts it, “Warsaw Pact military reactions to Able Archer 83 were … ‘unparalleled in scale’ and included ‘transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to delivery units by helicopter,’ suspension of all flight operations except intelligence collection flights from 4 to 10 November, ‘probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat.'”
In the US, everybody missed everything. The Soviets were serious about preparing for a possible impending nuclear war, and the US didn’t even know it.
Soviet activities around the “war scare” didn’t make a single presidential daily briefing. The US military realized the Soviets were at a higher state of alert but didn’t change their defense posture in response. Two later intelligence community reports on the incident also misinterpreted Soviet actions.
Indeed, one of the heroes of the war scare is Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, the US Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Europe during Able Archer. Perroots did nothing to change the US military’s alert status or readiness even as the Soviets were acting on a deep-seated fear of a possible US first strike. This, of course, was because Perroots wasn’t receiving any intelligence suggesting this fear was underlying Soviet mobilizations. The US had missed just about every clue.
The report calls Perroots’ inertia “fortuitous, if ill-informed.” Had the US military changed its operating procedure in Eastern Europe, it would only have escalated tensions and enhanced the chances of an accidental war.
The phrase “fortuitous, if ill-informed” sums up the entire 1983 war scare. The two sides misunderstood the other’s intentions, actions — indeed, their entire worldview — so badly that war nearly broke out.
The superpowers created a situation where simply doing nothing was an unwitting and perhaps civilization-rescuing act of courage.
In the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp ran a tight ship at home. He also ran a tight ship at sea, commanding two U-Boats for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. By the war’s end, he was the most decorated naval officer in Austria-Hungary.
Looking at the life and family of Captain Baron Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp through the lens of the Sound of Music alone, you’d never know this man spent WWI on a u-boat that spewed poisonous fumes to its crew or that he sank tons of allied shipping in the Mediterranean — killed hundreds of enemy sailors — and was basically the best thing Austria-Hungary had going for it.
Aside from the 14 ships sank and one captured during his World War I service, he led Austria’s troops during the Boxer Rebellion in China, circumnavigated the globe twice, and saw his navy switch from sails to steam to diesel engines over the course of his career. At the war’s end in 1918, von Trapp’s record stood at 19 war patrols taking 11 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk, two enemy warships sunk, and one captured.
U-5 was just 100 feet long but packed a terrible punch, with just a crew of 19 and four torpedoes.
Command of U-5
Captain von Trapp conducted nine combat patrols in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and most of them were full of action. He got his first kill just two weeks after taking command of U-5, sinking the French cruiser Leon Gambetta off the coast of Italy. 12,000 tons and 684 sailors went to the bottom. Four months later, he sank the Italian submarine Nereide.
For his command during the sinking of the Leon Gambetta, von Trapp was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Austria’s highest military award.
U-14 in the Adriatic.
Command of U-14
His next command was a reclaimed French submarine that was upgraded and modernized. He was the bane of British and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean, sinking 11 more enemy vessels. He earned a knighthood and then became a Baron for his service in Austria’s navy for his actions in World War I.
That’s one helluva way to start a naval career.
Training, Circumnavigation, and China service
He trained in the Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy through the Maritime-Academy at Fiume in what is today Croatia, starting his career on sailing ships, going around the earth on the corvette SMS Saida II. He returned to Austria and joined the crew of the SMS Zenta, an iron steamship, in 1897. By 1899, the crew of the Zenta was fully engaged in China, part of the eight-nation alliance sent to relieve the foreign legation in Peking from the siege of the Chinese Boxers.
Georg was one of the seamen detached to the alliance to take one of the Taku Forts. The Austrian helped assault Fort Pei Tang with 8500 others in the multinational force. Many were killed in the bloody fighting but the allies took the fort and went on to relieve the legation in Peking.
Unfortunately for Capt. von Trapp, World War I did not end well for Austria-Hungary and he soon found himself out of a job, seeing as how the new Austria was landlocked and had no use for a Navy – and he was no about to become a Nazi just to command a ship. So he trained his children to perform and took them on tour, eventually settling down and starting the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.
After World War II, he founded Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. to help aid the recovery of Austria and Austrians from the war’s devastation.
Some of the lore around “Old Blood n’ Guts” Patton is common knowledge: He carried distinctive ivory-handled revolvers, he believed in reincarnation, and he infamously slapped two of his soldiers who were suffering from “battle fatigue.” But here are a few things you might not have known about “Old Blood n’ Guts.”
1. He was a terrible student at West Point
The man who would become one of America’s greatest fighting generals struggled during his first year at the U.S. Military Academy. He had to repeat his plebe year because he failed mathematics. He worked with a tutor for the rest of his time there, graduating 46th in a class of 103.
2. He predicted the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor
Patton served in Hawaii before World War II as the G-2 (intelligence) on the General Staff. He watched the rise of Japanese militancy in the Pacific, especially their aggression against the Chinese. In 1935, he wrote a paper called “Surprise” that predicted the Japanese attack on the U.S. islands with what one biographer called “chilling accuracy.”
3. He was an Olympic athlete
The first-ever modern pentathlon was held at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The event is comprised of fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, and cross-country running. Patton placed fifth in the competition and was the only non-Swede to place.
4. He designed the sword his cavalry troops would use
After the Olympics, he studied fencing in France at the French Cavalry School near Saumur. Based on his training there, he not only redesigned the saber fighting style for the U.S. Army, he also designed a new sword to fit the doctrine. His new sword was built for thrusting over slashing attacks and was designated the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber.
5. He awarded a chaplain a Bronze Star for composing a prayer
During the Battle of the Bulge, Patton’s Third Army was tasked to relieve the 101st Airborne, who were surrounded in Bastogne. He asked chaplain James Hugh O’Neill to compose a prayer for good weather that would help the Third Army get to Bastogne and to air cover while en route. Here’s the prayer:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”
When the weather did clear, Patton pinned the Bronze Star on O’Neill personally.
6. He was sickened by the sight of a concentration camp
The Ohrdruf concentration camp was one in the string of Buchenwald camps. It was also the first such camp liberated by U.S. troops, on April 4, 1945. Eight days later, Eisenhower toured the camp with Patton and General Omar Bradley. Ike wrote in his diary:
The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so.
Patton described it as “one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen.”
7. He was the first general to integrate his riflemen
The general’s main source of inspiration for his men came from his ability to address them in speech. He demanded a lot from his soldiers, no matter what color they were. Addressing on tank battalion he said the following:
“Men, you are the first Negro tankers ever to fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good. I have nothing but the best in my army. I don’t care what color you are, so long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches! Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don’t let them down and, damn you, don’t let me down!”
8. He was No. 3 when Eisenhower ranked his generals
To Ike, Bradley was a planner of the success in Europe, Patton simply executed that plan.
9. The Germans admired him more than the British
The nicest thing most generals from Britain had to say about Patton was that he was good for operations requiring lighting thrusts but at a loss in any operation requiring skill and judgment.
Conversely, the German High Command (as well as the Free French) thought Patton one of the ablest generals of the American Army. German Generals Erwin Rommel, Albert Kesselring, and Alfred Jodl are all known to have remarked to other on Patton’s brilliance on the battlefield.
More than a century after a mining magnate and a wealthy socialite deeded 400 acres in Los Angeles for the care of old soldiers, the property hosts wine tastings, a college baseball stadium, a commercial laundry, golf course and several other enterprises that have nothing to do with wounded warriors — but that injustice soon could be corrected.
Following a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless veterans and the descendants of Arcadia de Baker, the wealthy widow of two powerful landowners, a plan to return the valuable parcel to the service of veterans is due next month. The Department of Veterans Affairs, working with a specially appointed committee, will honor the intentions of Baker and John Percival Jones, a silver baron, one-time U.S. senator from Nevada and founder of Santa Monica, when they left the land to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1888.
“The misuse of the West Los Angeles campus is particularly offensive because of that donation,” David Sapp, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, told FoxNews.com.
While the property did serve as a refuge for tens of thousands of veterans scarred in battles ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War, something changed in the 1970s. There was no shortage of wounded veterans, yet the VA emptied out the sprawling grounds known as the West Los Angeles Campus and began renting property out for all sorts of uses that had nothing to do with veteran care.
“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans. It was a different era with different wounds but that goal should remain exactly the same.”
– Jim Strickland, VAWatchdog.org
“Not only were the local VA officials not using the land to house homeless vets, but they were actually affirmatively misusing the property by entering into these private-use agreements that had nothing to do with healthcare, housing or otherwise serving veterans,” said Sapp.
Critics believe the land’s prime location in the tony Brentwood area, nestled by the Santa Monica Mountains and neighboring Beverly Hills, played a role in the ouster of veterans. While a mental health facility may have been perceived as detrimental to soaring property values, Sapp said it also was in part due to the VA’s move away from operating permanent housing for veterans.
The ACLU sued the VA in 2011, and, earlier this year, forced the government agency to restore the land to its intended use. VA Secretary Bob McDonald declined to pursue an appeal, despite pressure from third parties including UCLA, whose baseball stadium occupies 20 acres.
Although the VA has not revealed any accounting, critics estimate the VA reaped as much as $40 million over the decades leasing the land out for such uses as a hotel laundry facility, storage for a movie studio, car rental companies, oil companies and a parking lot for public school buses. The rolling acreage also has hosted everything from golf tournaments and musical performances to wine-tasting and gala benefits.
Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles – the nation’s largest population of homeless and veterans with disabilities – has grown to an estimated 8,000.
The legal settlement involved the establishment of a specialized team of residents, veteran service organizations and elected officials to develop a master re-development plan. Out of that, the nonprofit organization called Vets Advocacy was formed to partner with the West LA VA chapter and ensure veterans’ voices were heard.
They’re still in need of input and ideas – thus both veterans and civilians are being urged to participate in Vets Advocacy’s online survey “VA the Right Way.” A deadline has been set for this coming Oct. 15, in which representatives will present a preliminary proposal subject to public comment.
Some former service members have called for a center specializing in issues pertaining to female veterans, and others have proposed a reintegration center and “one-stop shop” for all needs and questions. Alternate suggestions have included long-term and sustainable veteran housing, a work center for disabled veteran-owned businesses and even a holistic center in which a veteran doesn’t necessarily need to be sick, but can visit with friends and family.
Richard Valdez, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient appointed liaison for the major Veteran Service Organizations on the project, stressed that the intended outcome is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all veterans, and meeting long-term needs as demographics change.
In a town hall meeting to address veteran homelessness in Long Beach last week, McDonald, who took the leadership role in July 2014, reaffirmed his commitment to ending veteran homelessness in LA.
“This is a top priority for us. We can’t do this from Washington alone,” McDonald said, adding that various local partnerships and veteran voices were a necessity.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately offer comment on past or future land-use plans. But Jim Strickland, founder of advocacy group VAWatchdog.org, said the whole debacle comes as no surprise.
“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans,” he said. “It was a different era with different wounds, but that goal should remain exactly the same.”
The Medal of Honor is well-known as the U.S. military’s highest honor for acts of valor in the face of the enemy. It is bestowed for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
It’s kind of a big deal.
Created in 1861 as a Navy medal, there have been 3,513 Medals of Honor bestowed, with roughly half going to veterans of the U.S. Civil War. The medal is generally given only to U.S. military members, but in the history of the United States, eight civilians have received the honor for their actions on the battlefield.
A purge of Medal of Honor recipients in 1917 stripped the eight of their awards (with a total of 911 previous awardees) after Congress tightened the rules. Seven were restored in 1989, and one more in 1977.
“Buffalo Bill” Cody
In 1872, Buffalo Bill was a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. He received the medal for gallantry in combat after leading a cavalry charge against a band of Sioux warriors. He killed two of the warriors, recovered their horses, and then chased them off the battlefield. His medal was restored in 1989.
Amos Chapman Billy Dixon
Chapman was also a civilian scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. He was a half-Native who also worked as an interpreter. While working with Lt. Frank Baldwin out of Fort Dodge, he and another civilian scout, Billy Dixon, along with four soldiers, were confronted by a joint force of more than a hundred Comanche and Kiowa warriors. The six retreated to a buffalo wallow, essentially a mid-sized hole in the ground. On the way there, Dixon was injured, so Chapman picked him up and carried him to the defensive position. He stopped to fight off attackers on occasion, but was shot in the leg a quarter mile from the wallow. He dragged himself and Dixon the rest of the way to the wallow. The six held out until weather forced the enemy withdrawal, three days later.
Another civilian scout during the Indian Wars, Dozier was awarded the honor for gallantry at the Little Wichita River, Texas in 1870. Dozier and another scout tracked a band of the Keechi to Bluff Creek. Dozier fired down on the Keechi from a higher position, wounding Chief Keesh-Kosh. Noticing that U.S. soldiers below were exposed to direct fire from a band of Keechi on a hillside, Dozier mounted his horse and attacked the band by himself. Dozier suffered serious injuries when his horse was shot out from under him, but was credited with the campaign’s success.
Ferrell was a civilian in the service of the Union Navy during the Civil War. While acting as a Navy pilot near Nashville, Tennessee, an engagement with Confederates saw the flag of their ship, the Neosho, shot down. Ferrel and the ship’s quartermaster ran through the enemy fire to reraise the flag.
Another U.S. Navy civilian in service to the Union during the Civil War, Freeman was at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama. He was the pilot of the Union Flagship. He piloted the Navy’s ships into the bay under “terrific” enemy fire, from Fort Morgan, the CSS Tennessee, and a flotilla of Confederate gunboats. The boats were captured, the Tennessee surrendered, and the Fort’s guns were silenced.
Mary Edwards Walker
Walker received her Medal of Honor recommendation from General William Tecumseh Sherman himself. She worked as a contract surgeon at the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chattanooga, and Chickamauga. During battles, she would frequently cross enemy lines and treat civilians. Throughout the war, she was contracted as a surgeon by the Army of the Cumberland, the 52d Ohio Infantry, and the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, D.C. She would be arrested by the Confederacy as a spy in 1864 and spend four months as a POW. She received the Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson, and refused to give it back when Congress erased her award. She died two years later. President Jimmy Carter restored her status in 1977.
William H. Woodall
Woodall was a civilian employee of the Union Army during the Civil War. At the Battle of Namozine Church, while riding as a scout with Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps, Woodall was with a group of scout spies dressed in Confederate uniforms when they captured Confederate General Rufus Barringer. Woodall captured the general’s headquarter’s flag.