The 2006 battle for Ramadi was one of the fiercest fights during the Iraq War.
Fear and grief were never an option for the soldiers, Marines, and Navy SEALs putting their lives on the line for control of the Al Anbar provincial capital. The fighting was intense; every troop had to remain focused and alert to stay alive.
The Defense Department announced Dec. 30 a renewed effort to ensure veterans are aware of the opportunity to have their discharges and military records reviewed, according to a DOD news release.
Through enhanced public outreach; engagement with veterans’ service organizations, military service organizations, and other outside groups; as well as direct outreach to individual veterans, the department encourages all veterans who believe they have experienced an error or injustice to request relief from their service’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board, the release said.
With Friday’s announcement, the department is reaffirming its intention to review and potentially upgrade the discharge status of all individuals who are eligible and who apply, the release said.
Additionally, all veterans, VSOs, MSOs, and other interested organizations are invited to offer feedback on their experiences with the BCM/NR or DRB processes, including how the policies and processes can be improved, the release said.
In the past few years, the department has issued guidance for consideration of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its predecessor policies, the release said. Additionally, supplemental guidance for separations involving victims of sexual assault is currently being considered.
The department is reviewing and consolidating all of the related policies to reinforce the department’s commitment to ensuring fair and equitable review of separations for all veterans, the release said.
Whether the discharge or other correction is the result of PTSD, sexual orientation, sexual assault, or some other consideration, the department is committed to rectifying errors or injustices and treating all veterans with dignity and respect.
Veterans are encouraged to apply for review if they desire a correction to their service record or believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade.
The men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment spearheaded one of the American columns that invaded Iraq on Feb. 23, 1991. After three days of light fighting they stumbled into one of the largest Iraqi armored formations and annihilated it with cannons, TOW missiles and mortars in the Battle of 73 Easting, often called “the last great tank battle of the 20th century.”
Then-Capt. (now Lt. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR, literally wrote the book on the battle and commanded one of the lead elements in the fight.
Helicopters buzzed over Eagle Troop as the ground invasion of Iraq began on Feb. 23. The mission of the 2nd ACR was simple in theory but would be challenging to achieve. They were to cut off Iraqi retreat routes out of Kuwait and destroy the large armored formations thought to be hiding in the flat, featureless desert.
The empty desert could be challenging to navigate since there were no features to use for direction. Heavy rains and windstorms limited visibility as the tanks and other vehicles felt their way through the desert.
Fox troop made contact first, destroying a few enemy tanks. Over the next couple of days, 2nd Squadron tanks and vehicles would encounter enemy observation and scout vehicles and destroy them with missiles and cannons, but they couldn’t find the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions they knew were dug somewhere into the desert.
In the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1991, McMaster was pushing his troop through a sandstorm when he crested a rise and there, directly in front of him, was an entire division of Iraqi tanks with elite crews. Finding himself already in range of the enemy, he immediately gave the order to fire.
The enemy had parked themselves away from the slight rise so that they would be hidden and so incoming American tanks would be forced to drive down the hill towards them. This exposed the relatively weak top armor of the tank to the Iraqi guns.
But the Iraqis had lost most of their scout vehicles and so were just as surprised as the U.S. commanders when the two armored forces clashed, leaving them unable to capitalize on their position.
McMaster’s opening salvo set the tone for the battle. His first shot was a HEAT round that destroyed a tank cowering behind a berm. His second shot, a depleted uranium sabot shell, shot through an Iraqi tank that was swiveling to fire on him. As his crew targeted a third enemy, the driver realized they were driving through a minefield and began taking evasive action.
Enemy rounds began falling around the lead tank as the two tank platoons in Eagle Troop got on line to join the fight. Nine American tanks were now bearing down on the Iraqi positions, destroying enemy T-72s and armored vehicles. As McMaster described it in his first summary of the battle:
The few seconds of surprise was all we had needed. Enemy tanks and BMP’s (Soviet-made armored personnel carriers) erupted in innumerable fire balls. The Troop was cutting a five kilometer wide swath of destruction through the enemy’s defense.
The Bradley fighting vehicles joined the tanks, firing TOW missiles at the enemy armor and using their guns to cut down Iraqi infantry. Mortar and artillery support opened up, raining fire onto the remaining Iraqi positions.
The American forces cut down 30 tanks, 14 armored vehicles, and hundreds of infantrymen before reaching their limit of advance, the line they were originally told to halt at. But McMaster ordered the troop to continue attacking, fearful that the Iraqis would be able to regroup and wage a strong counterattack.
At 23 minutes since first contact, McMaster declared it safe to halt his troop’s advance. The single armored troop had crippled the Iraqi flank with zero casualties. One American tank from the 2nd Squadron headquarters had received light damage from a mine.
Near the Eagle Troop position, Ghost, Killer, and Iron troops were mixing it up other Iraqi units and trying to catch up to Eagle. The enemy made a few half-hearted attempts at counter-attacking the U.S. tanks, but they were quickly rebuffed.
That night, the U.S. called on the Iraqi’s to surrender and it was answered by droves of troops. About 250 survivors surrendered to Eagle Troop.
Up and down the U.S. lines, the story was similar to that of Eagle Troop. The Iraqis suffered nearly 1,000 casualties, 85 tanks destroyed, 40 armored vehicles destroyed, 30 wheeled-vehicles lost, and two artillery batteries annihilated. The U.S. suffered 12 men killed, 57 men wounded, and 32 vehicles destroyed or damaged.
Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.
1. Margarita Neri – Mexico
Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.
She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.
After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.
After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.
2. Marie Marvingt – France
If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.
When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.
In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.
During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.
3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey
Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.
As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.
Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.
She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.
4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)
Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.
In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”
By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.
She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”
Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.
Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.
Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.
All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.
Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.
Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.
In the shadowy world of nuclear operations, seconds count. America’s nuclear warriors train daily to deliver awesome firepower in less time than it takes to microwave a slice of pizza.
The United States introduced the atomic bomb in 1945. The Soviet Union followed suit in 1948. An arms race ensued, with each side trying to top each other in destructive power. The nuclear triad, a triumvirate of submarines, bombers, and long-range missiles, was the pinnacle of that arms race.
The name of the game in nuclear strategy is survivability. And that’s what the triad was designed to achieve. Quiet submarines can hide beneath the waves. Bombers can escape to the skies in the event of an incoming attack. And hardened intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs, are so numerous it would require a massive nuclear first-strike to neutralize all of them.
So what does it take to unleash nuclear hell? The massive power lies in the hands of one man, the President of the United States. It’s a responsibility that Harry Truman, who ordered the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said was the most difficult of his Presidency.
In the entire United States military, nowhere is the chain of command thinner than the nuclear command and control network. In a normal military unit, there are two dozen degrees of separation between the National Command Authority and the warfighter. In the shadowy world of nuclear operations, there’s perhaps 2 or 3. When the decision is made, the order shoots like a bolt from the blue to bomber, missile, and submarine crews. When they launch, only the bomber crews have the option of recall.
President Kennedy lamented the responsibility. He thought it “insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization.”
After the US-Soviet arms race hit its apogee during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy reportedly asked a few common sense, but insightful, questions about the nuclear chain of command. He wanted to know how he would order the Pentagon to launch a nuclear strike. And he was curious how nuclear crews would know the order came from the President.
The answer became one of the most visible signs of the President’s authority, the nuclear football. It’s a briefcase carried by a rotating cast of President’s military aides, officers from each service handpicked for their competency.
The football’s small size, power, and mystery have created something of a mythos around the non-descript briefcase. The term “finger on the button” has become synonymous with awesome responsibility. And the assumption is that the football has a big red button inside, one where the President hits when he wants to unleash Armageddon.
The reality isn’t nearly as sexy. The football is in some ways like many briefcases. It holds documents. The term football came from the original nuclear war plan, code-named Dropkick by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The thinking was that in order to execute a dropkick, you need a football.
The contents are highly classified. But former military aides have revealed a few key details about the football’s mysterious contents. It contains, most importantly, the authentication codes to America’s atomic arsenal. Those authenticators are the classified realm’s holiest of the holy, quite literally the keys to the nuclear kingdom. The briefcase also contains a menu of retaliatory options for the President. Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to nuclear war than a massive retaliatory blow. Whether to hit big or hit small is the President’s alone.
Along with the football, the President carries with him a small identification card with a series of codes on it. The codes verify his identity, and must accompany the football’s authenticators and war plans when ordering a nuclear strike.
Almost every President has a football fumble. During LBJ’s tenure, a military aide was stunned when he discovered six months’ worth of changes to nuclear procedures were not in the briefcase. When Reagan was shot, his special identification card was stuck in a small plastic hospital bag along with his other personal effects. George HW Bush once left his military aide (and associated football) behind after a tennis match. So did President Clinton. His military aide had to spring several blocks back to the White House, football in tow.
During the heyday of the Cold War, the Soviets also had a small satchel that accompanied the General Secretary. The Russian version had an electronic device that generated an unlock code. During the 1991 coup, conspirators seized both the Russian football and Gorbachev’s aide. The device was reportedly sabotaged by loyal officers during the coup, leaving the fading Soviet Union without access to their nuclear forces.
In America’s case, the invention of nuclear weapons created an anomaly in US history. The Presidency was devised to operate under a series of checks and balances. It was the Founding Father’s way of restraining executive power. Nuclear launch authority has no such check and no such restraint. The power is the President’s alone, and today remains perhaps the most awesome responsibility in history.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released an incendiary video this week, describing the “humiliation” the U.S. would experience if it were to invade Iran. The video reminds the viewer of the protracted American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Hezbollah’s perceived “victory” over Israel in 2006.
The video is as meaningful as any propaganda produced by any government – dubious at best. Iran has never started a war in the modern era. Its standing orders are to never launch a first strike and the success of the Iranian nuclear deal means we will likely not go to war with Iran anytime soon.
That does not keep Iran from trolling the United States more than any country, group, or individual (and we tend to remember that kind of sh*t talk).
Iran is the industrial, military, and economic Shia counterweight to Saudi Arabia, the preeminent Sunni monarchy in the Middle East. Iran considers the Middle East their backyard: sending money, weapons, and supplies to Shia Islamic groups in neighboring countries in an attempt to destabilize or undermine the Sunni (or secular) leadership there.
The Islamic Republic is currently projecting power all over the region, well beyond the borders of the old Persian Empire: they assist Houthi rebels in Yemen, fund and supply paramilitary organizations like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon as well as others, all fighting Sunni paramilitary organizations funded by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, such as the al-Nusra Front. These Iranian-funded and Saudi-funded groups both fought U.S. troops during the Iraq War (though likely not side-by-side). The goal is to keep the fighting there, and not in Iran.
Those are the bare basics of the Sunni-Shia religious civil war everyone is always talking about. The promise of military support from the United States is one of the pillars of Saudi (and global oil market) security. Israel is the U.S.’ eternal ally. America has made promises in to fight ISIS in the region, alongside (but not with) Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, Syrian rebels, and Sunni-funded al-Qaeda groups. Now the Russians are sending more advisors and weapons to the Asad regime (which is also an Iranian client state). All this means we could be right back to where we started.
The nuclear deal also doesn’t rule out a military strike from Israel. Israel has long depended on security and defense guarantees from the United States and is not averse to starting wars with countries it deems a threat to their long-term survival. As an added bonus, Israel already has nuclear weapons.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government depends on a motley mixture of right-wing political parties and ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, who are convinced Iranian leaders want to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, despite the fact that this phrase is a misquote from a bad translation.
And a surprise from Israel is not unheard of.
Much of Iran’s military hardware predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the resulting arms embargo. Because of that embargo, a lot of the Iranian defense industry is homegrown, which means the Iranians are not limited to arms deals with foreign powers.
They can build their own tanks, fighters, and subs. Anything not built in Iran or coming from Russia is likely aging very poorly. Overall defense spending is relatively minuscule, especially in comparison to the GCC.
Keep in mind, U.S. defense spending wouldn’t even fit on the scale above.
Iran has about a half million troops on active duty, not including the 125,000 in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. As the name suggests, the IRGC are the most devoted members of the Iranian military. All Iranian forces take men as young as 18, but the Basij Forces (meaning “Mobilization of the Oppressed”) will take a male as young as 15.
The Basij mainly acted as human minesweepers and led human wave attacks to great effect during the Iran-Iraq War.
The Iranian conventional forces have 4 branches: The Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA), Navy (IRIN), Air Force (IRIAF), and Air Defense Force (IRIADF). Iran’s conventional military are considered “severely limited, relying heavily on obsolescent and low quality weaponry.”
The IRIA has a large tank force of over 1600 but as with other materiel, it’s aging rapidly. They are able to make their own tanks (the most recent based on the design of the M47M Patton), but not in significant numbers and the U.S. has effective anti-armor tactics.
The Iranian Air Force is currently inconsequential. 60 percent of it was purchased by the Shah before he was forced into exile in 1979 and then augmented by Iraqi fighter pilots fleeing to Iran during Desert Storm. It’s a mess, a mishmash of American, Russian, and Chinese planes with some homemade ones thrown in the mix.
The lack of spare parts for these planes caused the development of a robust aerospace industry in Iran, along with their own fighter planes, which the Iranians say can evade radar (good thing the U.S. Air Force created the ultimate dogfighter). With the sanctions being lifted, the government is already putting feelers out to modernize their aging air forces.
The Iranian Navy and Missile forces are the most important branches in its arsenal. If a war ever did break out, Iran’s first tactic would likely be to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world economy.
The Air Defense Forces consists of ground-based air defenses, using American, Italian, and Chinese surface-to-air missiles, built on Chinese Radar and electronic warfare technology. The deployment and number of Iranian SAM and other Air Defense forces is not entirely known, but reports range from porous to a “significant issue.”
The Iranian Navy is traditionally the smallest branch, numbering some 18,000, including some 2,600 naval Marines, and 2,600 naval aviation forces (but has not carriers) and boasts naval elements from China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union. It has no capital ships and the bulk of its warships are corvettes and destroyers, all heavily armed with anti-ship missiles.
They dp have home-built frigates, however, with up-to-date radar systems, arms, and electronic warfare equipment as well as many helicopters, either Italian, French, or Russian built. They even have some captured from the United States after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw.
The IRIN is augmented with Chinese fast attack ships, Russian Kilo submarines, some home-grown midget submarines which act as torpedo ships and mine layers. The Iranian fleets of patrol boats, missile ships, and mine layers could close the Strait of Hormuz for up to ten days under full attack by the U.S. military.
Much of Iranian military spending is on thousands of missiles for air defense or for attacking ships in neighboring waters. The Iranian surface-to-air missile defense system is also a mixture of American, Russian, and Chinese weapons systems. The SAM system is considered “unlikely to pose a significant threat to American or Israeli aircraft as a long-range air-denial weapon.” The entire system is vulnerable to Stealth-equipped aircraft and would need to be advanced ballistic missile systems like the Russian S-300 (which Iran claims to have).
Here are the four weapons that would cause the most trouble for the U.S. military:
1. Ghadir Midget Submarines
Built with North Korean designs, the oldest finished in 2007, the Ghadir submarine fleet was designed to be sonar evading and carry a heavy load of torpedoes and Shkval rocket torpedoes, which travel through the water at more than 370 mph. The Ghadir submarines are produced by Iran in Iran and are unaffected by the arms embargoes. The Ghadir class can also fire anti-ship missiles at the same time.
2. Sejjil Missiles
Sejil missiles are a homemade, two-stage missile, capable of hitting targets from 2,000 km (almost 1,250 miles). No one knows the exact humber of missiles in the Iranian arsenal, but numbers are estimated in the hundreds and thousands.
The Sejil is another weapon the Iranians produce in Iran which is unlikely to be affected by sanctions or arms embargoes. The solid fuel allows a shorter prep time prior to launch and since they are launched from mobile units, a massive first strike from an attacking country is unlikely to neutralize the Sejil threat.
3. Khalij-e Fars Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile
This is also a self-produced weapon of Iranian design. The Khalij-e Fars Missile has a 350 kilometer range and delivers a payload similar to that of the Sejil missile. The homemade mobile missile also features the quickness of a solid fuel missile on a mobile launch system, but has the added benefit of being able to hit a maneuvering target (such as an aircraft carrier) within ten meters.
Uzi Rubin, the designer of the Israel’s Arrow missile defense system calls this Iranian missile “a total game changer.”
Hezbollah is no longer just a ragtag group of terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction. They are a legitimate political party in Lebanon, with a well-trained, well-equipped and well-funded paramilitary organization. They are trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the Islamic Republic’s special operations and unconventional warfare units, operating exclusively outside of Iran’s borders. The Quds Force was responsible for training most Shia militias to fight U.S. forces during the 2003-2011 Iraq War but also helped topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. They operate from North America to India and Scandinavia to Sub-Saharan Africa and answer directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran.
The United States considers the Quds Force and Hezbollah to be terror organizations. Hezbollah is currently bolstering the government forces of Bashar al-Asad in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Their primary opponents are ISIS and its affiliates.
Supporting the Asad government means Hezbollah is also fighting the Free Syrian Army, U.S.-backed “moderate” rebel groups, the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Hezbollah is such a capable force, they are able to project significant strength all the way into Iraq from its power base in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
It is important to remember that although the Iranian government’s extraterritorial forces have attacked U.S. forces and U.S. allies in the past, the Iranian state has never started an offensive war. Iranian military strategy is designed mainly for home defense and the direction of Quds Force operation is usually designed to keep potential threats to the Iranian regime fighting those forces as far away from Iran as possible.
Even a surgical strike against Iranian nuclear targets is likely to light the powder keg and trigger a greater regional war. A full-scale invasion of Iran would be necessary to forcefully curb the nuclear program. Iran is larger and more populous than Iraq and may require up to 75,000 troops to invade, could kill up to 15,000 U.S. troops and would cost $5.1 trillion. For the Iranians, troop casualties estimate from 300,000 to a million killed and up to 12 million people displaced. Even Israel’s own defense chiefs recommend against it. Only total war would keep Iran from getting the bomb if they wanted to.
A nuke is not what the Iranians were after. The regime’s best reason to obtain a nuclear weapon is to ensure the survival of the Revolutionary regime, for the government’s longevity to be more akin to North Korea’s rather than Ba’athist Iraq’s in the scope of the “Axis of Evil.” The Iran Deal gives the Ayatollah that longevity (and a lifting of greater sanctions) without having to expend the money and resources to build and secure a nuclear weapon, something it likely didn’t want to do in the first place.
And there’s more; you can also rent and fire .50 caliber rifles, machine guns, miniguns, and flamethrowers. Feel and see the destruction of an M134 minigun up close. At 6,000 rounds per-minute, it’s the ultimate machine gun.
The flame thrower may be banned as a weapon of war by the Geneva Conventions but you can check one out from this armory.
And if that’s not enough, they’ve also got anti-tank guns, artillery, and mortars. Fire an M2A1 light howitzer, the workhorse of towed American field artillery from World War II to the Vietnam War. You can physically reshape the ranch’s 18,000 acres with that kind of firepower.
Aside from all of these incredible adult toys, they’ve got a plethora of outdoor activities that include hunting, offroading, kayaking and more. But perhaps the most remarkable out of these activities is the park’s photo safari tour. They’ve got giraffes, zebras, scimitar oryx, and other free-ranging wildlife not native to Texas, let alone the rest of America.
This video shows the range of outdoor activities Ox Ranch offers on its 18,000 acres of Texas hill country property.
The U.S. Army is investigating allegations by a military researcher that the late Command Sgt. Major Basil Plumley — a legend in the airborne and infantry communities — wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated the wartime achievements that made him famous.
Plumley, who died Oct. 10, 2012 from cancer at the age of 92, was a major figure in the 1992 book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” coauthored by Joseph L. Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.
The book was moving account of the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War and the heroic fight that 450 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, put up against a superior force of 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers at LZ X-Ray.
Brian Siddall, an independent researcher whose father and uncle served during World War II — the latter as a paratrooper who was killed during the D-Day invasion of Europe — leveled the allegations against Plumley after an extensive study of his service records. He said he has been doing research for his website for the last decade.
“It’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he told Military.com. “My uncle was killed on June 6, 1944. He was a paratrooper in Company B of the 307th Airborne Engineers.”
Siddall added, “Even as a kid, I used to ask my father — because it was his kid brother — what happened to him, and he didn’t have an answer. And by the way, my dad was a navigator on a B-17 in World War II.”
His research into Plumley’s famed exploits in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II later prompted him to write two online articles in 2015 that show discrepancies between Plumley’s service records and the awards and actions he took credit for.
According to Siddall, who obtained Plumley’s service records, Plumley inflated his heroism in battle by wearing two Silver Stars and Bronze Star medals for valor in combat instead of wearing the single Silver Star he was awarded in Vietnam.
Plumley also exaggerated the number of Combat Infantry Badge awards he was authorized, Siddall maintains. The CIB is a sacred award only bestowed upon infantrymen for engaging in direct combat with the enemy.
In light of Siddall’s research, officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are investigating the allegations and are considering Siddall’s request to have the information on Plumley’s headstone corrected.
AN AIRBORNE LEGEND
In “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” Plumley is described as “a two war man and wore master parachutist wings with five combat-jump stars,” referring to Plumley’s service in World War II and the Korean War.
“Plumley had survived all four combat jumps of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: Sicily and Salerno in 1943, and then in 1944, D-Day at Normandy, and Market-Garden in the Netherlands,” according to the book. “For that matter, he also made one combat parachute jump in the Korean War, with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.”
In the 2002 Hollywood movie “We Were Soldiers,” Actor Mel Gibson, playing then Lt. Col. Moore, gave a similar description of Plumley, who was played by actor Sam Elliott.
Siddall argues Plumley’s records show that he served in 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a scout. Plumley was Glider, meaning he was an 82nd Airborne Division gliderman, not an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Siddall writes.
As a scout, Plumley’s job was to search out locations for emplacements for the 105mm guns, according to Siddall.
The 320th participated in two glider assaults in the European Theater, Siddall writes. Plumley’s first was on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy, he writes. Plumley’s second was for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 18, 1944, he writes. Plumley was shot in the hand the same day, according to copies of Army records in Siddall’s articles.
Glider operations in WWII were extremely dangerous. The plywood Waco and Horsa gliders presented larger targets to enemy ground fire and often crash landed, resulting in heavy casualties, according to historical sources.
Plumley was authorized to wear the glider badge and master parachutist wings, according to Army records. Plumley graduated a jump school set up by the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, Plumley’s records show.
But Plumley never served in Korea during the Korean War, so he couldn’t have participated in one of the two combat jumps of that conflict, according to Siddall’s research.
“When you look at his overseas assignments it speaks for itself,” he wrote. “Look where Plumley was between 1951 through 26 February 1953, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky then he went to Germany,” he wrote, adding that Plumley’s service records show him serving in Korea in 1972-73.
“When I spoke with him in July of 2011, he never claimed to have jumped out of an airplane in combat in WWII or any other wars,” Siddall writes. “He did talk briefly about that he jumped out of helicopters but never an airplane in wartime.”
Talking to Military.com, Siddall said, “We talked for seven minutes on Skype. I asked him about the four jumps and he laughed and said ‘no'” he had never jumped from a plane in combat.
The reason he got really interested in doing research on Plumley was after he noticing Galloway’s obituary on Plumley contained the same exaggerations about Plumley’s career, Siddall said.
The best-selling book and the Hollywood movie elevated Plumley to celebrity status long after his retirement from the Army in 1974.
A May 2010 photograph of Plumley appearing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in an Army Dress Blue uniform shows him wearing a Combat Infantry Badge with two stars — which means three CIB awards — one for WWII, one for the Korean War and one for the Vietnam War, Siddall maintains.
Plumley’s service records show he was only authorized to wear one CIB for his service in Vietnam, Siddall argues.
“When Plumley retired December 31, 1974 on his DD 214 he had 2 CIBs listed not three,” Siddall wrote. “When Plumley was interviewed by Galloway for the book he said he had three CIBs by that time (early 1990s). The Awards and Decorations Branch has Plumley listed as one, not three CIBs. Plumley didn’t meet the criteria for WWII and wasn’t in Korea so his first and only CIB was in Vietnam.”
Among the many documents Siddall provides in his research is an Oct. 2, 2015, letter from Army Lt. Col Wil Neubauer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, confirming that Plumley was authorized to wear one CIB and states that “we are unable to verify” the Combat Infantry Badge with “one star” listed on Plumley’s DD Form 214.
Click here to see the Army’s Oct. 2, 2015, memo on Plumley’s awards.
In that same photo, Plumley wore valor awards he did not earn, Siddall wrote. Plumley wore a Silver Star with a bronze oak leaf cluster, which indicates a second Silver Star. Plumley also wore a Bronze Star with a V device for valor and one bronze oak leaf cluster for two awards.
The October 2015 letter from the Army states Plumley was authorized only one Silver Star and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster, not two OLCs. The letter also states that Plumley was not authorized to wear the V device with his Bronze Star medals.
What’s indisputable is that Plumley did earn a Silver Star for courage and valor he showed during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley.
In the early-morning hours of Nov. 16, 1965, the command post of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, fell under heavy attack.
“The command post was being savagely attacked by an unknown number of Viet Cong,” according to a copy of Plumley’s Dec. 27, 1965, Silver Star Citation.
Enemy automatic weapons fire was pouring into the forward command post and aid station area, which was located about 150 meters behind the “line of contact,” it states.
“At approximately 0500 at the height of the savage attack, a flare, still burning landed in an open box of fragmentation hand grenades in the pile of small arms, mortar and other ammunition less than 10 meters from the battalion command group,” according to the document.
“Sergeant Major Plumley, voluntarily and unhesitatingly, rose up in the face of intense small arms and automatic fire, dashed to the burning flare, lifting it with his bare hands out of the box of grenades and threw it. He extinguished the flare with his feet as well as other small fires which it had ignited around the ammo area,” it states.
Plumley’s brave action, it goes on, “performed under fire with complete disregard for his own personal safety, undoubtedly prevented the complete ammunition supply from exploding.”
In his research, Siddall acknowledges that “Plumley received the Silver Star Medal for what he did, and it was important,” Siddall writes. But, he adds, “that wasn’t enough for someone like Plumley. Plumley had to build himself up even more. For Plumley to be seen wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with the 3 CIB Badge at West Point in 2010 was disgusting.”
Military.com contacted Galloway about Siddall’s research and why Plumley’s service records contradict what Galloway, the only journalist present at LZ X-Ray, wrote about Plumley. Military.com sent Galloway Siddall’s two articles, which contained hyperlinks to Plumley’s service records.
Galloway wrote the following response by email:
“I don’t know a thing about Mr. Siddall and his research that slanders a fine old soldier who died four years ago and can’t speak for himself.
“My co-author Lt. Gen. Hal Moore vouched for CSM Plumley when we were working on the books. I read the Plumley biography when Moore and Plumley received the Doughboy Award quite a few years ago. It sure looked official to me and matched details I had been told about his service. I have no interest in commenting on this any further.”
The Doughboy Award is presented annually to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry. The award is a chrome replica of a helmet worn by American Expeditionary soldiers during World War I and the early days of World War II.
Siddall sent his findings to Fort Benning in late 2015 and asked if the information on Plumley’s headstone was going to be corrected.
Fort Benning officials eventually referred Siddall to Army Human Resources Command’s Awards and Decorations Branch.
Military.com contacted Benning on May 4 about Siddall’s request.
Col. Andy Hilmes, the garrison commander for Fort Benning, said his office is reviewing the request and that it’s possible Plumley’s headstone will be corrected.
The issue is the information in question on Plumley’s headstone — which reads “Silver Star with OLC” and “BSM W/V 2nd OLC” — comes from Plumley’s DD 214, the Army’s separation of service form.
Hilmes acknowledged Siddall’s research of Plumley’s records shows several discrepancies and that Plumley’s DD 214 does not match the official letter from the Army’s Awards and Decoration Branch stating there is no verification that Plumley is authorized more than one Silver Star or the Bronze Star Medal with V Device for Valor with a second oak leaf cluster.
“I want to do the right thing,” Hilmes said. “I have looked at how do we go about changing the headstone. … I can’t change the DD 214 at Benning; that is really up to the Department of the Army.”
Fort Benning reached out to Plumley’s daughter, who is currently looking through her father’s records.
Among the records she sent to Benning is a diploma from the 82nd Airborne Parachute School, stating that Plumley became a qualified parachutist on March 11, 1943. The document is signed by Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne during World War II.
The documents she sent, however, contain no mention of any combat jumps in WWII or the Korean War.
The plan is to forward all of Plumley’s personal records to Army Human Resources Command for a further review, according to Benning officials.
Military.com tried to contact retired. Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, who commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, but he “suffers from advanced dementia and is unable to discuss this matter,” according to his son Dave Moore in an email to Military.com.
“Having read the allegation and scanned portions of Mr. Siddall’s extensive research, it is clear that discrepancies exist,” Dave Moore wrote the email. “The fact that the DoD could not verify all of the CSM’s awards is not surprising given the lack of rigor in the maintenance of records in the 1940s. I am confident that my father wrote the truth as he knew it, and that Mr. Galloway accepted that truth. I am confident there was no willful intention to deceive readers.”
Steve Moore, another son of Lt. Gen. Moore’s sons, said even his own father was the victim of poor record-keeping when he was being added recently to Fort Leavenworth’s International Hall of Fame.
“As part of that process, they coordinated with the family to obtain [Moore’s] bio and other material,” Steve Moore wrote in an email. “One of the items they shared with us was the current bio the General Officer Management Office (GOMO) had for Dad. We were horrified. It showed him with a CIB with 2 stars and added an extra award of the BSM/V and other medals.
“Apparently, the clerk who assembled the list years ago did not know that an oak leaf cluster represented the 2nd and subsequent award. So “CIB(2Awd)” on Dad’s DD214 became a CIB with 2 stars, added extra BSM/V … Thank goodness we fixed this before there were any stolen valor accusations.”
Siddall says he just wants the record about Plumley to be corrected.
“I just want the correct information out there because there are so many people that are really heroes, and it is so frustrating when they give the hero status to someone who was anything but,” he said.
Military.com also reached out to Doug Sterner, curator for Military Times Hall of Valor, for his insight into this story. Sterner, who has been compiling and digitizing military awards for more than 20 years, has exposed many individuals for stolen valor, or wearing unauthorized military awards.
Sterner said he doesn’t see the point in bringing up the discrepancies about Plumley, a man he calls a “genuine hero” because he earned a Silver Star in battle. He said he knows of hundreds of cases in which soldiers have been awarded Silver Stars or other valor awards and the records cannot be found.
“I don’t see the point in trying to be so historically accurate we destroy a genuine hero,” Sterner said.
Joe Angelo was a World War I veteran who served in the Army during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. This is where he would unknowingly make a significant contribution to World War II.
That’s not a typo.
Angelo was an orderly to the 304th Tank Brigade commander, Capt. George S. Patton. As Patton maneuvered on the battlefield, he learned that many of his men were dead and thus unavailable to clear machine gun nests. He and Angelo were about to charge the nests themselves when Patton was exposed to machine gun fire that critically wounded him.
His orderly – Angelo – pulled him to safety.
He then dressed Patton’s wounds in a shell crater. Angelo was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. Patton told newspapers Angelo was “without doubt the bravest man in the American Army. I have never seen his equal.”
The young orderly took the praise reluctantly and when the war ended, he went back to work as a civilian. Patton, of course, continued his military career.
Then the Great Depression hit.
Angelo soon found himself unemployed along with 25 percent of the country. The Depression hit Great War veterans especially hard. As soldiers, they made much less than the average factory worker at the time. So in 1924, Congress voted to give them an adjusted wage – called a “Bonus” by the plan’s critics – $1.25 for every day overseas and $1.00 for every day in the States.
Veterans who were owed 50 dollars or less were paid immediately. Everyone else was issued a certificate, with four percent interest and an additional 25 percent upon payment. The only problem was that this was to be paid in 1945 and the vets needed the money ASAP.
In response, WWI veterans converged on Washington with their families, setting up in large tent cities. Estimates were that 20,000 veterans were living in the D.C. camp. The media dubbed them “The Bonus Army.” Living among them was Joe Angelo.
Now known as American military legends, the men in charge of carrying out President Hoover’s order for the U.S. Army to clear the camp were Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and George S. Patton.
Patton, now a major, was one of the first officers to arrive in the capital. Patton led federal troops up Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to the Bonus Army camp. Using swords and gas grenades to clear the marchers, his cavalrymen spent the night destroying the veterans camp.
The next morning, Angelo tried to get close to Patton, but his former commander outright rejected the advance. Major Patton told his aides with Angelo in earshot, “I do not know this man. Take him away and under no circumstances permit him to return.”
The New York Times ran a story on the meeting between the two men the very next day, under the headline “A Calvary Major Evicts Veteran Who Saved His Life in Battle.”
“That man was my orderly during the war. When I was wounded, he dragged me from a shell hole under fire. I got him a decoration for it. Since the war, my mother and I have more than supported him. We have given him money. We have set him up in business several times. Can you imagine the headlines if the papers got word of our meeting here this morning. Of course, we’ll take care of him anyway.”
Patton called it the “most distasteful form of service” and spent the interwar years working on less violent ways the military can clear such uprisings in the future.
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.
Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.
FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.