WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help) - We Are The Mighty
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WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)

*This story was updated on 1/29 to reflect input from the Department of the Army*


Early in the world wars, many American women found roles open to them. While they were usually kept far from the direct combat (nurses excluded), the positions they filled were usually designed to “free a man to fight.” Female units formed throughout the U.S. military, though not without debate or criticism. Many of these were based on similar British organizations for women. After visiting Americans observed these female units in action, they brought the good ideas home.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Nancy E. Batson, WAFS pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Women’s Flying Training Detachment was one such unit. Created by Legendary Air Force (then-Army Air Corps) General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, these women pilots were hired to fill jobs flying aircraft stateside from base to base. They received hundreds of flying hours in training, but were not considered a real part of the Army and thus could not received veteran status. The WFTD and the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce Ferrying Squadron (WAAFS) were both formed separately in 1942.  The WAAFS would take fighters, bombers, and transports from the factories to stateside bases.  Both the WAAFS and WFTD would later be merged with the now-famous Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
WASPs uniforms on display in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first director of the WASPs was Jacqueline Cochran, a contemporary of famed pilot Amelia Earhart.  She was only woman to win the Bendix Transcontinental Aeronautical Race and also a five-time Harmon Trophy winner, which was awarded to the world’s foremost leading aviator. Cochran would also become the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean, the first woman to break the sound barrier, and many more female firsts. She also currently holds more distance and speed records than any pilot of any gender, living or dead. If that wasn’t enough of a pedigree, Nancy H. Love, commander of the WAFS, was the Executive Officer for the new unit. Love was also an accomplished pilot by any metric. She was certified in 19 military aircraft and was the first woman to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress. After the creation of the independent Air Force, Cochran and Love would both joint the U.S. Air Force Reserve and rise to the ranks of lieutenant colonel.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Nancy Love and Betty Gillies (U.S. Air Force photo)

The WASP program would train over a thousand pilots as light training instructors, glider tow pilots, towing targets for air-to-air and anti-aircraft gunnery practice, engineering test flying, ferrying aircraft, and other duties. They were considered civil services employees, never being accepted into the Army Air Forces despite their proven ability.  WASPs were capable of flying any aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, including the P-51 Mustang and B-29 Superfortress,, often remarked by men as being difficult to fly. In fact, the first person to fly an Army Air Forces jet was WASP Ann Baumgartner.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
A WAFS pilot flying a B-17 (U.S. Air Force photo)

WASPs were required to complete the same training as male Army Air Corps pilots, save for combat flying, such as gunnery and acrobatics. WASPs did their training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas and were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S. They would deliver more than 12,000 aircraft of 78 different types.

Thirty-eight WASPs died during the program’s run. The accident rate was similar to that of males doing the same work. Hap Arnold himself would address the last class of WASPs to graduate from training.

“You … have shown that you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. If ever there was doubt in anyone’s mind that women could become skilled pilots,” Arnold said. “The WASPs dispelled that doubt. I want to stress how valuable the whole WASP program has been for the country.”

The WASP program was classified and sealed until 1977, when a false press release from the Department of the Air Force announced that the first women would be trained to fly military aircraft. Then-Colonel Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold, lobbied Congress for full recognition of the WASPs as veterans. President Carter ordered their recognition as veterans in 1977 and in 1984, they received their World War II Victory Medal. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, with 300 surviving members on hand to receive them.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The family of WASP Elaine Danforth Harmon started a petition to get WASPs their recognition as veterans eligible for inurnment at Arlington. According to the Department of the Army, WASPs have never been eligible either for inurnment or burial at Arlington.

“The service of Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II is highly commendable and, while certainly worthy of recognition, it does not, in itself, reach the level of Active Duty service required for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery,” Lt. Col. Patrick Seiber of the Army’s Media Relations Division clarified.

“The confusion is caused, in part, by Public Law 95-202 Section 401,” Seiber continued. “Which authorized the Secretary of Defense to declare that certain groups be considered active duty for the purpose of allowing certain Veterans Affairs benefits, which include burial and inurnment at national cemeteries maintained by VA.”

“Arlington is not administered by the VA, and its eligibility criteria are far more stringent, due to space limitations. Burial space at Arlington National Cemetery is ultimately finite. Based upon current demand and capacity, Arlington will exhaust interment and inurnment space for any Active Duty service member or veteran in the next 20 years, by the mid 2030’s.”

Harmon was too young to volunteer for the war effort, but she got her parents’ permission to join. Her 40 hours of flight time earned her a training spot in Sweetwater, Texas, and then later a spot for more training at Nellis, in Nevada. It was a rare opportunity, only one woman was accepted for every ten males. Even then, they were treated like the backwater of the flying corps. WASPs did not even have uniforms until about seven months before they were deactivated. They wore coveralls when they flew and had to wash them in the showers.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Elaine Harmon, one of just over 1000 women who served as WASPs, or Women Airforce Service Pilots.

“My grandmother was just a generally very adventurous person. When she saw an advertisement for a program to learn how to fly, she said ‘Oh that sounds like something I’d be interested in doing,'” Harmon’s granddaughter Erin Miller told PRI. “My grandmother and the women she served with, the other WASPs, were just really excited to be able to serve their country, like they would gladly have gone overseas if they had been allowed to — they had no hesitation about that. They were just very glad to serve their country.”

You can sign the WASPs petition here.

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These are some of the most fascinating discoveries of lost ships and planes

There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.


Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The ill-fated crew of the B-24D Lady Be Good. (USAF photo)

Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?

The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The wreck of the SS American Star, formerly USS West Point (AP 23), among other names. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.

Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.

So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.

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3 reasons why the Afghan army uniform may not have been a big waste of money

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on over the alleged waste of millions in taxpayer funds to develop and field a uniform for the Afghan army that investigators claim “doesn’t work.”


And while there’s certainly plenty of blame to go around, a long-time military equipment designer who helped develop the green, brown and tan digital ANA duds says it’s not as dumb as people are being lead to believe.

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.

1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment

Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
See, the Marines are using woodland camo in the insurgent hotbed of Sangin. (U.S. military photo)

Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.

In fact, during the intense fight in Helmand province back in 2010 and later, the Marines were authorized to wear a mix of woodland and desert camo pattern MARPAT uniforms due to the more lush agricultural areas where most engagements occurred.

2. It doesn’t glow at night

The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
These uniforms don’t glow in the dark Mr. Badguy. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released)

One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.

But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.

The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.

3. It sets the army apart

Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The patchwork of camouflage patterns used by Afghan security forces causes confusion and are easily obtained by insurgents, experts say. (U.S. military photo)

“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”

Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?

Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.

“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.

In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.

The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.

But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.

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This martial art was originally developed to beat up Nazis

One of the most effective hand-to-hand combat techniques taught today — and one that has become closely identified with the Jewish state that embraced it — Krav Maga was a product of the Nazi-era streets of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.


The martial art’s inventor, Imi Lichtenfeld was quite the athlete. Born in Budapest in 1910, he spent his early years training to be a boxer, wrestler, and gymnast with his father. The elder Lichtenfeld was also a policeman who taught self-defense. Under his father’s tutelage, Imi won championships in all his athletic disciplines. But fighting in a ring required both people to follow certain rules. Street fights don’t have rules, Imi Lichtenfeld thought, and he wanted to be prepared for that.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
These guys are just sparring. Now think about a real Krav Maga street fight.

At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitic riots struck Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where Imi and his family were then living. Like many large cities in the region, the rise of National Socialism, or Nazism, created an anti-Jewish fervor that took young men to the streets to assault innocent and often unsuspecting Jews.

When the streets of his neighborhood became increasingly violent, Lichtenfeld decided to teach a group of his Jewish neighbors some self-defense moves. It came in the form of a technique that would help them protect themselves while attacking their opponent – a method that showed no mercy for those trying to kill the Chosen People.

Young Imi taught his friends what would later be called “Krav Maga.”

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
For the record, this is what happens when you attack an Israeli nowadays.

Translated as “contact-combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is designed to prepare the user for real-world situations. The martial art efficiently attacks an opponent’s most vulnerable areas to neutralize him as quickly as possible, uses everything in arm’s reach as a weapon, and teaches the user to be aware of every potential threat in the area. It developed into one of the most effective hand-to-hand techniques ever devised.

Krav Maga’s widespread use began in the Israel Defence Force, who still train in the martial art. These days, Krav Maga is a go-to fighting style widely used by various military and law enforcement agencies. In 1930s Europe, it was a godsend. Lichtenfeld’s technique taught Bratislava’s Jews how to simultaneously attack and defend themselves while delivering maximum pain and punishment on their attackers.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
A Krav Maga lesson in the IDF. One of these two is Imi Lichtenfeld. Guess which one. (IDF photo)

Imi Lichtenfeld escaped Europe in 1940 after the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1942 (after considerable struggles along the way) and was quickly inducted into the Free Czech Legion of the British Army in North Africa. He served admirably and the Haganah and Palmach – Jewish paramilitary organizations that were forerunners of what we call today the Israel Defence Forces – noticed his combat skill right away.

After Israel won its independence, Lichtenfeld gave his now-perfected martial art of Krav Maga to the IDF and became the Israeli Army’s chief hand-to-hand combat instructor. He even modified it for law enforcement and civilians.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
A Krav Maga lesson at the IDF’s paratrooper school in Israel. (IDF photo)

Lichtenfeld taught Krav Maga until 1987 when he retired from the IDF. He died in 1998, after essentially teaching the world’s Jewish population how to defend themselves when no one would do it for them.

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North Korea warns that its new ICBM will send shivers down America’s spine

Pyongyang tripled down on Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s claim that North Korea is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday.


“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said in his New Year’s address, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”

“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday, quoting a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

“Just because the U.S. is located more than ten thousand kilometers away does not make the country safe,” the Rodong Sinmun, the primary publication of the ruling Worker’s Party, asserted Wednesday.

“Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down its spine,” the paper warned. “There is nothing we are afraid of. In the future, phenomenal incidents to strengthen our national defense power will take place multiple times and repeatedly.”

“We have miniaturized, lightened and diversified our nuclear weapons, and they can be loaded on various delivery systems to be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Rodong Sinmun boasted.

In response to any such theoretical action, the U.S. promises shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile “if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Sunday.

“If the missile is threatening, it will be intercepted. If it’s not threatening, we won’t necessarily do so,” Carter explained Tuesday.

The effectiveness of America’s missile interception capabilities is debatable.

The U.S. has a “limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland from small numbers of simple” North Korean nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the Pentagon’s weapons testing office warned in its annual report, according to Bloomberg.

“I am very confident in the systems and procedures” the U.S. Northern Command “will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory,” Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters.

Pyongyang “has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the U.S. by the end of 2017,” former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho told Yonhap News Agency Sunday.

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after Kim made North Korea’s ICBM ambitions clear.

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That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.


It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.

Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.

Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.

Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.

Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.

At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.

The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.

Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”

Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”

Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.

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The crippled USS Yorktown traded its life for victory at Midway

The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.


The Yorktown was one of America’s eight active carriers when the country formally entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was based in the Atlantic at the time of the attack, but was soon equipped with additional anti-aircraft weapons and sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Task Force 17.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The USS Yorktown sailing in 1937. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.

From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Sailors view the damage to the USS Yorktown after a bomb hit suffered during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.

And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.

An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The USS Yorktown returns to Pearl Harbor on Feb. 6, 1942, after a series of raids. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

About 1,400 repairmen worked around the clock to patch up as much of the ship as possible, and on May 30 the Yorktown steamed towards its rendezvous near Midway.

Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.

Spoiling for a fight

The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Japanese Type 97 B5N bombers attack the USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

But after six attacks from Wake Island and from the other carriers, two flights of Navy Dauntless dive bombers zeroed in on the Japanese carriers. The first flight came from the USS Enterprise and followed a Japanese destroyer to find the enemy carrier. The second flight came from the Yorktown.

The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The deck of the USS Yorktown after it suffers three bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.

Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
The USS Yorktown burns after three Japanese bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class William G. Roy)

But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.

Despite the leaks and the list, the ship continued to float and a salvage crew was sent back to see what could be recovered. It was during that salvage trip that the Japanese submarine I-168 fired a spread of torpedoes that finally doomed the stalwart Yorktown as well as the destroyer USS Hammann.

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U.S. detects, tracks multiple North Korea missile launches

Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.

Related: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

Missiles Land Off Japan’s Coast

The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea. | Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”

He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”

Also read: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.

U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen

Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.

Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.

The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.

The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.

Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.

Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.

“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].

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Orlando Police credit Kevlar helmet with saving officer’s life

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(Photo: Orlando Police Department)


The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.

“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.

The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.

The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.

“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.

Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.

“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”

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Major changes are in the works for Marine Corps Scout Snipers

Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.


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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

And for good reason.

The Corps has one of the most comprehensive — and toughest — training schools for its sniper teams, with a grueling curriculum of long-range shooting, covert reconnaissance and advanced camouflage.

And that’s the problem, Corps infantry leaders say.

Marine officials have confirmed that Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is considering a plan that would make being a Scout Sniper a primary military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, a move infantry leaders say would help units better meet the increasing demand for these highly-skilled specialists.

A Marine spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Commandant would sign off on the changes but said the Corps is looking into how to improve its Scout Sniper cadre.

“The Marine Corps is currently assessing the best way to train and sustain its Scout Snipers,” Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told WATM. “It’s important we are thorough in our review to determine the best way the Corps can improve this vital capability.”

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Marine Scout Snipers play a key role in forward reconnaissance and observation for infantry battalions. Marine leaders say they can’t get enough of them the way the training is set up today. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

According to officers familiar with the process who spoke to We Are The Mighty on background, the way the Corps staffs its sniper platoons falls far short of the authorized goal of around 20 per platoon. One leader said on average a platoon has four trained snipers “if we’re lucky.”

Read More: This is what makes Marine Scout Snipers so deadly

“A lot of kids come to the sniper school not prepared or not fully qualified, so they fail out,” the infantry leader said. “So we’re just not able to maintain the number of snipers we need in a battalion.”

That’s why Neller was forwarded a plan to make the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS a primary one, in hopes that the Corps will do more to make sure enough of the sharpshooters get to the fleet where they’re needed.

“There’s a struggle to find Marines who have the time to train up and get to a ‘school level’ of success,” said a senior Marine sniper familiar with the MOS change proposal. “Right now it’s almost impossible.”

The senior Scout Sniper, who spoke on background to We Are The Mighty, said if the change is approved, a Marine who signed on as an 0317 would go through boot camp and the School of Infantry then would immediately be sent to a Basic Scout Sniper course. After that, the Marine would go back to the fleet to fill a Scout Sniper job in a platoon rather than leaving to chance the option of being pulled into another combat arms job.

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If infantry leaders and senior Scout Snipers have their way, new Marines entering the Corps will have the option to enlist as an 0317 and go directly to sniper training after the School of Infantry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, Marines who are selected for Scout Sniper have already completed one deployment and are approaching their end of active service, making it hard to keep snipers in the Corps even if they get the secondary MOS, the sniper leader said.

“There’s no way to make sure they stay in the sniper community,” he said.

As part of the change, the Corps is looking into modifying the Basic Scout Sniper course to focus more on the “scout” part of the training as opposed to shooting skills, the senior Marine leaders said.

Over the years, scout snipers have played an increasing role in reconnaissance and clandestine observation of targets where infantry leaders need “eyes on” key areas. Additionally, it’s been increasingly difficult to teach the advanced marksmanship skills that were once part of the basic sniper curriculum, contributing to the wash-out rates and making it harder for Marines to prepare for the sniper school.

The senior sniper said a lot of the advanced shooting techniques and other sniper-specific skills can be taught by senior NCOs once the new 0317 gets to his platoon. After a deployment in a sniper platoon, the Scout Sniper is better prepared for an advanced course and will help form a more seasoned cadre of leaders back at the platoon, he said.

But there are critics, senior Marine leaders acknowledge, particularly when it comes to the training changes.

“The old timers are pointing a bony finger at us and saying the new plan waters down sniper training,” the senior sniper said. “That’s an emotional response to how it used to be.”

“Nobody’s watering down what the Scout Sniper is and what he can do,” he added.

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The 7 best transport planes in US military history

It’s not the most glamorous Air Force mission, but arguably it’s the most important because without transports troops and gear don’t make it to the war. (And it’s hard to win a war without troops and gear.) Here are the top seven transport planes that have served the U.S. Air Force over the years:


1. C-47 Skytrain

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(Photo: Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons)

The C-47 has gone by many nicknames — “Gooney Bird,” “Dakota” (a riff on Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft), and “Spooky” among others. The military version of the popular airliner was first manufactured in 1940, and ultimately 9,348 were built by the end of World War II. The C-47 saw a lot of action over Europe, most notably during the D-Day invasion where they were used to drop paratroopers behind the German lines. The C-47 continued service through the Vietnam War, including an attack variant nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the firing rate of the guns out of the sides of the aircraft.

2. C-119 Flying Boxcar

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Fairchild built 1,150 Boxcars for the USAF. The aircraft could carry 62 combat-equipped troops or 30,000 pounds of cargo. The Flying Boxcar saw extensive service during the Korean War. Like the C-47, the airplane also had an attack variant — known as “The Stinger — that was armed with guns that could fire 6,000 rounds per minute. The Flying Boxcar was used until the early 1960s.

3. C-124 Globemaster II

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“Old Shaky” (so-called because of its handling characteristics in flight) was the first USAF transport built specifically to carry bulky cargo like tanks, field guns, bulldozers, and trucks. The airplane had “clamshell” doors and hydraulic ramps in the front and an elevator in the back — revolutionary technology at the time. The Globemaster II could carry 200 fully-equipped troops, and as a result it was used heavily in the early part of the Vietnam War. The airplane was also used extensively in resupply missions to the military missions in Antartica and during relief efforts to far-flung parts of the world like the Congo and Chile.

4. C-130 Hercules

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

The USAF originally ordered 219 C-130s in the mid-1950, and fifty-some years later more than 900 “Herks” have been delivered, logging over 20 million flight hours in the process. The C-130 has defined “workhorse” primarily by virtue of it’s versatility. The Hercules was originally designed as an assault transport but was adapted for a variety of missions, including special operations, close air support and air interdiction, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue, aerial refueling of helicopters, weather mapping and reconnaissance, electronic surveillance, fire fighting, aerial spraying, Arctic/Antarctic ice resupply and natural disaster relief missions.

5. C-141 Starlifter

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This photo shows the difference in length between the C-141A and B models. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The C-141 was the first jet transport to deliver paratroopers and the first to land in the Antarctic. Lockheed manufactured 284 Starlifters for the USAF, and the transport flew from 1963 until 2006, participating in every contingency and major conflict during that period including the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Several years into the C-141’s service life the aircraft underwent a major modification: the fuselage was lengthened by nearly 24 feet to give it aerial refueling capability. The mod also increased cargo capacity by over 30 percent, which had the net effect of increasing the fleet by 90 aircraft.

6. C-5 Galaxy

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The C-5 defines “massive.” This huge transport can carry six Apache helicopters or five Bradley Fighting Vehicles at one time, a capability no other American military transport possesses. But the Galaxy’s size has come with a number of engineering challenges, most notably wing cracks that kept cargo capacity to a fraction of what it was designed to haul. However, the USAF remains bullish on the airframe and intends to use the upgraded C-5M model for decades to come.

7. C-17 Globemaster III

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Boeing built a total of 279 C-17s since production started in 1990, 223 of which went to the U.S. Air Force. (On Nov. 29, 2015 the last C-17 Globemaster III manufactured at Boeing’s Long Beach facility took off headed for Qatar to join that nation’s air force.) The C-17 was designed with digital age technology like fly-by-wire flight controls, high-bypass engines, and composite wings that gave it ideal flight characteristics for operating off of short and unprepared runways. Operationally the Globemaster III has been heavily utilized since 9-11 including a record-breaking mission on March 26, 2003 where 15 USAF C-17s did a night-time airdrop of 1,000 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade over Bashur, Iraq.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Eleven C-17 Globemaster IIIs line up on the runway at Moses Lake, Wash., after an airdrop during exercise Rainier War Dec. 10, 2015. Rainier War is a semiannual large formation exercise, hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing, designed to train aircrews under realistic scenarios that support a full spectrum operations against modern threats and replicate today’s contingency operations.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Divine Cox

An F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during exercise Razor Talon Dec. 14, 2015, over the coast of North Carolina. The aircrew and other support units from multiple bases conducted training missions designed to bolster cohesion between forces.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho

ARMY:

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska drops off United States Air Force Airmen during a field training exercise at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Alaska, Dec. 9, 2015.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

An explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, assigned to the 20th CBRNE Command, checks for a simulated improvised explosive device during an exercise at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Dec. 9, 2015.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Zachary Burke

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Dec. 14, 2015) Capt. Brian Quin, commanding officer of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), takes a “selfie” with Tigers during a Tiger Cruise. Essex is the flagship of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU), is deployed to the 3rd Fleet area of responsibility.

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U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason M. Graham

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 10, 2015) Santa Claus gives a pediatric patient a gift at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Santa Claus and NMCSD staff members brought patients toys and cookies to lift their holiday spirits.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 5, 2015. During this exercise the unit conducted maneuvers as a mechanized infantry company in preparation for upcoming operations.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi

A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, sits on top of a CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Dec. 15, 2015. HMH-461 conducted helicopter rope suspension training with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Recon Battalion.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

COAST GUARD:

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba returns to their homeport of Boston, Dec. 19, 2015, following a successful 52-day deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The crew aboard the Escanaba successfully interdicted 1,009 kilograms of cocaine, two vessels, and five suspects, in support of Operation Roundturn.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles crew conducts emergency aircraft evacuation trainingSubscribe to Unit Newswire Subscribe 2 Crew members of Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles conducted emergency aircraft evacuation training at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 16, 2015. Each member is harnessed into an aircraft seat situated inside a metal simulated aircraft cabin.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

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DoD reveals Operation Inherent Resolve Medal for campaign against ISIS

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Operation Inherent Resolve Medal | Image courtesy Defense Department


Thousands of U.S. troops who have deployed in support of the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are now eligible for a new medal, officials announced.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made announced the creation of the Operation Inherent Resolve medal during a change of command ceremony on Wednesday at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

Carter segued into the announcement while noting that CentCom’s outgoing leader, ArmyGen. Lloyd Austin, and his successor, Army Gen. Joe Votel, have both “across their careers … demonstrated what can be described as inherent resolve.

“It is fitting then, that as we mark the change of command between these two leaders, that we introduce today the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal,” the secretary said.

“I am pleased to announce today, by the president’s order and upon [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen.  Joseph Dunford Jr.] and my recommendation, that our sailors, soldiers,airmen, and Marines serving in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are eligible for this medal and distinction,” he added.

“As we continue to accelerate our counter-ISIL campaign, we will continue to depend upon the men and women of CentCom,” Carter said. “It is you who provide us the flexibility to respond to any threat across a critical region.”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order establishing the medal to service members who “serve or have served in Iraq, Syria, or contiguous waters or airspace on or after June 15, 2014.”

With the operation still going on, an end-date for medal eligibility has yet to be established.

To qualify for the new medal, a service member must have been present in Iraq, Syria or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country on or after June 15, 2014, for at least 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days, according to the Defense Department.

Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated from the campaign theater due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for award, as do members who engaged in combat.

Troops awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for their service in Iraq and Syria after the start of Operation Inherent Resolve remain qualified for the older medal. They can apply to their military branch to be awarded the new medal, but may not receive both medals for the same act, achievement or period of service, officials said.

Service members serving deployed outside of Iraq and Syria for Operation Inherent Resolve will continue to be awarded the expeditionary medal.

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