Combat Medics in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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Combat Medics in Vietnam

Combat Medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded.  Max Cleland, a future US Senator from Georgia, lost three limbs when a grenade exploded in his hand. His life was saved by four beleaguered field medics. In this dramatic episode, Max Cleland recounts his story and we also hear from Clarence Sasser, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Combat Medic in Vietnam.

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Amphibious Assault in the Pacific

By 1943, the war in the Pacific burned in its full fury. On November 20th, the Allies launched the first amphibious assault against heavily defended beaches in US history. The 2nd division of the US Marine Corps, used amphibious tractors and assault boats to reach the beaches of the Tarawa atoll, an enemy stronghold protected by 5,000 hardened Imperial Japanese marines. Ed Moore and Tommy Reed were decorated veterans of the 2nd Marine Division during the island campaigns in the Pacific War.

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The US is now claiming some of its spies were attacked in Cuba

Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.


It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.

While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”

Combat Medics in Vietnam
US Embassy in Havana, Cuba. AP photo via NewsEdge.

To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.

Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.

The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.

The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Photo from Public Domain.

But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.

Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.

Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.

In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Cuba’s colorful styling is a driving force behind its tourism. Photo under public domain.

Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.

Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.

Related: The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.

There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.

For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.

But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.

So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Havana aerial view from Jose Marti monument, 2008. Photo by Anton Zelenov.

Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.

The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.

Read Also: More US diplomats are allegedly being attacked by these weird weapons in Cuba

Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.

In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.

Combat Medics in Vietnam

“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.

For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.

Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.

When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.

But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.

Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.

The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.

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D-Day The First Hours

Hours before the Allied Forces hit the beaches of Normandy, courageous British and American soldiers entered France with parachutes and gliders to secure key bridges and enemy artillery positions.  Their dangerous missions led the way for the D-Day invasion and ultimate victory in Europe.  Wally Parr, Terance Otway and Bill True recount their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.

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1st Air Cavalry Helicopter Pilot

The 1st Air Cavalry Division was the most lethal assault force assembled in Vietnam.  The pilots were the first to fully harness the power of helicopters and their soldier’s combat record was second to none.  Steven E Warren served a year in the infantry in Vietnam, but then returned home to train to fly helicopters at Fort Rucker.  Soon he returned to the conflict, as a Huey helicopter pilot in the 1st Air Cavalry.  We spoke with him about his combat experiences, helping to perfect this new kind of warfare.

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Here are the best military photos of the week of Jan. 7

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


AIR FORCE:

U.S. Air Force Capt. Raymond Whisenhunt, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of protocol, tumbles to the ground as a military working dog locks onto the bite suit he is wearing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 30, 2016. MWD’s are highly motivated canines utilized for patrol, drug and explosive detection, and other specialized mission functions.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia A. Innocenti

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron performs preflight checks at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, Dec. 29, 2016. The 134th EFS is flying combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve to support and enable Iraqi Security Forces’ efforts with the unique capabilities provided by the fighter squadron.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

ARMY:

Nevada National Guard soldiers patrol the Las Vegas Strip last night as part of Operation Night Watch, an annual law enforcement mission supporting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, United States Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard Service members conduct an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Ceremony for for the departing commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama at Comny Hall on Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 4, 2016.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Army Photo by Pvt. Gabriel A. Silva

NAVY:

NORFOLK (Dec. 30, 2016) Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as it returns to homeport. Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group conducted a 7-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Keller

VENICE, Italy (Jan. 3, 2017) Sailors man the helm aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) as it departs Venice, Italy. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ford Williams

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, conduct an M777 Howitzer live-fire night fire mission during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 18. This nightscape was taken as a single, long exposure photograph. The chaos of different colored lights are red-lensed headlamps worn by the artillery Marines moving and operating the different gun positions around the M777. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

Marines with Tank Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct tank maintenance during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 8, 2016. Maintenance checks are done around the clock to ensure equipment is operating safely and efficiently and to ensure the safe conduct of training. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU is currently supporting the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

COAST GUARD:

Two kayakers recover from the seas and weather aboard a Coast Guard Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium Dec. 15, 2016. Coast Guard crews responded to a call for assistance from the kayakers when they were beset by weather off Maui.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Linda Bashqoy

Members of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard stand at parade rest during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony on Coast Guard cutter Taney in Baltimore Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

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Adolf Hitler had a British nephew who joined the Navy during WWII

Hitler’s nephew, who he would come to call “my loathsome nephew”, was originally named William Patrick Hitler, but he later changed it to William Patrick Stuart-Houston to distance himself from his uncle’s name after WWII.


Combat Medics in Vietnam

William was born in Liverpool, the son of Adolf Hitler’s half brother, Alois Hitler, Jr., and an Irish woman named Bridget Dowling.

Prior to WWII, William moved from England to Germany where Adolf Hitler got him a job in a bank, which he subsequently left after convincing Hitler to get him a job at an automobile factory, as a salesman. At this point, Hitler began calling him “my loathsome nephew” and began publicly calling him out, stating, “I didn’t become Chancellor for the benefit of my family … No one is going to climb on my back.”

Getting nowhere further with his uncle, William then returned to London for a time and attempted to capitalize on his uncle’s fame there. He later returned to Germany where Hitler eventually offered William a top ranking position with the Nazis if William would renounce his British citizenship. William turned down the offer, fearing he’d be trapped in Germany in the coming conflict.

No longer caring to ask for a job or high ranking position, William subsequently began trying to blackmail his uncle, threatening to tell the media stories about Hitler and his family, including threatening to confirm a rumor that Hitler was the illegitimate grandson of the Jewish merchant, Leopold Frankenberger, if Hitler wouldn’t give him money. As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with Hitler and William was forced to flee back to England, though some reports say he was given a sizable sum before being forced to leave.

Just before the start of WWII, William and his mother were invited to the United States at the invitation of famed publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst then sponsored William on a nationwide lecture tour titled “My Uncle Adolf”, where William would tell stories about Hitler and the Nazis to audiences.

Once the war broke out, William tried to join the British forces, but was denied. When the U.S. eventually entered the war, William appealed to President Roosevelt to be allowed to join the U.S. forces, stating why he felt he wasn’t being allowed to serve in the British forces: “The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.”

Roosevelt turned the matter over to the F.B.I. who eventually decided to allow William to join the U.S. Navy, despite being a British citizen and the nephew of Hitler. He served in the navy as a corpsman and was discharged in 1947 after three years of service.

Combat Medics in Vietnam

Bonus Facts:

  • After the war, William married and moved to Long Island where he set up his own blood sample analysis business.
  • William had four sons: Alexander, Louis, Howard, and Brian. Three of them live on Long Island today. The fourth son, Howard, died in a car accident in 1989, two years after William died. Two of his remaining sons live together and own a landscaping company, and the third is a social worker.
  • The apartment William Hitler and his family lived at in Liverpool was destroyed in a German air raid on January 10, 1942.
  • William’s mother, Bridget Dowling, once wrote a manuscript, My Brother-in-Law Adolf, to try to capitalize on Hitler’s fame. Most of the content of the manuscript has been dismissed by historians including allegations that Hitler spent nearly six months living in Liverpool with her family in 1912 and into 1913. She also claimed she was the one who convinced him to cut his mustache the way he did, rather than the more traditional handlebar style and claims to have introduced Hitler to astrology, which is something he is said to have taken great stock in while planning some of his military strategies.
  • William’s father, Alois Hitler, left the family to return to Austria in 1914. Bridget and William did not go with him, though the two did not divorce. After WWI began, Alois Hitler married Hedwig Weidemann, which subsequently got him in a lot of trouble once authorities discovered he was already married. Alois had a son with his new wife in Austria, Heinz Hitler, who served as a Nazi in WWII and was captured, tortured, and killed by the Soviet Union in 1942.
  • Interestingly, Alois Hitler only managed to escape punishment for getting married while he was already married when his first wife Bridget Dowling intervened with the authorities, claiming she had separated from him before he left for Austria.
  • When Alois Hitler first met Bridget Dowling, he claimed to be a wealthy hotel owner, when, in fact, he was just a waiter at a hotel. He then eloped with Dowling, despite her father’s threats against him.

Combat Medics in Vietnam

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The Chinese military just conducted a live-fire exercise a few miles from a US base in Africa

China has staged military exercises in Djibouti after opening its first overseas military base there last month, official media said.


State television CCTV showed armored vehicles moving on a desert track, groups of soldiers firing automatic weapons, and cannon pointing towards the horizon.

Dozens of soldiers have been deployed in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius “to reinforce their hardiness in combat and their mastery of military techniques,” the report said.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
Arta Training Range, Djibouti. Photo by Sgt. Steve Lopez.

“This is the first time that officers and soldiers stationed in Djibouti have left their camp to conduct live-fire exercises,” Liang Yang, the base commander, told the broadcaster.

It was unclear when the drills took place. China opened its base in Djibouti in early August.

Personnel will mainly focus on supporting UN peacekeeping operations, evacuating Chinese nationals, and providing naval escorts, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The Chinese navy has since 2008 had a presence off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden as part of international efforts to combat piracy.

Combat Medics in Vietnam
PLA troops undergo live-fire exercises in Djibouti. Source: Government handout.

“This modest live-fire drill was apparently conducted on a designated firing range in Djibouti, and involved a small-scale force, perhaps just a single platoon or maybe a few platoons,” said James Char, a specialist in the Chinese army at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

It did not mean Chinese forces could be expected to carry out “counter-terrorism or constabulary operations in the manner of the US military anytime soon”.

Djibouti is strategically located on the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, controlling access to the Red Sea.

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Pacific War Diary

During World War II, the United States Marines played a central role in the battle for the islands of the Pacific. Marine Corps veteran Bill Swanson was often in the first wave to hit the beach in many of these brutal campaigns. In this episode, he paints a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in the “living hell” of these steaming jungles and swamps.  He shares his experiences on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling a hidden and determined enemy.

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Three War Army Hero

This episode tells the dramatic story of an Army veteran who served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Al Ungerleider’s first taste of combat came on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  He went on to march towards Germany, liberating a Nazi concentration camp along the way.  Brigadeer General Al Ungerleider retired from the Army after 36 years of service.  His final active-duty assignment was commanding the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  Al Ungerleider is a true American hero.

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