Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers tells his dramatic stories of combat in North Africa and Europe and details the events surrounding his heroic actions during the Normandy campaign. He also offers his unique perspectives on the infantry, his fellow soldiers and the enemy.This episode also features rare recordings of live combat, direct from the battlefields of World War II.
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.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface to air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.
“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr
US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.
American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.
Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.
According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.
Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.
They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.
Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.
“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.
US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.
The chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Oct. 8 the US should move its military bases farther from Iran’s borders if it imposes new sanctions against Tehran, the official IRNA news reported.
The Oct. 8 report quotes Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying, “If new sanctions go into effect, the country should move its regional bases to a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) radius” out of the range of Iranian missiles.
Currently, US military bases are located in countries neighboring Iran, including Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, and Afghanistan, less than 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Iran’s borders.
Jafari rejected the idea of negotiating with the US over regional issues and said if the United States designates the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group, the Guard — which has suffered significant casualties fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq — will also consider the US army a terrorist group.
He said such moves by the US will eliminate “any chance for engagement forever.”
President Donald Trump appears to be stepping back from his campaign pledge to tear up the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, instead aiming to take other measures against Iran and its affiliates.
New actions expected to be announced by the White House in the coming days will focus on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group blamed for sowing discord in the Middle East and seeking Israel’s demise. They include financial sanctions on anyone who does business with the Revolutionary Guard, as well as millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the arrest of two operatives of Iran-backed Hezbollah.
On Saturday, Iran’s president defended the nuclear deal and said not even 10 Donald Trumps can roll back its benefits to Iran.
Walter Bodlander was a military intelligence officer for the US Army during WWII. He was born in Germany in 1920. As a Jew, he knew he had to flea Hitler’s regime. He eventually made his way to the United States and volunteered to join the Army to fight the Nazis. Military Intelligence wanted to use his fluency in German to interrogate Nazi prisoners on the front lines. Walter was soon dispatched to England to join the D-Day invasion and the march into Germany.
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:
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight to Estonia on April 25, 2017. The F-35s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe.
Airmen conduct a high altitude, low opening jump from a MC-130J Commando II April 24, 2017, above Okinawa, Japan. Kadena Air Base land and water drop zones are suited for multi-pass jump operations which maximize proficiency and limited resources.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from A Company, 1/150th Assault Helicopter Battalion, flies over Belize City while transporting Soldiers and Marines on their way back from Dangriga, Belize, April 10, 2017. The 1/150th is providing lift support and medevac, if necessary, for Beyond the Horizon 2017, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, Army South-led exercise, designed to provide humanitarian and engineering services to communities in need, demonstrating U.S. support for Belize.
A Best Sapper competitor completes an Australian rappel, April 25, 2017, as part of the 2017 Best Sapper Competition being held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
HOMER, Alaska (April 29, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) prepares to moor in Homer, Alaska, for a scheduled port visit. Hopper is visiting Homer in conjunction with its participation in exercise Northern Edge 2017. The biennial training exercise conducted in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and includes participation from units assigned to Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and U.S. Army Pacific.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 30, 2017) Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 run tests on the the MQ-8B Firescout, an unmanned aerial vehicle, aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4).
Reconnaissance Marines prepare to conduct night time helo-casting training operations during the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 24, 2017. The purpose of the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course is to provide the students with the required knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties of a Reconnaissance Team Leader.
Marines with the Silent Drill Platoon perform during an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2017. Col. Tyler J. Zagurski, commanding officer of MBW, hosted the parade and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller was the guest of honor.
Crew members from Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon, an 87-foot Coast Patrol Boat homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida, offload 1,735 kilograms of cocaine, an estimated wholesale value of $56 million and transferred custody of eight suspected drug smugglers to partner federal agencies Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Florida. The contraband and suspected smugglers were interdicted during four separate cases supporting Operation Martillo, a joint interagency and multi-national collaborative effort among 14 Western Hemisphere and European nations to stop the flow of illicit cargo by Transnational Criminal Organizations.
A boat crew for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare gets underway between Cuba and Hispaniola during drug interdiction operations in April, 2017. The cutter Legare’s crew completed a 35-day tour of the strait between Cuba and Hispaniola, completing drug interdiction missions, building partnerships with local agencies and aiding local communities.
This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.
Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict. All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.
Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:
The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.
Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.
Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.
The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.
At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.
Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.
Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.
Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.
For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Forward Air Controllers or FACs choreographed this skies over the battlefield in Vietnam. They courageously flew low, slow and unarmed over enemy territory in small, propeller driven aircraft like the Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog and 0-2 Skymaster. The FACs were experts at spotting an evasive, well camouflaged enemy and they often braved a battery of enemy ground fire to target the opposing force. In this episode, Forward Air Controllers William Platt and Bill Townsley tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
International Committee of the Red Cross delegates have met with a US citizen held at an undisclosed location as an enemy combatant, the humanitarian agency said Oct. 2.
The man was handed over to US forces about three weeks ago by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-allied militia made up mostly of Kurds. His name has yet to be released, but the Associated Press reported last week, citing unnamed “senior US officials,” that the American captive was being held at a detention center in Iraq, suggesting he was perhaps in Kurdistan. A Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment.
“The ICRC confirms that it has been able to visit a US citizen, captured in Syria and currently held by the US authorities,” spokesman Marc Kilstein said Oct. 2. “In accordance with our confidential approach, we are not in a position to comment on the individual’s identity, location, or conditions of detention.”
The Department of Defense, likewise, has been short on details about the man — his age, name, where he is held, what would become of him — after initially disclosing the existence of the only known American citizen in US military custody who is held as an Islamic State fighter. A Pentagon statement called him a “known enemy combatant” who was handed over to US forces “on or about Sept. 21.”
The capture has created a policy conundrum for the Trump administration. President Donald Trump campaigned on a vow to load up Guantánamo with prisoners. But if the American is to be charged with a crime, he cannot go to Guantánamo, where by law only non-citizens can be tried by military commission. Moreover, if he were to be sent to the war-on-terror detention center in southeast Cuba, he could not be later sent to a federal court for prosecution under a different provision of US law enacted during the Obama administration that prevents the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to US soil.
On Sept. 29, a day after the ICRC said it had been notified about the captive, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, based on reports of a US citizen in detention, “his ongoing military detention is unlawful as a matter of domestic law, and his constitutional rights to habeas corpus and to a lawyer must be respected.
“If the government has legitimate grounds to suspect the citizen fought with ISIS, he should immediately be transferred to the federal criminal justice system for criminal charges,” he added.
Romero also copied in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his correspondence. As of Oct. 2, he had not received a response.