Marine Raiders in the Pacific - We Are The Mighty
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Marine Raiders in the Pacific

The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corp during World War II to conduct special amphibious assault missions, operating behind the lines. The Raiders were created by an order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the first battalions activated in February 1942. The Marine Raiders are said to be the first U.S. special forces operations to form and see combat in World War II. William Lansford was a member of the 2nd Raider Battalion during the Pacific campaigns. These are his dramatic stories told in his own words.

 

  

Asperiores odit

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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Iwo Jima

The battle for Iwo Jima in World War II became the bloodiest in U. S. Marine Corps history. But for survivors like Chuck Tatum, it also represents the best, the Marines and the United States has to give.  For despite the 23,000 American casualties, including 5,400 dead, the flag atop Mount Suribachi, is a symbol of this nation’s willingness to fight for freedom and liberty, no matter what the cost. This episode is an in-depth interview with Chuck Tatum. These are his dramatic experiences in his own words. 

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Here’s the amazing story of the famed “Flying Tigers”

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
R.G. Smith painting of the Flying Tigers’ P-40s in formation over China.


Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek knew he had a problem. The Chinese air force was in terrible shape, beset with a lack of trained pilots and aircraft, and the war brewing with the highly professional military of Imperial Japan in 1937 made reforms a priority. His decision to bring in American experts to help led to the formation of one of the famed air groups of the war, the Flying Tigers.

Captain Claire Chennault had resigned from the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1937 over dissatisfaction with his promotion prospects. A former tactical instructor, he took an offer to help train and survey the Chinese Air Force. When the second Sino-Japanese war broke out later that year, Japanese air superiority let them bomb China with virtual impunity. The massive destruction and loss of life would presage the terrible destruction wreaked on Japan by American bombing years later, with biological weapons taking the place of nuclear ones.

Faced with the utter collapse of an already Chinese inferior air force, Chennault was sent back to the United States with a Chinese delegation in 1941 to arrange for as many planes and as much logistical support as possible. Chennault had conceived of raising a small, elite air force of American personnel to fight the Japanese directly. President Franklin Roosevelt and key members of his administration were sympathetic to the Chinese cause.

As Chennault saw it, war between the United States and Japan was all but inevitable, and unlike many of his former colleagues, believed that China could serve as a base for later offensive operations against the Japanese home islands. Many senior military leaders totally opposed the idea, seeing it as draining experienced and vital personnel during a time of large scale armed buildup.

In the end it took direct presidential intervention to make the idea a reality. Roosevelt authorized Chennault to recruit U.S. pilots and support personnel to work directly for the Chinese government. An executive order was issued allowing members of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy to resign in order to join the group. The new organization was designated the American Volunteer group.

Despite the small size of the proposed group, consisting of a few squadrons averaging a total of 60 aircraft, getting the planes needed proved difficult. In the end, they had to settle on P40B fighters that had no modern gunsights or bomb racks, necessitating the fabrication of crude substitutes. This made their later successes all the more astonishing.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
The Flying Tigers personnel pose around one of their airplanes. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Corps)

The AVG essentially operated as legal mercenaries, in the tradition of privateers operating under Letters of Marque. Recruits would operate under one year contracts and the pay, ranging from $250 to $750 a month depending on the position, was excellent for the time. It included extensive allowances and paid leave, while pilots received an unofficial bonus of $500 for each confirmed kill of a Japanese plane. This served as an excellent motivation for aggressive flying.

The lack of available infrastructure was a serious problem. Chennault arranged for the formation of a large air spotting network across much of China using radios, telephones, and telegraphs, since they had no access to radar. An extensive network of airfields was built using mass Chinese civilian labor. “All over Free China these human ant heaps rose to turn mud, rocks, lime and sweat to build 5000 ft. runways,” Chennault later said.

Chennault instituted an extensive training program for his new recruits, based off everything he had learned about Japanese tactics and aircraft over the last four years of fighting. This included Japanese flight manuals captured by the Chinese and studies of crashed Japanese aircraft. This first hand knowledge would prove to be invaluable

The AVG was first deployed on Dec. 12, 1941. It was split between the vital port city of Rangoon Burma, and the southern Chinese city of Kunming. They faced overwhelming Japanese numbers, but their preparation and experience paid off. In one lopsided example, a large Japanese air raid on Rangoon on Christmas Day led to the AVG downing 29 enemy planes with no losses. After the fall of Burma to a Japanese invasion, the AVG retreated to southern China, where they would continue to score remarkable numbers of kills. In 7 months of ferocious fighting stretching to July of 1942, the small force of often less than 40 pilots shot down nearly 300 enemy aircraft, destroyed dozens more on the ground, and took out hundreds of enemy bridges, trucks, and riverboats. This kill ratio was seldom equaled in the war, and the Chinese air minister T.V. Soong later called the AVG “the soundest investment the Chinese ever made.”

In the face of a string of defeats from the Japanese, the U.S. public and media went wild over the AVG’s exploits. The media dubbed them the Flying Tigers, even though the unit itself did not use the name and actually painted shark mouths on the noses of their planes. Winston Churchill himself stated that the Tigers achievements equaled what the Royal Air Force did in the Battle of Britain against Germany. Even a wartime movie starring John Wayne was made to celebrate their achievements. Eventually the AVG was merged back with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, but they had achieved a romantic image of volunteers defending China and Burma against impossible odds.

American volunteer pilots fighting before war was actually declared stretched back to World War I and the Lafayette squadron, but the Tigers amazing performance in combat despite small numbers and extreme logistical difficulties made them a breed apart. They straddled the line between military and mercenary, something like the modern military contractors of today’s wars. Unlike the often unsavory reputation such quasi-mercenaries have today, they became national heroes and showed that such hybrid organizations could fight as well or better than their more formal military counterparts.

 

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Brain surgery to bear hugs: One wounded warrior’s story

Born with a birth defect causing seizures, battling anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and facing divorce and separation from a child can be a lot for anyone to handle, but with a community of support, things can get better.

For retired Air Force Capt. Rob Hufford, no statement could ring truer. From an all-time low to bear-hugging England’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, while in Australia to compete in the Invictus Games, things are looking up for Hufford.

“I researched the effect of lingering hugs,” Hufford said. “Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said four hugs a day for maintenance, eight hugs a day for survival, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”


After graduating the Air Force Academy in 2006, Hufford became a civil engineering officer and, over the next nine years, was stationed in four locations and deployed to Iraq twice.

It was during this time that Hufford’s life seemed to fall apart and things began to spiral. He reached the limit on the medicine he could take for his condition, which was a good and bad thing.

The drugs were causing anxiety and anger, but without them, his physical activity was limited until surgery. His outlook became bleak.

In January of 2013, he had a temporal lobectomy to remove a piece of his brain.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific

Retired Capt. Lawrence “Rob” Hufford yells triumphantly after lifting 418 pounds, setting a personal best in the heavyweight category of power-lifting at the 2018 Invictus Games.

“It was about the size of a tube of Chapstick,” Hufford said.

In 2015, the secretary of the Air Force decided that he should be medically retired. In 2016, his marriage fell apart and he became geographically separated from his son.

Keeping a positive attitude while coping with everything was a constant struggle.

His lifeline came in the form of friend, Dana Lyon, Air Force Academy javelin and strength conditioning coach. She had noticed that Hufford was a shell of what he once was and pushed him to become involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.

In June of 2017, he attended Offutt Air Force Base’s AFW2 Caregivers, Adaptive Sports, Resiliency, Empowerment and Transition event. Hufford was able to share his stories with others who were suffering and got to know himself better.

“I could finally see the effects that denial issues and my illnesses had had on my relationships with other people,” Hufford said. “It was a turning point in my life.”

It was also during the CARE event that he heard about the Warrior Games. He applied for the winter trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and was one of 40 selectees and 10 alternates to participate in the games at the Air Force Academy.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific

Team Air Force athlete Capt. Rob Hufford looks at the scoreboard after competing in the rowing competition during the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

The next thing he knew, he was invited to participate in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. The event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, was inspired by the Warrior Games created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010.

Hufford said he was honored to see Prince Harry during the sailing event. He called out to the prince to inform him that he could expect to receive a hug when he met him again.The Duke decided that there was no better time than the present and accommodated him with a big bear hug.

As Hufford continues to compete in Wounded Warrior programs, he has also made an effort to pay it forward. He works with Omaha organizations that help to identify what he calls “invisibly wounded” individuals throughout the community.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed.

“Rob is always the person there supporting everyone else regardless of what he is going through,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Support branch chief.

Impressed by his attitude, Gonzales assisted Hufford in returning to Air Force employment.

He is currently the lead engineer for the upcoming Offutt AFB runway restoration project and the Omaha Lincoln Airfields due to kick off in 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Asperiores odit

German U-Boat Lieutenant

In this special episode of Warriors, in Their Own Words, we feature an interview with a German U-boat veteran from World War II.  Rudi Toepfer was born in East Prussia, Germany on June 27, 1917. After graduating from the German Naval Academy, he served as the chief engineering office on submarines as they hunted for Allied convoys in the Atlantic Ocean.  After the war, he moved to the United States. He worked for Hughes Aircraft for 30 years and became a leader in the Elks Lodge and Masons.  This is Rudi’s compelling first hand account of his years in combat on board a U-Boat.

Asperiores odit

Tunnel Rats in Vietnam

The tunnel rats were courageous soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War.  American and Australian troops uncovered the enemy’s intricate network of tunnels while conducting larger operations. Tunnel rats were tasked with gathering intelligence within them, and killing or capturing their occupants–often in conditions of close combat. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps.

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Hack’n’Slash Friday: Who says tomahawks aren’t ‘tactical?’

If you were lucky enough to make it out to Agency Arms’ full auto shindig during SHOT Show 2017, you might’ve seen assorted burly dudes and barrel chested former freedom fighters hurling axes at a target. Why? Because lots of barrel chested freedom fighters still use tomahawks.


Marine Raiders in the Pacific
…and you don’t want to see what the Patriot does to the next Redcoat. (GIF: YouTube/Capta1n Krunch)

“But wait, Swingin’ Dick!” we hear you say. “Tomahawks haven’t been used since the days of Rogers’ Rangers and that American Revolution movie with an Australian in it! Isn’t this counterintuitive?”

To which we reply, “False. They’re using tomahawks right now in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Soldier Enhancement Program has been studying it, the combat development team at the US Army Infantry School has discussed its use — hell a platoon of the 101st were issued ‘hawks at Ft. Campbell just to see if the Joes would use it. And don’t forget all the SOF guys who use Winkler or RMJ ‘hawks — oh, and nice use of the word counterintuitive too.”

Grunts: counterintuitive.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
Nice ‘hawk Joe!

But, we digress. The specific axe we’re talking about was a custom MCUT, Modular Combat Utility Tool, from Jake Hoback Knives (@jakehobackknives). There were just a few of this particular version made. We’re gonna tell you all about it.

You’re welcome, nasties.

Hoback Modular Combat Utility Tool – MCUT

Hack’n’Slash Friday I: Hatchets and smatchets for rescue and hewin’

The Modular Combat Utility Tool looks very similar to the Hoback Knives logo. That’s hardly an accident.

Jake drew that logo a little over a decade ago (’03?) and has been asked may times over the years to build the axe that logo represents. Well, he finally got around to it…sorta.

We’d show you video and pictures of our own but were never able to get close enough to Jake at SHOT to club him unconscious (or roofie him). You’ll have to settle for these.

Hoback says the MCUT had its genesis in a desire to bring his logo to life in steel, but to do something different from what is an already crowded combat/tactical/taticool tomahawk market. He wanted it to be more than an axe, more than a breaching tool, but not one of those it’s-a-great-concept-but-poor-execution tools that’re often less than truly functional.

He wanted it to be a “Jack of All Trades” type implement, but not a jackin’ off exercise in tactarded futility.

With that in mind he designed the Modular Combat Utility Tool, which is a bit of a mouthful but does look to live up to its name. Here’s a quick rundown.

The base is Type III hard-anodized, 6061T6 aluminum handle, assembled from a total of 7 pieces.

  • Haft
  • Modular head
  • Cover plate
  • Two (2) x ¼-20 stainless black button head cap screws
  • Two (2) x 3/16th hardened stainless dowel pins (three of them)

The top of the haft is built with a machine-tooled pocket that holds the dowels, screws, and cover plate. This is the feature that allows you to switch the MCUT between different configurations dependent on mission and needs.

The first run of custom MCUTs will bear the signature Hoback axes head. Later they will offer heads designed for different tasks (breaching, digging, throwing, an evening of relaxing Úlfheðinn berserkergang, etc.).

Marine Raiders in the Pacific

Hoback promises new videos on his YouTube channel each time he completes one of the new heads.

HOBACK KNIVES MCUT SPECIFICATIONS

  • Modular Head – .1875 Thick 80CrV2 for the Axe Head
  • Haft – .75 Thick, 6061T6 Aluminum, Type III Hard-Anodized, Fully 3D-Machined for Texture
  • Overall Length: 10 in.
  • Main Blade Length: 5 in.
  • Secondary Blade Length – 2.25 in.
  • Haft color – Dark Grey Anodized
  • Head color – TBD
  • Kydex Sheath

You can find the MCUT online right here.

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Special operators are hunting Osama bin Laden’s son in ‘kill or capture’ mission

Osama bin Laden’s 28-year-old son Hamza is being hunted in a “kill or capture” mission by Joint Coalition Special Operations Unit which includes UK special forces, according to British media reports.


Hamza has become active as an al-Qaeda propagandist since his father’s death at the hands of US special forces in May 2011.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

“A Joint Coalition Special Operations Unit, including 40 SAS soldiers, have reportedly been flown in to Syria on a covert mission to find Hamza and his gang,” The Mirrror reported.

“He is now considered in the top 10 ‘high-value’ targets being hunted by Coalition forces deployed on Operation Shader.”

The United States added Hamza bin Laden to its terrorist blacklist in January.

The US Treasury estimates that he was born in 1989 in the Saudi city of Jeddah. His mother was Khairiah Sabar, one of the Al-Qaeda founder’s three wives.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

Last year, the fifth anniversary of the death of the man who ordered the 9/11 attacks on the United States, experts began to note his son’s increasing prominence in the movement. The State Department has designated him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” freezing any assets he holds in areas under US jurisdiction.

Experts believe Hamza is preparing to take over the leadership of al-Qaeda and exploit ISIS defeats in Syria and Iraq to unify the global militant movement under the banner of al-Qaeda.

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Snipers in Vietnam

Military snipers were trained sharpshooters assigned to kill a man with one perfect shot. These highly disciplined marksman often stalked a target for days waiting for just the right moment to squeeze the trigger. Lurking in the shadows alone, the deadly stealth of the sniper made him the most feared man on the battlefield. As a young hunter, Chuck Mawhinney grew up with a gun in his hand. In October 1967, Mawhinney was just 19 years old when he made his first kill as a scout sniper in Vietnam.

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Japan and Australia join US in Operation Christmas Drop

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Staff Sgt. Katrina Brisbin


Instead of a reindeer-powered sleigh, Santa delivers Christmas from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to more than 20,000 Pacific islanders by C-130 Hercules drops from the air.

For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Christmas Drop, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has two partners in support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in delivering donated goods to more than 56 of the Pacific’s most remote and populated islands. Each nation provided one C-130 for the trilateral operation.

Not only is Operation Christmas Drop the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission, but it also gives the 374th AW an opportunity to practice humanitarian aid and disaster relief. C-130 aircrews deliver almost 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. The airdrop missions allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while helping the U.S. strengthen cooperation with two allies.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Staff Sgt. Katrina Brisbin

“Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters, and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander. “That’s the beauty of this operation – its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam.”

The exact origin of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t known, but according to 36th Wing history, the first supplies were dropped during Christmas in 1952. An aircrew, assigned to the 54th Weather Squadron at Andersen AFB, flew a WB-29 Superfortress over Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia, south of Guam, and saw villagers waving at them from the ground. The crew packed items on the plane in a box and dropped it on a parachute used for weather buoys. The drops continued each year until the name Operation Christmas Drop was officially named six years later.

The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen AFB, with a celebratory “push ceremony.” Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing, 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, all from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from Australia and Japan gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel

Addressing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said, “Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.

“Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower.”

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Osakabe Yasuo

Throughout the week after the ceremony, the joint teams trained together on low-cost, low-altitude airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with humanitarian aid donations and critical supplies, such as books, canned goods, construction materials, clothing, coolers, fishing nets, powdered milk, shoes, school supplies, and toys.

“This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid (humanitarian aid and disaster response) and resupply missions at a moment’s notice throughout the region and around the world,” DeLaMater said.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Osakabe Yasuo

During almost seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.

“An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam.”

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Senior Airman Joshua Smoot

From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.

“We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year’s Operation Christmas Drop possible,” said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. “We began this process for the event in March, and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome.”

Last year, the Pacific Air Forces delivered 50,000 pounds of supplies to 56 Micronesian Islands.

Marine Raiders in the Pacific
U.S. Air Force photo | Osakabe Yasuo

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