This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HEROES

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor must have been a strange time for the U.S. military. But many didn’t get the chance to ponder the new world order they lived in.


As Hawaii came under attack, other American military forces were under the gun from Japan at the same time. While the Imperial Navy left the U.S. Pacific Fleet in ruins within hours, the Battle of Wake Island would last for 15 days.

Unfortunately for the invading Japanese, the Marines posted an aviator named Capt. Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Elrod to Wake Island four days prior to the attack.

Elrod and his fellow pilots started with 12 F1F-3 Wildcats to defend the island. After the initial Japanese aerial bombing, only four survived.

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Henry T. Elrod (Marine Corps photo)

That’s when the full Japanese invasion fleet arrived.

The Marine pilots provided air cover for the defenders of the island. They helped the 450 Marines on the ground fend off a large naval bombardment from three light cruisers and six destroyers.

Marine artillery, using WWI-era battleship guns, struck the Japanese destroyer Hayate – they hit its magazine and the ship exploded. Elrod then bombed and strafed the destroyer Kisiragi, sending it to the bottom of the Pacific. His plane was heavily damaged and had to be scrapped for parts.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
The Kisragi. (Kure Maritime Museum)

The Marines repelled the invasion, but that didn’t stop the Japanese attack. The commander shelled the island incessantly.

When the Japanese bombers returned hours later, only one Wildcat still remained operational. With Hammerin’ Hank at the controls, it flew to intercept 22 incoming enemy planes. He threw everything he had at the incoming planes and managed to take down two of them.

Over the next two weeks, the flightline mechanics managed to fix more planes — two at a time — by using the inoperable ones for parts. There was just too much coming at them.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Wreckage of Wildcat 211-F-11, flown by Capt Elrod on December 11, in the attack that sank the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi. (U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command)

Hank Elrod was killed on the beach at Wake Island as he led a group of Marines against the oncoming invasion troops, but not before capturing an enemy machine gun during an infantry charge.

While 90 percent of the defenders at Wake survived, they were sent to prison camps for the duration of the war. American forces would not attempt to retake the island, but would instead use a blockade to starve the Japanese defenders.

The Japanese would hold Wake Island until September 1945, two days after the formal surrender of Japan.

Henry Elrod was posthumously promoted to major and awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman.

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How one Soviet agent single-handedly changed the course of World War II

When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.

Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently. 

At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it. 

Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Sorge (left) in uniform in 1915 (German Federal Archive)

It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China. 

Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.

That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
He was so good at peddling fake Nazi bullsh*t that he had this guy buying in (German Federal Archive)

By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government. 

Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.

After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR. 

By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.

In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.

After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
This intel was crucial to the Soviets driving the Germans out of Stalingrad and turning the tide on the Eastern Front (Wikimedia Commons)

Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.


Feature image: German Federal Archive

MIGHTY HEROES

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Not all acts of heroism take place on the battlefield. Here are 6 times when troops jumped into harm’s way:


1. Sgt. George Long helped protect his leaders during a Fort Hood shooting

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Photo: Army Capt. Devon Thomas

 

On Apr. 12, 2014, Sgt. George D. Long was in a meeting with leaders in his battalion at Fort Hood when shots broke out in the building. When the shooter approached the conference room, Long and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson sprinted to the door and held it shut, continuing even when shots began coming through the door. This saved the lives of the other soldiers in the room.

Long received the Soldier’s Medal but remains humble about his service. He opened an interview with an Army journalist by listing other people who saved lives during the Fort Hood shooting, especially Ferguson. Ferguson tragically died during the event.

2. A Fort Drum soldier pulled people from a burning tour bus

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Jacob Perkins, after a promotion to staff sergeant, accepts the 2012 Soldier of the Year Award. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Sun L. Vega

On the New York State Thruway in 2011, Then-Sgt. Jacob Perkins spotted a burning tour bus that had struck a semi-truck. He rushed into the blaze and began pulling out the survivors. 53 people were on the bus when it hit and 30 were injured but everyone survived thanks to Perkins’ quick actions.

“This is a momentous occasion,” said then-Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, now the Army Chief of Staff, at the Soldier’s Medal ceremony for Perkins. “If there were bullets flying and it was the Taliban, Sergeant Perkins would be getting the Medal of Honor.

3. Two sailors and an airman rescued the crew of a crashed helicopter

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
A Chinook loads passengers at Forward Operating Base Kala Gush’s flight line. Photo: US Army Maj. Christopher Thomas

 

A resupply helicopter carrying mortar rounds and other munitions crashed on the flight line of Forward Operating Base Kala Gush, Afghanistan on May 3, 2010. Immediately, troops sprinted to rescue the aircrew. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty arrived in seconds and avoided the still-spinning rotor blades while he forced an opening into the wrecked bird. Once the crew began evacuating, Doty climbed inside and attempted to shut down the engines.

Meanwhile, as leaking fuel spread from the wreckage and coated the mortar rounds strewn on the ground, Hospitalman Corpsman 2nd Class Roy D. Jaquez yelled for non-essential personnel to stay back and used his bare hands to rip out the windshield. He then climbed to one of the injured crewmembers and got him or her to the aid station for treatment.

At the same time, Navy Lt. Kyle Burditt and Army First Lt. Alex DeSeta assisted two aircrew members as they evacuated the helicopter.

After Burditt, DeSeta, Jaquez, and others got the crew safely away, Doty finally gave up on shutting off the engines and escaped the crash site. All four heroes received Soldier’s Medals.

4. An airman lead a rescue attempt in the middle of burning jets

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz speaks to French journalists after receiving the French Legion of Honor. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

 

On Jan. 26, 2015 a Greek F-16 crashed into French jets at a refueling point during an exercise at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain. The flames from the wreck killed two Greek pilots and nine French troops, but U.S. airmen moved in to save everyone they could.

One of the first on the scene was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz who rushed into the flames to start pulling out the wounded. Swarz actually burned his own hands while pulling others from the fire, according to another airman at the scene. As Swarz was doing his work, other airmen used mobile fire extinguishers to put out people and loaded the wounded into a van.

Three French service members survived thanks to the airmen’s actions. Swarz received the Airman’s Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and the Spanish Cross of Aeronautical Merit for his actions. Four airmen received French National Medals of Defense and five airmen received Crosses of Aeronautical Merit.

5. An Air Force master sergeant saved dozens after Haiti earthquake

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David J. Beall

 

Master Sgt. Keith M. O’Grady was on the first plane to land in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. O’Grady and his team pulled 13 people from the rubble by tunneling into fallen debris with bare hands, concrete breakers, and digging bars. O’Grady voluntarily climbed through miles of these unsupported tunnels to rescue survivors, often burrowing past the remains of people who didn’t survive.

The team also provided advanced medical care to 27 patients and transferred 18 patients to trauma centers. O’Grady received the Airman’s Medal for his work and valor.

6. A soldier in Germany evacuated most of a burning apartment building before police arrived, then helped pull out two final survivors

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Photo: US Army Richard Herman

 

Spc. Willie Smith was returning from a night out in Stuttgart, Germany when he saw flames rising from a wooden apartment building. His friend called emergency services and Smith began moving through the building, sounding the alarm. Smith’s warnings allowed approximately 30 people to escape before the flames grew too large.

But when the German police arrived, they discovered that an elderly couple was missing. So Smith rushed back in with them. Smith helped the man out while police woke and escorted out the woman. He received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions.

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How the Vietnam War changed the Navy SEALs forever

When the war in Vietnam kicked off, the Navy’s special warfare operations weren’t exactly the same as we know them today. During World War II and the Korean War, the Navy’s special operators were mostly “Frogmen,” members of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).

Within months of the start of the Vietnam War, the Frogmen were carrying rifles and became experts in special operations tactics. The Navy SEALs were about to be reborn and tested in the jungles of Vietnam. 

The Navy SEALs, as we know them today, were established in 1962 in a commitment from the Kennedy White House to develop America’s unconventional warfare capabilities. The SEALs were descended from the World War II-era joint “Scouts and Raiders” and the Navy’s UDTs used extensively throughout that war. 

Although they kept a low profile throughout the Korean War, the UDTs’ Frogmen perfected many of their operations along the North Korean coastline (even moving inland in many cases) and honed their commando abilities against a real-world enemy. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
The UDT/ “Frogmen,” predecessors to today’s SEALs, on a mission to clear mines off the coast of North Korea in 1950 (U.S. Navy / National Archives)

But Vietnam was the first war in which the Navy SEALs were fully funded and fully developed, graduating three classes of SEALs from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Course (BUD/S) every year. 

By 1967, the number of BUD/S classes increased to five per year. Before the mid-1960s, SEALs in Vietnam were being used to reconnoiter beaches and landing sites, survey waterways and train South Vietnamese commandos. The CIA began to use SEALs in its Phoenix Program, an effort to undermine the Viet Cong in South Vietnam through counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations.  

In the late 1960s, the Viet Cong, the guerrilla forces of the North Vietnamese communist government, had created an entire shadow government of its own in North Vietnam. The bread and butter mission of the U.S. Navy SEALs was to deploy into the jungle and take down VC leaders. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
SEALs in the Mekong Delta, 1967 (U.S. Navy/ National Archives and Records)

Most of these leaders were mid-level, and the SEALs would deploy in nine-man  teams, with two of those being South Vietnamese commandos and one being a Navy SEAL officer. The team would head out into the jungle for a couple of days, complete the destruction of a VC official, and then head back to base. 

These direct action, search-and-destroy missions were a far cry from the SEALs earliest days of carrying demolition explosives to a specific structure and destroying it before leaving the area. On top of killing the enemy, SEALs also had to gather intelligence in Vietnam. This meant they had to actually capture enemy troops and interrogate them. 

Sometimes, this meant learning to speak Vietnamese. The SEALs had truly come into their own as a complete, well-rounded special operations force. For the duration of the war in Vietnam, there were at least eight full platoons of Navy SEALs in the country.

The elite status of the special operators also included the look they’re still known for to this day: relaxed uniform and grooming standards. One of the favorite items among Vietnam-era Navy SEALs, were Levi’s blue jeans – because the government-issued camouflage just didn’t hold up against the dense jungle foliage.  

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Why Levi’s didn’t capitalize on this with a marketing campaign, we may never know… (U.S. Army)

For all the trouble SEALs had at the start of the war, including high casualty rates, public anger over the Phoenix Program, and internal Navy division over the relaxed grooming and uniform standards, the SEALs proved they were worth the trouble. They were willing to do what other units weren’t willing to do, in the face of overwhelming odds. 

And the Navy SEALs still do it, almost 60 years later. 

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The Air Force scored the world’s only supersonic air-to-air gun kill in Vietnam

The air-to-air missiles of the F-4 Phantom II were notoriously unreliable in the skies over Vietnam. If the Phantom a pilot was flying was an early model and those missiles failed them in a dogfight, it was time to hightail it out of the sky. 

Luckily for Col. Phil “Hands” Handley, he was flying a U.S. Air Force F-4E on June 2, 1972, when he and his wingman were surprised by two enemy MiG-19 fighters. That day, Handley would score the highest-speed air-to-air gun kill ever, breaking the speed of sound to do it. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

Handley and three other F-4E Phantoms were flying out of Ubon Air Base in Thailand in support of a search and rescue mission near Hanoi. The Americans were looking for a pilot who was shot down 23 days prior. 

Low on fuel, two of the F-4Es departed to rendezvous with an aerial tanker. Handley and his wingman kept flying the mission. The two were taken by surprise when two North Vietnamese MiG-19s appeared out of nowhere.  

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Booooooooo (screen capture from YouTube)

Neither pilot wanted to leave the other, but Handley’s wingman immediately went high. Turning hard into the pursuing enemy fighter planes, Handley turned on his afterburners and turned again, this time to the rear of the enemies. He made ready to fire his missiles. 

Handley’s F-4E Phantom was carrying a total of four missiles. Two of them were AIM-4 heat-seeking missiles and two were AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. This didn’t bode well for the pilot or his wingman, because the AIM-7 Sparrow had a 10% probability of killing the target. The AIM-4 was much worse, with only a 5% probability of killing the target. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

That huge gap between killing and failure was on full display when Handley fired his missiles. All either flew wide, flew up, dropped to the ground or didn’t leave the rail at all. Undoubtedly, there was no one more disappointed by this than Handley, except for maybe his wingman, who had two MiG-19s bearing down on him. 

With his wingman critically low on fuel over “Thud Ridge” and unable to engage the enemy, his only chance was Handley’s 20mm cannon. It was a shot that had never been done before.

Closing in rapidly, which is an understatement considering Handley was flying at Mach 1.2, he fired a high deflection shot, a three-second burst from the plane’s M-61 Gatling gun into a MiG’s flight path. 

300 rounds from the Phantom lit up the MiG-19, which exploded into a flying ball of fire. Handley’s own speed and flight path put a lot of distance from the remaining enemy fighter, which broke off its attack. His wingman met his date with the tanker and they all returned to Ubon Air Base. 

It was the first time a pilot used his cannon at supersonic speed to down an enemy fighter. As if breaking a combat record wasn’t great enough, when the F-4E pilots returned to base, they learned the pilot they were searching for had been found and rescued. 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Handley, 2016 (U.S. Air Force)

“Hands” Handley would be in the United States Air Force for 26 years, retiring in 1984, still holding the record for the highest-speed guns kill in aviation combat history and the only supersonic guns kill ever made. To this day, he still holds that record.


Feature image: U.S. Air Force

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‘Not just a box’ — 9 unclaimed veterans to be laid to rest

Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday in Iowa, thanks to the tireless efforts of a woman who treats every urn as if it contains the remains of her own family. 

Funeral director Lanae Strovers has been working on the upcoming ceremony for more than two years, but her passion and reputation for honoring veterans goes back much further in her career at Hamilton’s Funeral Home

Having been put on bed rest for three months because of surgery, Strovers was looking for a way to keep busy when she discovered Hamilton’s had about 300 urns sitting in storage. She made it her mission to follow up with families to see whether they could claim the urns or still needed them stored.

After the arduous process of tracking down relatives or guardians for all the urns, Strover said the funeral home ended up with the remains of three unclaimed veterans and organized a service for them.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Law enforcement in attendance at the 2018 ceremony for unclaimed veterans at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Since then, people are aware that Hamilton’s makes sure veterans get buried whether they have family or not,” Strovers said. “Local law enforcement has turned in urns, and storage unit owners have turned some in to us, which is an amazing thing because they know that we will hold the ceremony when it’s necessary.”

Strovers was adopted as a child and only recently learned anything about her biological family. Her background made her look at unclaimed remains differently.

“I felt that every person was a possible brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, or family member to me,” she said. “It’s not just a box with cremated remains in it. It’s someone’s family member. For whatever reason, they got separated — that’s not our place to judge those stories at all, but to be respectful that it’s someone’s loved one.”

One of the veterans to be honored Friday is Robert Glen Baumgardner, who served in the Army during the Korean War. He died in 2000. Burglars stole his urn from his sister’s house in 2020 after she died. Police later discovered it in the middle of an intersection and took it to the funeral home.

World War II Army veteran Calvin Dean Sours died in May 2012 at age 93. His urn was later found in the office of an administrator who had failed to bury him.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Funeral director Lanae Strovers, left, watches as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds receives a flag on behalf of an unclaimed veteran at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in 2018. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

Knowing that a person’s remains could be forgotten on a shelf doesn’t sit right with Strovers. While the ultimate goal is reuniting remains with the person’s family, giving the person a proper send-off is the next best option.

Friday’s ceremony – the third Strovers has organized – will begin with a 12:30 p.m. service at Hamilton’s in West Des Moines, Iowa. Law enforcement personnel, Patriot Guard Riders, and Iowa combat veterans will lead a procession to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, where Iowa-based country singer Cody Hicks will perform the national anthem. Military honors will be rendered, and local representatives and notable community members will receive the flags on behalf of each veteran.

Rich Shipley, assistant state captain of the Iowa Patriot Guard Riders and a Marine Corps veteran, said the riders would be there to ensure the veterans would be “laid to rest with as many brothers present as possible.”

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday, June 18, 2021, at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photos courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Our nation’s heroes should never be unclaimed, discarded, or interred with no family present,” Shipley wrote in an email to Coffee or Die Magazine.

“It’s really a great community event where tons of people come together to honor these veterans,” Strovers said. She strongly encourages the public to attend, especially families with children.

“To teach those kids respect for people who served our country is huge,” Strovers said. “And just to see so many people coming to pay respects to people they never knew simply because they served our country is a pretty amazing thing.”


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs.

MIGHTY HEROES

This Indian Air Force commando stopped terrorists cold after taking six bullets

The Indian Air Force’s Pathankot Station in Northern Punjab, very near the border with Pakistan, was attacked in the early hours of January 3, 2016.


Six terrorists from a Kashmir-based separatist group, heavily armed and dressed in Indian Army uniforms, breached the base walls and moved 400 meters into the base before being stopped by Garud Commandos. A raucous small arms battle ensued as the attackers opened up on the Indians with AK-47s and grenade launchers. The battle lasted until 4:15 pm on January 5th, ending with the death of all six attackers, six Defence Security Corps troops and one Indian Air Force Garud commando.

Garuds are the Special Forces of India’s Air Forces. Tasked with airfield seizure, reconnaissance, air assault, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, combat search and rescue, as well as air base defense, they are akin to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force operators or the British Special Air Service.

 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

Corporal Shailabh Gaur was part of a three-man team deployed outside the high value asset area of the air base. One of his teammates immediately took three bullets, so Shailabh took over his position. Fighting for nearly half an hour, Shailabh took 6 bullets in his abdomen but kept returning fire. Reinforcements would not arrive until a full hour after the initial contact between the terrorists and commandos.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Corporal Shailabh Gaur, post-surgery (Facebook)

The three man team prevented the attackers from entering the part of the base housing the aircraft and kept them from surprising other IAF personnel who might not have been as capable in their response. Shailabh was medevaced to a nearby hospital where he under went surgery for bullet wounds and ruptured intestines.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Corporal Shailabh Gaur (Facebook Image)

MIGHTY HEROES

Why this heroic Navy diver was awarded the Medal of Honor after a submarine sank

Chief Gunner’s Mate Frank William Crilley recognized the urgency unfolding 265 feet below the surface. Responding to a lost submarine in April 1915, a fellow Navy diver was operating at extreme depths when his life line and air hose became tangled in the hawser cables of a salvage ship. He could not ascend or descend without help. Crilley, a Navy diver with 15 years of experience in the fleet, immediately volunteered to don a diving suit and descend to reach Chief Gunner’s Mate William F. Loughman.

As Crilley entered the water off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, he knew that the US Navy didn’t want to lose any more sailors. A month prior, the USS F-4 submarine belonging to the 1st Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, had plummeted to the ocean’s floor. An investigation later determined a corroded battery had caused an explosion, killing all 21 submariners. 

It was the first underwater disaster for the US Navy. And despite attempts by four tugboats with the assistance of Navy divers to attach heavy lifting cables around the submarine, their efforts at rescue or salvage had so far failed.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Chief Gunner’s Mate Frank Crilley was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing another Navy diver during the salvage of the USS F-4 submarine in 1915. Photo courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

“Any attempt at raising the F-4 and rescuing any possible survivors presented the Navy with a situation in which [it] had practically no experience,” wrote Alfred W. Harris in a June 1979 edition of Sea Combat magazine. “While fires, explosions and numerous other types of accidents had occurred about other U.S. submarines, F-4 was the first of our boats to take her crew to the bottom, unable to return.”

Never had the US Navy successfully rescued or salvaged a submarine beyond 20 feet. The F-4 submarine lay 304 feet below the surface. Loughman had ascended to 265 feet when he began the struggle for his life.

Crilley braved the pressured depths, reaching 306 feet, where he could touch the side of the wrecked submarine. He needed to get a better angle to rescue his shipmate. No diver had previously ever reached such depths. In the two hours and 11 minutes it took to bring Loughman to the surface, the pair collectively experienced “depth narcosis” or underwater drunkenness — a condition that makes doing the most simple of tasks difficult.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Frank Crilley was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in the salvage operation of the USS S-4 submarine in 1927. This photograph of the salvage crew was likely taken at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa March 19-20, 1928, shortly after the salvaged S-4 entered dry dock there. Crilley is believed to be kneeling at left. Photo courtesy US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Loughman was semiconscious but alive and needed nine hours in the recompression tank to recover. For his actions on April 17, 1915, Crilley was awarded the Medal of Honor, presented by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929 (shown at top, with Coolidge at left). Although the Medal of Honor is awarded for heroism in combat, the US Navy had authorized the award for heroism in peacetime up until 1940. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal or the branch equivalent is awarded today for heroism in a non-combat capacity.

The F-4 submarine was later salvaged and recovered in August 1915. Four members of the 21-member crew were identified and delivered to their families. The remains of the other 17 sailors were sealed in four coffins and placed together in Arlington National Cemetery under a single headstone that read “Seventeen Unknown US Sailors, Victims of USSF–4, March 25 1915.” In 2000, submarine veterans lobbied in Washington, and Arlington installed a larger joint headstone. The old headstone was delivered to the USS Bowfin Museum at Pearl Harbor and is the only headstone ever transferred from a national cemetery.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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Why this French nobleman’s Paris gravesite is filled with dirt from Massachusetts

The United States owes its success in the Revolutionary War to help from France. The chief architect of that help was Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. In America, we simply call him “Lafayette.”

When France needed help during World War I, a squadron of American airmen volunteered their skills to fight against Germany. They called themselves the Lafayette Escadrille. When American troops finally arrived in France years later, their leaders walked into the tomb of the nobleman and announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
The Escadrille Lafayette in July 1917 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The relationship between the Marquis and the United States has endured for many centuries because of his admiration and service to a country that was not his own. That admiration runs so deep, that the nobleman is buried in American soil – in Paris. 

When the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States to fight the British in the Revolution, he was so committed to the cause that he volunteered to serve without pay. Unlike other French officers volunteering, Lafayette had the military pedigree to be of use and soon came to be the right hand man to Gen. George Washington himself. 

That pedigree didn’t come with much experience. Lafayette would be learning as he served the American cause. Luckily, as a wealthy man, his personal contributions more than made up for what he lacked in military experience. But as he gained that valuable experience, he proved himself an able commander.

A dedicated Enlightenment thinker, his devotion to the cause of American ideals led him to fight in several battles, to be wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and encourage France to recognize American independence. Most crucially, it was Lafayette’s forces that harassed Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
John Ward Dunsmore’s 1907 depiction of Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge (Wikimedia Commons)

This forced the British to move across the James River, where they were eventually trapped by Washington, Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau  by land and the French fleet by sea. He was forced to surrender his army after an almost three-week siege. It was the beginning of the end of the war, and the start of the American experiment.

Lafayette fought in the Continental Army all over the colonies, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to the South, and was one of the few things that all the new states of the United States had in common. He so loved the ideals of the American Revolution that he tried to export them to France when he returned home. 

His advocacy for American liberty would serve him and his wife well in the coming years of the French Revolution. The French admiration for American values saved the lives of the noble and his wife. 

Lafayette would return to the United States many times in the years following the revolution. His visits would confirm the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a functioning democracy, based on the egalitarian values of the Enlightenment. He came to love the United States and proclaimed that he wanted to be buried in American soil.

Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette’s grave (Wikimedia Commons)

On his final visit to the United States, Lafayette filled a trunk full of earth from the land near Boston’s Bunker Hill. When the noble died in 1834, his son interred him in the dirt from America. The American flag has flown over his grave continuously since 1850, a simple site behind an innocuous high stone wall.

Articles

The second man on the moon wants you to know that Tang sucks

Tang, the orange-flavored drink mix that intrepid American astronauts took into space, wasn’t selling so well until it famously went into orbit. And there’s at least one astronaut who wishes it never left the ground.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second person to step foot on the moon, told the audience of the 2013 Spike TV Guys Choice awards that “Tang sucks.”

For those unfamiliar with Tang, it’s the orange-flavored breakfast drink that has somehow managed to stick around grocery store shelves for the past 60-plus years, as if there wasn’t already an orange beverage closely associated with mornings. Except the only thing Tang has in common with oranges is its color.

Aldrin, the famous West Point graduate and Air Force astronaut, was not only the second man on the moon, he was a combat pilot in the Korean War. After notching two MiG kills in 66 combat missions, he earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined NASA. So if Buzz Aldrin says Tang sucks, he’s probably right.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Prime Crew pilot of the Gemini XII space flight, undergoes zero-gravity ingress and egress training aboard an Air Force KC-135 aircraft. He practices using camera equipment. (NASA)

Much of the Twitterverse agreed with him. An informal poll conducted by NPR following his controversial statement found that more than 57.1% of respondents agreed. Another 29.43% disagreed and 13.47% didn’t know what Tang is — and their lives are better off for it.

If you disagree with Aldrin, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that old-school astronauts don’t take guff from laymen. The one time someone tried getting into his face about how the moon landing was faked ended with Aldrin punching that person in the face.

Because NASA took this orange-like beverage on space flights, sales of the drink took off, too. It was so closely linked with the United States’ space program that people came to believe NASA developed the powdered beverage especially for astronauts. That built-in marketing gave it the lift it needed to stay on shelves ever since.

For this American hero’s sake, let’s be clear about Tang. If orange-scented furniture polish tasted exactly how it smelled, it would taste like Tang. The closest Tang powder ever gets to an orange is the picture of an orange on the label. Although it provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, that’s about all the benefit you’ll get from it.

Tang also contains two artificial yellow dyes, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which studies by the Center for Science in the Public Interest say can cause allergic reactions, contain possible carcinogens and may cause hyperactivity in children. It also contains BHA, which the label says is used to “protect flavor,” as if that was something we wanted. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health says BHA “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.“

Two good reasons to ditch BHA altogether.

For real food, NASA created dehydrated edibles for the astronauts to consume while in space, including scrambled eggs, curried chicken and raisin rice pudding, all packed in sealed plastic bags.

It’s no wonder U.S. Navy astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard a Gemini mission.


This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of NASA.

MIGHTY HEROES

This wounded cav scout saved his unit during an enemy ambush

Army Pfc. Craig H. Middleton was the Mk. 19 gunner on his convoy when it came under an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan. But despite his grievous wounds, Middleton was able to beat back the ambush and help save the lives of two wounded airmen — an action that earned him the Silver Star.


Middleton and his unit, Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, were making their way through a dry riverbed bordered by steep hills in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2011, when a series of rocket-propelled grenades rained down from the hills on one side.

Related video: Wounded soldier saved his unit from enemy ambush

 

The first RPG impacted a scout truck, the second hit the truck behind Middleton, and the third flew through the back window of Middleton’s Mine-resistant, Ambush-protected, All-Terrain Vehicle and exploded inside it. Middleton was instantly peppered with shrapnel up and down his legs, but he was still doing better than the two Air Force joint terminal attack controllers in the back of the vehicle. Both of them had received shrapnel and blast damage to their upper bodies.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge
The Mk. 19 can hurl 40mm grenades like they’re going out of style.

(Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Phillip Steiner)

The wounded and embattled gunner opened up with his Mk. 19, firing 40mm grenades where the rockets had come from as well as any muzzle flashes or fighters he could spot. Out of targets, Middleton dove into the back of the MATV and applied a tourniquet to one of the JTACs.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

While he treated the first JTAC, another RPG hit the vehicle, so Middleton rushed back up to engage the enemy.

He fired more 40mm grenades, but the nearby hills were too steep for that weapon to reach some of the enemy positions. Middleton switched to his M4 and fired over 100 rounds before going below once again to give the other wounded JTAC a tourniquet. Throughout all of this, Middleton was bleeding from dozens of shrapnel wounds. At some point he was also shot in the thigh.

The Army platoon inflicted an estimated 25 kills against the insurgents despite tough odds. As the fighters retreated, Middleton reassessed the casualties and spotted a severe groin bleed on the second JTAC which he treated with another tourniquet.

The truck then headed to the casualty collection point to get the two wounded airmen to medical care. It wasn’t until Middleton had helped prepare the other wounded for the MEDEVAC that he admitted that he was also severely wounded.

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

For his actions in Nangarhar Province that day, Middleton was awarded the Silver Star in a 2012 ceremony. Unfortunately, his wounds proved severe enough that he underwent a medical separation from the military. In an interview during that process, the cav scout told Army Staff Sgt. Elwyn Lovelace that he hoped to become a dentist and enjoy a nice, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work life.

We’re pretty sure he’s earned it.

MIGHTY HEROES

This Navy SEAL knew how to have fun and get to work

Navy SEALs have dominated the battlefields they’ve stepped on since the concept of their existence was developed during WWII.


The Navy SEALs were officially declared in 1962 when former President John F. Kennedy had them established to conduct Unconventional Warfare — and they’ve been kicking a** ever since.

Related: This is why the Navy SEAL swim challenge is not for just anyone

There’s a cast of characters that pop up in any military unit: you have the “grandpa,” the “fighter,” and the “smiley-jokester” that everyone loves immediately.

For SEAL Team five, Rob Guzzo was the “smiley jokester” — everyone who encountered him loved him right away.

“As soon as Rob checked in and he was going to be a comms guy, I mean we just hit it off right off the bat,” one Navy SEAL states. “We were just laughing all the time.”

Rob’s teammates commonly remember him as being a “walking holiday.” Sadly, Rob passed away in 2012, but this popular and fun-natured SEAL will live on through the memories in which he made with family and the SEAL community.

“Rob was a total jokester, which is awesome but at the same time was serious,” another SEAL admits. “His parents were both military, and he had that sense of pride.”

Also Read: Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Check out the HISTORY channel’s video below hear what exactly brings a SEAL platoon together.

YouTube, HISTORY

MIGHTY HEROES

6 badass women in the military

Amongst the backdrop of our relatively male-dominated world, women have often taken supporting roles. This is especially true in male-dominated fields like the military. Despite the perception that women weren’t suited to physically demanding jobs, many women have gone on to take leading roles in several branches of the U.S. military. Today, we’re turning the spotlight to shine on some of the most badass women warriors around.

1. Captain Linda Bray 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

Captain Linda Bray was the leader of the 988th Military Police Company in 1989. Out of the 700 women who took part in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Bray was the first woman to command American soldiers on the battlefield. In several interviews, Bray said that she joined the Army to be challenged on a personal level, as well as to represent her country.

And boy, she did not disappoint. Bray’s leadership shined a light on the marginalization of female soldiers in the U.S military and ultimately caused leaders to reconsider the prohibition of women in the military. The ban officially ended in 2013. To this day, Linda Bray serves as a role model to many female soldiers who still often find themselves challenged within the military system. 

2. General Ann E. Dunwoody 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

In 2008, Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female officer to reach four-star rank in United States military history. Before retiring in 2012, Dunwoody led Army Materiel Command. During the First Gulf War in 1992, she was also the first female commanding a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division. Regardless of her achievements, Dunwoody retains a humble vision of her military career, stating that she “sees herself as simply a soldier.”

Perhaps this viewpoint can be attributed to Dunwoody being a fourth-generation Army officer. In her family, serving your country isn’t an extraordinary achievement; it’s just what you do. She stresses the importance of recognizing the journeys of other women in the military, as the women serving today are paving the way for those to come. In 2015, Dunwoody compiled all her knowledge from past military campaigns and experience in leadership, releasing a book called “A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General.”

3 & 4. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

In 2015, Captain Griest and 1st Lieutenant Haver became the first female soldiers to successfully finish Army Ranger School and subsequently earned their ranger tabs. The Ranger School, established in 1950, has had over 77,000 tabbed soldiers, but Griest and Haver were the first women to qualify. Both graduates of the U.S Military Academy at West Point, Haver served as an AH-64 Apache pilot, and Griest was a military police platoon leader. Both women viewed Ranger School as an excellent way to prepare themselves for leadership positions.

Haver has stated before that she wanted to attend for much of the same reasons men do: to gain experience and be exposed to potential opportunities. In addition, she’s also said that normalizing female representation in the military will not only make the military atmosphere more diverse and accepting, but also a better institution all around. Griest and Haver’s trailblazing mission has proved even more successful; over 30 women, including National Guardsmen and enlisted soldiers, have since earned their Ranger tabs.

5. Eileen Collins

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

Eileen Collins, perhaps better known for her role as the first female space shuttle commander, also had a highly accomplished military background in the Air Force. Collins was one of the first women to be recruited for Air Force training right after graduating from Syracuse University and completed her training in 1979. After graduating, she also became the first female flight instructor for the Air Force, teaching pilots how to fly complex military aircraft.

By 1989, Collins had not only received several more advanced degrees but had also logged over a thousand hours in flight time. Combined, her degrees and flight time were more than enough to be accepted into the competitive Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. From there, Collins proceeded to be the first female pilot for NASA, spending 419 hours in space. She was assigned to the historic Columbia space shuttle in 1999. Now retired from both the Air Force and NASA, she has received a great deal of recognition for her accomplishments, including indictment into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  

6. Mary A. Hallaren 

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

According to Colonel Mary Hallaren, there was never a question about whether women should serve in the military. With the onset of Wolrd War II and the shockingly gruesome events at Pearl Harbor, Hallaren enlisted in the first training class of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, commonly known as WAC, in 1942. Hallaren’s pension for leadership proved beneficial; she was quickly promoted to commanding the most expansive female unit overseas.

By 1948, she was the director of WAC and earned the first commissioned officer position in the Regular Army. Unlike most military positions offered to women at the time, it was a non-medical role. Throughout the rest of her career, Hallaren’s passion and dedication made her instrumental in the fight for inclusion. Her work eventually earned her a spot in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

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