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.
“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.”
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.
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.
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.
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.
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.
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.
Time marches on and with it goes some of history’s greatest heroes. The history of World War II reached a sad but inevitable milestone in June 2021. The last surviving soldier who liberated the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz has died at age 98. The Munich Jewish Community Organization that confirmed his death gave no cause.
David Aleksandrovich Dushman drove his Soviet T-34 tank through the electrified fence of the concentration camp on January 27, 1945. He was a soldier of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, part of a force moving through Poland on its way to Berlin.
Like much of the world, the Soviet troops knew little of the camps set up by the Germans who occupied Poland or what happened in the camps. But unlike much of the world, they found out very quickly. In a 2015 interview with a German newspaper, he described seeing skeletons everywhere.
Still, he only saw what was in front of him and the rumors he heard among his fellow soldiers. It was only after the end of the war that he learned the magnitude of what happened in the string of Nazi camps across Europe.
“They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.
Dushman was a Russian Jew from the Free City of Danzig, later a Polish possession. He was just 21 years old that day but he knew all too well what Jewish people faced, even inside the Soviet Union.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most notorious death camps in Germany and its occupied territories, famous for its gas chambers that ended the lives of an estimated one million Jewish prisoners from across Europe. But Jews weren’t the only ones sent there to die.
The death camps at Auschwitz were the final destination for many of Europe’s homosexuals, much of its Roma population and Soviet prisoners of war. If captured by the Wehrmacht, it’s very likely Dushman would have met his end there.
Instead, he was the first liberator to enter the grounds (if you don’t count his T-34 as a liberator).
Dushman was only one of 69 Red Army soldiers from his unit who survived World War II, from a unit of 12,000. He was wounded at least three times on the brutal Eastern Front, but it could have been worse for him– much worse. He and his comrades fought in some of the most intense battles of World War II, including the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk.
After the war, Dushman became a doctor at the behest of his mother, carrying on the family profession. But he really wanted to be a champion fencer and studied the sport intensely. He became one of the USSR’s top fencing athletes.
The Soviet team, along with Dushman went on to win Olympic gold in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The decorated World War II veteran would later urge the International Olympic Committee to use its games as an instrument of international peace.
“My biggest dream and hope for future generations is to live in a world where there is no war,” Dushman said “… use sport as a way to spread peace and reconciliation around the world. War is something that should never happen again.”
Typically, losing a limb is a career ender for troops. After all, they’ve already given enough and surely they won’t be able to withstand the rigors of combat without all four limbs.
Except, yes, they can. These 6 warriors lost limbs in battle, laughed in the face of death, and came back to fight another day:
1. Gen. Frederick M. Franks, the architect of Desert Storm
Gen. Frederick M. Franks was the commander behind the “Left Hook” of the American invasion of Iraq in Desert Storm. Franks’ armored formations surged north into Iraq and toppled over a dozen Republican Guard divisions. And he led the whole operation with one leg.
He and Gen. Eric Shinseki, who survived a partial amputation of his foot in Vietnam, used to show their prosthetics to new amputees in Walter Reed. The tours were designed to remind the younger soldiers that they could still achieve great things after an amputation.
2. Alexei Maresyev, a Hero of the Soviet Union
Alexei Maresyev had just graduated flight training when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union and he was called on to fly against the technologically advanced Luftwaffe. In Jun. 1942, the young pilot was shot down over German-occupied territory and had to crawl for 18 days back to Russian lines. The frostbite and the injuries from the wreck resulted in both his legs being amputated.
But Maresyev fought his way back to active duty, partially because he was already respected for four aerial kills before he was shot down. In 1943 he again took to the air against the Nazis and shot down another seven enemy aircraft before the war ended, earning him the title “Hero of the Soviet Union.”
3. Douglas Bader, legendary pilot in the Battle of Britain
Like Maresyev, Bader was a respected pilot who lost his legs in a crash. Bader’s injuries resulted from an air show crash in 1931. The Royal Air Force retired him but said he might be able to return if war broke out. He spent the next eight years perfecting flight with prosthetics.
4. Capt. Jean Danjou, the Legionnaire who fought “France’s Alamo”
Jean Danjou graduated the French military school at Saint-Cyr and joined the army as an officer. After fighting Algerian nationalists in the 1840s, he volunteered to serve in the French Foreign Legion. At the Battle of Sevastopol, Danjou lost his left hand.
In 1863, Danjou led a 66-man element which came under attack by approximately 2,000 Mexican soldiers. He led a fighting withdrawal to a nearby estate at Camerone and rallied his men for an 11-hour battle. The unit was nearly wiped out but inflicted hundreds of Mexican casualties. Danjou died in the fighting. His prosthetic hand is now paraded in France every year at commemorations of the battle. The battle is sometimes described as “France’s Alamo.”
He repeatedly attacked Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s troops in an attempt to stop the march to the sea and relieve the pressure on Atlanta in 1864. After fighting there, Hood led troops in the defense of Tennessee in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. With the Union Army marching south, he attempted to rally troops in Texas in 1865 but was eventually captured.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Joe Hooper had two U.S. military careers. He first enlisted in the Navy in 1956 but after just shy of three years, he found himself a civilian once again. It’s not that he was bad at his job or was a bad sailor — the Navy just wasn’t the career path for him.
Six months later, he was back in the military. This time, he chose the United States Army. It was a choice that would completely change the rest of his life. He found himself training to become a paratrooper, serving first with the 82nd Airborne and later the 101st Airborne. Within three years, Hooper was an NCO.
But all was not perfect. He faced a number of Article 15 hearings related to disciplinary issues. By 1967 he had been demoted to Corporal and promoted to Sergeant once more. His promotion came just in time to deploy to Vietnam, where he would spend the first months of 1968 – meaning he was in country for the Tet Offensive.
The Tet Offensive and the subsequent effort to recapture the ground the communists captured would take the first few months of 1968 in some places. One of those areas was the old imperial capital of Hue. It was during the Battle of Hue that Joe Hooper earned his Medal of Honor – and the insane citation reads like the plot summary of the greatest Hollywood action movie of all time:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sergeant (then Sgt.) Hooper, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as squad leader with Company D.
“Company D was assaulting a heavily defended enemy position along a river bank when it encountered a withering hail of fire from rockets, machine guns and automatic weapons. S/Sgt. Hooper rallied several men and stormed across the river, overrunning several bunkers on the opposite shore. Thus inspired, the rest of the company moved to the attack.
“With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved out under the intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, moving them to safety. During this act, S/Sgt. Hooper was seriously wounded, but he refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed 3 enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenade and rifle fire, and shot 2 enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the Chaplain.
“Leading his men forward in a sweep of the area, S/Sgt. Hooper destroyed 3 buildings housing enemy riflemen. At this point he was attacked by a North Vietnamese officer whom he fatally wounded with his bayonet. Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades.
“By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, yet despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy fire.
“As his squad reached the final line of enemy resistance, it received devastating fire from 4 bunkers in line on its left flank. S/Sgt. Hooper gathered several hand grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but 2 of the occupants.
“With these positions destroyed, he concentrated on the last bunkers facing his men, destroying the first with an incendiary grenade and neutralizing 2 more by rifle fire. He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with a pistol. Moving his comrade to safety and returning to his men, he neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance by fatally wounding 3 North Vietnamese officers with rifle fire.
“S/Sgt. Hooper then established a final line and reorganized his men, not accepting treatment until this was accomplished and not consenting to evacuation until the following morning. His supreme valor, inspiring leadership and heroic self-sacrifice were directly responsible for the company’s success and provided a lasting example in personal courage for every man on the field. S/Sgt. Hooper’s actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”
War heroes can emerge from plenty of unexpected places, and that includes kennels, lofts, and stables. Here are seven awesome war heroes who didn’t let being an animal get in the way of winning human conflicts.
1. The pigeon who saved 194 American lives after being shot through the chest.
Cher Ami was a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on the 77th.
In 1917, Stubby joined a group of American soldiers training for the trenches of World War I. He deployed with the men overseas and proved himself in battle multiple times, waking soldiers as he sensed incoming artillery attacks and infantry assaults that human sentries hadn’t yet detected.
Despite being caught in multiple gas attacks, Sgt. Stubby survived the war and the supreme commander of American Forces in World War I, Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal in 1921 for his efforts.
Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.
4. The horse that ferried ammunition and wounded Marines despite two wounds from enemy fire.
Sgt. Reckless was a Marine in an anti-rifle platoon during the Korean War. She served in a few battles as an ammo carrier and evacuated wounded troops when necessary. In the Battle of Vegas in early 1953, Reckless carried rounds for three days straight.
5. Simon continues catching rats during a siege after nearly dying of injuries from artillery fire.
In April 1949, the HMS Amethyst was ordered up the Yangtse to guard the British embassy in Nanking during the war between Communists and Nationalists in China. As the Amethyst moved up the river, it came under heavy fire from a Communist shore battery and ran aground.
Besieged by Communist forces, the Amethyst was trapped for a total of 101 days. The ship’s cat, Simon, was riddled by shrapnel and partially burnt by artillery fire in the initial attack but forced himself back into service to combat a surge of rats that were damaging the limited rations in the ship. His efforts allowed the men to just barely survive the siege as rations nearly ran out. He was the first member of the Royal Navy to receive the Dickin Medal for animal valor.
7. Nemo the dog fights off attackers after being blinded.
Nemo and his handler, Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg, were patrolling a cemetery near their base in Vietnam on Dec. 4, 1966 when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Nemo was shot in the eye while Throneburg took a round to the shoulder.
Dragonman’s Military Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is not your average military museum. You quickly figure that out when you first arrive. The entryway leads you through cars full of bullet holes that have bloody human dummies inside. The signs that accompany the cars say things like, “STAY ON THE ROAD. This family just hit a LANDMINE.” That makes it super clear: This museum experience is going to go the distance.
Nothing says authentic like working military weapons in a museum
The owner of Dragonman’s Military Museum is a Vietnam Vet known as “Dragon Man.” That’s a way cooler name than his real name, Mel Bernstein. His museum does not mess around. It has 1,200 mannequins in authentic military uniforms. In addition, there are also more than 5,000 helmets and over 2,500 weapons on display. Many of the mannequins are holding weapons. The sheer quantity of military memorabilia at this place is simply awe-inspiring.
As a matter of fact, all of the restorable items, including the guns and vehicles, have been restored to working condition. While the US government does not allow real bullets in their museums, that certainly is not the case for Dragonman’s Military Museum.
Military history is not all uniforms and army tanks
Equally important are some of the specific and strange items Dragonman’s Military Museum houses. He showcases every model of Army Jeep, land mine, and German belt buckle from both World War I and World War II. In face, he’s even made a pyramid constructed of 500-pound Vietnam War bombs and even has gas masks for babies.
Then again, some of the most disturbing items in the museum come straight from the Nazis. In fact, there’s an entire room dedicated to Nazis. Of course, the Swastika flags are off-putting, and Hitler’s original mustard yellow uniform is unsettling as well. However, those are nothing compared to the corpse tongs from Dachau. Or the soap made from human fat. The Dragon Man even has an empty gas chamber complete with Zyklon B cans, the trademarked gas used by the Nazis in their extermination camps. Not a lot of military museums in the world dare to show history with this level of honesty, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Dragon Man is doing his part to ensure the world never forgets.
Ambiance is everything
On top of the actual historical pieces in the museum is its atmosphere. Gunfire and explosions sound from the walls, coming straight from the adjacent firing range, also owned by the Dragon Man. Plus, he’s done things to show the history with more than just artifacts.
For instance, he’s recreated a whole Gulf War field hospital, and he’s got a photo of a suicide bomber who was beheaded by a US sniper bullet from the Iraq War, plus pictures of Saddam Hussein himself captured by soldiers. Dragonman’s Military Museum is a gutsy and genuine display of military history, to say the least—there’s no question about that.
World War II was the golden age of American submarine warfare. By war’s end, seven submarine commanders and one enlisted crew member had received the Medal of Honor. The US submarine fleet, often referred to as the “Silent Service” for its secretive undersea missions, operated independently and in wolf packs while patrolling contested sea lanes in the Pacific.
During war patrols beyond the range of American airpower, US submarines exacted a heavy toll on Japanese naval forces, sinking four fleet carriers, four escort carriers, one battleship, four heavy cruisers, nine light cruisers, 38 destroyers, and 23 submarines.
Although Rear Adm. Roy Davenport was never awarded the Medal of Honor, he was the first and only US Navy sailor to be awarded five Navy Cross medals, an honor Davenport shares with US Marine Corps legend Chesty Puller. Even though the submarine commander is one of the most decorated sailors from World War II, the heroic exploits that made him so remain largely unknown.
FIRST NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS
Before he assumed command of the USS Haddock, Davenport had four submarine war patrols under his belt, having served as an executive officer on the USS Silversides under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Creed Burlingame. As the Haddock’s lieutenant commander, Davenport was awarded his first Navy Cross for conducting numerous hazardous missions into enemy-infested waters off the Caroline Islands between June 30 and Aug. 10, 1943.
During a patrol near Palau, an island country that connects the western chain of the Caroline Islands with Micronesia, Davenport torpedoed and sank the 5,533-ton Saipan Maru, a Japanese transport ship. On July 26, 1943, Davenport fired a total of 15 Mark XIV torpedoes at ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yards in four separate attacks.
Davenport “pressed home his attacks with cool and courageous determination and despite intense and persistent hostile opposition, succeeded in sinking over 10,500 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 35,500 tons,” his citation states.
SECOND NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS
Davenport was awarded his second Navy Cross while serving as the commanding officer on the sixth war patrol of the USS Haddock between Sept. 2 and Sept. 28, 1943. Over the course of the 27-day war patrol, Davenport engaged with four different Japanese ships. On Sept. 15, he fired four torpedoes, claiming two hits and a fire aboard the target vessel. When the enemy ship attempted to ram Davenport’s submarine, Davenport released two more torpedoes “down the throat.”
Five days later, Davenport came into contact with the Tonan Maru II, a 19,000-ton tanker. He fired six torpedoes from 3,700 yards; half of the volley impacted its target. Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, the Haddock engaged two more ships, missing the first with two torpedoes from 3,000 yards. However, the US submarine later claimed three confirmed hits on the second ship after releasing at least eight torpedoes.
“He conducted daring attacks during this patrol which resulted in sinking over 39,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 4,000 tons,” Davenport’s citation reads. “By skillful maneuvering, he successfully evaded enemy counter-attacks and brought his submarine through with no damage.”
THIRD NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS
Davenport was awarded his third Navy Cross while serving as commanding officer of the USS Haddock on its seventh war patrol from Oct. 20 to Nov. 15, 1943. The Haddock patrolled off the coast of the Truk Islands (now called Chuuk Islands), a cluster of 16 volcanic islands, which form part of the eastern Caroline Islands. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, Davenport attacked a freighter and a troopship with five torpedoes. The freighter was destroyed, while the troopship survived after catching fire.
“He skillfully conducted a surface torpedo attack against an enemy destroyer search group,” Davenport’s citation reads. “One destroyer was sunk and he thereafter conducted a successful surface retirement during the ensuing confusion. During the patrol, he also delivered highly successful attacks against two heavily escorted enemy convoys which resulted in sinking over 32,000 tons of enemy shipping.”
FOURTH NAVY CROSS: HONSHU, JAPAN
After returning from the Caroline Islands, Davenport requested a transfer and became the first skipper of the USS Trepang, a brand-new, Balao-class submarine. Davenport led the first war patrol of the USS Trepang into enemy-controlled waters south of Honshu, Japan. On his first engagement, he fired six torpedoes at two large tankers, a freighter, and an escort. The engagement sunk the Takunan Maru, a 750-ton freighter.
“By excellent judgment, outstanding skill and aggressiveness, he closed and launched intelligently planned and smartly executed torpedo attacks,” Davenport’s fourth Navy Cross citation reads. “His skillful evasive tactics enabled his ship to escape enemy countermeasures and return to port safely.”
Between Sept. 13 and Oct. 23, 1944, Davenport was credited with sinking three ships and inflicting damage to a Yamashiro-class battleship. According to the Military Hall of Honor: “Davenport weathered a typhoon and, on 10-11 October, picked up a convoy of two tankers and one escort. Firing four stern tubes, he claimed three hits but no sinkings were confirmed in Japanese records. The next night, he fired four torpedoes at a Japanese landing craft, believing all missed. Postwar, he was credited with the 1,000-ton Transport No. 5.”
FIFTH NAVY CROSS: LUZON STRAIT
On Nov. 16, 1944, the USS Trepang departed for its second war patrol from Majuro, a chain of the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. On his 10th war patrol, Davenport braved the hazardous waters of the Luzon Strait, which is located between Taiwan and the Philippines’ Luzon Islands.
During the 34-day patrol, Davenport led a wolf pack comprising three American submarines called “Roy’s Rangers.” The US submarines fired 22 torpedoes and destroyed four enemy ships, totaling 35,000 tons. However, the postwar Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee — the US interservice agency that determined Japanese naval and merchant marine shipping losses during the war — reduced the tally from four to three ships sunk, for a revised total of 13,000 tons.
According to his fifth Navy Cross citation, “Daringly penetrating a strong hostile escort screen to deliver a series of night surface attacks, Commander Davenport launched his torpedoes into an escorted convoy, holding to his targets grimly in the face of heavy countermeasures and sinking an important amount of Japanese tonnage.
“During this excellently planned and brilliantly executed engagement, the TREPANG effectively coordinated her efforts with other submarines and, as a result of the combined firepower of these gallant ships, contributed to the destruction of the entire convoy within a period of three hours.”
When Emil Kapaun entered seminary school to become a Catholic priest in 1936, he probably didn’t foresee himself being declared a Servant of Godby the Pope some 80 years later. He also probably didn’t foresee how he would end up there.
Kapaun was called to serve as a U.S. Army chaplain during World War II and he answered that call. As the war ended and the United States entered a conflict in Korea, he stayed in the Army to shepherd his soldiers through their most trying times.
He was with them until the end, but what exactly happened to him wasn’t really known until an entirely new century had turned.
As a new chaplain, Kapaun didn’t make it to World War II until 1945, when he arrived in the China-India-Burma theater of the war. But he didn’t turn around and go home. He crossed thousands of miles in little more than a year to go wherever there were GIs in the theater. He went home in 1946 and briefly left the Army to continue his education.
By 1948, however, he was back in a chaplain’s uniform, spending time at Fort Bliss before shipping off to occupied Japan in 1950. This was the year everything would change. North Korean tanks invaded South Korea that same year, and the war nearly pushed the South and its American allies into the Sea of Japan.
Emil Kapaun was in Korea a month after the Korean War started. Kapaun and his assistant did more than tend to the spiritual needs of the men in their care. They picked up stretchers and became litter bearers during combat as the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter raged around them.
When United Nations forces managed a breakout and Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed a significant western force at Inchon, Capt. Kapaun marched north with the rest of the United Nations. He was there when they crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea, when they captured Pyongyang. He helped rescue the wounded and retrieve the dead and dying.
When Kapaun and the 1st Cavalry came within 50 miles of North Korea’s border with China, the Chinese intervened in the war. His unit was surrounded by 20,000 Chinese soldiers and Kapaun stayed with 800 men who were cut off from the main force, despite pleas for his own escape. Braving the enemy’s unending heavy fire, he rescued 40 of his comrades in arms.
His daring rescues in the face of hostile fire earned Emil Kapaun the Medal of Honor. He would never live to receive the award, however. He and other members of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment were captured by the Chinese and marched more than 80 miles to a North Korean prisoner of war camp.
While a prisoner, Kapaun did everything he could to improve the lives of the men held there. As they fought hunger, disease and lice, their chaplain dug latrines for them, stole food and smuggled necessary drugs into the camp. But even he was feeling the harshness of prison camp life and eventually succumbed to malnutrition and pneumonia. His remains were left in a mass grave near the Yalu River, along North Korea’s border with China.
After the armistice that ended the fighting on the Korean Peninsula went into effect, Kapaun’s remains, along with the others interred at the mass grave site were repatriated to the United States. Since his were unidentifiable, they were buried in Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
In 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency launched the Korean War Disinterment Project, an all-out effort to identify the remains of Korean War remains in a seven-phase plan. On March 4, 2021, Capt. Emil. Kapaun, Medal of Honor recipient and future Catholic saint, was positively identified.
Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Col. Raymond Skeehan
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Robert O’Neill, the former SEAL Team Six operator who is credited for firing the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, has a new venture. This time the only “pop-pop” coming from O’Neill is the pop of a beer tab.
He has a pre-IPO investment opportunity for anyone who’s both a fan of the armed forces of the United States and of craft brews: Armed Forces Brewing Company.
O’Neill made a fun, goofy and at times purposely over-the-top commercial/investment pitch video, recently shared on YouTube. The video takes shots at foreign breweries, beer hipsters and more, all to get you to invest in the company.
The former Navy SEAL kills aliens, trashes the competition and even pokes fun at himself, referencing the Delta Airlines flight in which he refused to wear a mask and was subsequently banned from the airline. Have a look:
The new venture is a brewing company comprising three brands: Seawolf Brewery, Soldier Brewery and Airmen Brewery. As of July 2021, only two beers under the Seawolf brand appear on the website. Launched by O’Neill and other special operations veterans, it’s designed to pay tribute to all branches of the military (yes, even the Space Force).
If beers like Special Hops IPA and Cat Shot American Craft Lager sound good to you, then you can not only buy one, you can own a piece of the company. Armed Forces Brewing Company is looking to raise $7.5 million in a campaign to grow its business. With a $200 minimum investment at $10 per share, interested parties can not just get a piece of the company, they can score some fun perks.
According to the investment site, there’s more to the brews than a gimmicky commercial and one of the world’s most famous special operators. The site says its products are brewed by an award-winning brewmaster, that it’s run by successful, seasoned hospitality industry veterans and that there are plans to hire a workforce made up of 70% military veterans.
Right now, the beer is available only in a handful of states but will soon be available in as many as 46. The company also says it’s planning a national expansion and already has a foothold to get three of its beers into military exchange stores.
As for the perks, $200-$499 will get investors an Armed Forces Brewing Company logo stick, challenge coin, a 5% discount online, along with your name on its online wall of investors and an invitation to the company’s annual shareholder event. Other levels offer VIP access at events, early tastings and even the chance to create and name one of the company’s beers.
Perks are all well and good for a casual investor who wants a stake in a veteran-owned business. The biggest question for any serious investor is: is it a sound investment? According to the company’s SEC filing, Armed Forces Brewing Company has some big obstacles:
It’s a relatively new entity with limited tangible assets and its continued operation may require substantial additional funding
The company has a very short operating history and no assurance that the business plan can be executed
The company has entered a highly competitive industry and within this highly competitive industry are companies with established track records and substantial capital backing.
The industry in which the company participates is highly speculative and extremely risky.
But there’s no significant reward without significant risk, as Robert J. O’Neill would likely tell you. Armed Forces Brewing Company could become the veteran-owned longshot-turned-competitor, in the vein of great companies like Black Rifle Coffee and Hire Purpose.