4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

In the annals of military history, the Korean War is unique in the sheer numbers of human wave attacks that defenders were forced to confront. Like the Japanese in WWII, the Chinese and North Korean forces were keen on assaulting defensive positions with overwhelming numbers. Unlike the Japanese, however, this was a preferred tactic rather than an act of desperation.


American and United Nations forces would pay dearly to hold their positions against these attacks. Many men gave their last full measure of devotion to secure the safety of their comrades. For some men, that last full measure involved fighting to the death in hand-to-hand combat. In the image above, we see a granddaughter of one of these men accepting the Medal of Honor on his behalf. These four heroes really gave everything they could.

1. Jack G. Hanson

In the early morning hours of June 7, 1951, the communists launched an all-out assault at a strategic hilltop held by F Company, 31st Infantry Regiment.

 

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Hanson before shipping off to Korea.

 

Manning a machine gun covering the main approach was Pfc. Jack Hanson. As the attackers rushed forward, he poured devastating fire into the ranks. The maelstrom of bullets going both ways wounded the four riflemen holding the position alongside Hanson.

As they were evacuated, Hanson was told to relocate to a more tenable position. Meanwhile, the charging enemy forces were threatening to overrun.

Disregarding the order, Hanson held his position to continue engaging the enemy. As others fell back, they reported that Hanson was single-handedly putting up a dogged defense. He never arrived at the fallback position.

Near dawn, his company counterattacked. When they regained their previous positions, they found Pfc. Hanson lying in front of his gun emplacement. His machine gun ammunition was depleted and in his right hand was an empty .45 caliber pistol. In his left hand was a blood-soaked machete. All around him were the bodies of 22 slain enemies.

For his valiant last stand, Hanson was awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Anthony Kaho’ohanohano

On Sept. 1, 1951, the communists launched an offensive on a position held by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Assisting in the defense of the sector was Pfc. Anthony Kaho’ohanohano and his machine gun squad.

 

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Anthony Thomas Kaho’ohanohano (U.S. Army photo)

 

As the enemy surged into the position, Kaho’ohanohano realized it was untenable and ordered the withdrawal of the rest of the squad. He then rushed to retrieve ammunition and grenades, shrugging off his shoulder wound, and returned to his original position to cover the retreat of friendly forces.

His accurate fire drew the attention of the charging enemy, who focused their efforts on taking out the lone defender. He blasted away with his machine gun until his ammunition was depleted. He threw all of the grenades he had, but the enemy was still coming.

Undaunted, Kaho’ohanohano grabbed his entrenching tool and stood to meet his foes. He fought valiantly until the enemy’s numerical superiority overwhelmed him and they overran his position.

His staunch defense inspired his comrades and allowed them time to regroup to launch a coordinated counterattack. When friendly forces retook the position, they found thirteen dead communists around him. Kaho’ohanohano was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

3. Herbert K. Pilila’au

On Sept. 13, 1951, the Americans launched an effort to take a heavily fortified and well-defended ridge. The area eventually gained the infamous nickname, “Heartbreak Ridge,” due to the desperate fighting that went on there.

Just four days into the battle, a young draftee from Hawaii, Herbert Pilila’au, would exemplify the courage of those who fought on Heartbreak Ridge.

On that day, Pilila’au and the rest of C Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, charged up the slopes of the ridge, intent on taking Hill 931. However, his platoon’s attack bogged down and they set in a defensive perimeter while the remainder of the company set in elsewhere.

With the help of supporting fire, the platoon was able to hold back probing attacks. Before long though, the North Koreans attacked in force and Pilila’au’s platoon attempted to rejoin the rest of the company.

 

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Herbert K. Pililaau, United States Army, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.

 

Pilila’au, his squad leader, and the company artillery observer remained behind to cover the withdrawal. As the other two called for fire onto the encroaching enemy Pilila’au poured withering fire into the enemy with his BAR.

Despite friendly artillery landing all around him, enemy forces charging forward, and dwindling hopes of a successful retreat, Pilila’au remained in his position to ensure his comrades were secure.

When he expended the last of his BAR ammunition, he met the enemy advance with grenades. When those were gone, Pilila’au grabbed his trench knife and charged from his position to battle his foe hand-to-hand.

From their now secure vantage point, his fellow soldiers watched Pilila’au charge headlong into the communists, stabbing and punching as he went until he was overwhelmed and felled by an enemy bayonet.

When American forces retook the position the next day, they found the bodies of 40 dead enemies around Pilila’au.

For his courageous actions on Heartbreak Ridge, Pilila’au received the Medal of Honor.

4. Demensio Rivera

On May 23, 1951, a dense fog rolled into the positions held by the men of G Company, 7th Infantry Regiment. Hiding in the fog was an overwhelming enemy force, approaching for an attack.

 

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Puerto Rican Medal of Honor recipient Demensio Rivaa.

 

One of the men holding the line against the Communist onslaught was Pvt. Demensio Rivera. With little to go on other than shadows in the fog, Rivera engaged the onrushing enemy with deadly accurate rifle fire. When his rifle jammed, he discarded it and fought on with his pistol and hand grenades.

When an enemy attempted to infiltrate the position through a nearby defilade, Rivera left the safety of his position and killed the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

As the enemy continued to press the attack Rivera expended his pistol ammunition and all of his grenades but one.

With a mind on nothing other than devotion to duty, Rivera pulled the pin and waited for the enemy to storm his position. When that attack came Rivera calmly dropped the grenade among himself and his attackers, knowing full-well it would be the end of him.

After the grenade’s detonation, friendly forces rushed to Rivera’s position. To their surprise, Rivera was still alive, though gravely wounded. He was surrounded by the bodies of four enemy soldiers.

Rivera’s selfless actions in the face of overwhelming odds earned him the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Only one person at a time can wear Edson’s Eagles

There is a special and unofficial award for colonels who are most willing to take the fight to the enemy that is quietly passed between senior Marine Corps officers — the colonel rank insignia originally worn by Maj. Gen. Merritt A. “Red Mike” Edson, a veteran of World War II who also served during World War I and Korea.


Edson made his name leading Marine Raiders in World War II. One of his finest moments came during the defense of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal as he led 830 Raiders under his command against approximately 2,500 Japanese attackers.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
The Marines on Guadalcanal faced fierce Japanese opposition. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

The Marines held out throughout the night, saving Henderson Field. Edson, who spent most of the night within yards of the forward firing line, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He also earned a Navy Cross, a Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit for his World War II service.

In 1951, Edson was a retired major general. He went to the promotion ceremony for one of his former subordinate officers, Lewis W. Walt. Walt was scheduled to receive his promotion to colonel, and Edson gave him the wings that Edson had worn as a colonel.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

According to an article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Edson told Walt, “In the spirit of our Corps, pass them on to some other deserving fighting Marine when you no longer need them.”

Since then, Edson’s Eagles have purportedly graced the shoulders of some of the Marine Corps’ finest colonels.

“For 60 years, the passing of Edson’s Eagles has been unusual for its informality and privacy, honoring ‘the same mystical blend of intelligence, dignity, innovation, and raw courage that were the hallmark of their original owner,’ ” according to a story by the U.S. Naval Institute.

The most famous is undoubtedly Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis who wore Edson’s Eagles as a colonel from 1995 to 1997, rose to the rank of four-star general after leading Navy Task Force 58 in the Afghanistan Invasion and the 1st Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq — and is currently President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

Marine Lt. Gen. William M. Keys wore Edson’s Eagles after proving his mettle in Vietnam. On March 2, 1967, he led his company headquarters against a superior enemy force to save his rifle platoons during an engagement. Then on March 5, he engaged in hand-to-hand combat against the North Vietnamese while conducting a counterattack.

He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on March 2 and the Silver Star for his March 5 engagement.

Other notable recipients of Edson’s Eagles include Gen. Paul X. Kelley, 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps; Col. John Ripley, a Force Reconnaissance Marine famous for his actions at a bridge near Dong Ha, Vietnam; and Gen. James T. Conway, the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

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

Articles

Russians buzz USS Porter multiple times in the Black Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.


4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean during a 2007 deployment. The Porter was conducting Maritime Operations (MO) in the 5th Fleet area of operations with the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). (US Navy photo)

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Fencers carried out a similar buzzing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.

Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)

In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.

In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.

Articles

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.


That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.

Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:

“Saving Private Ryan” was called out by some for this scene as many thought it impossible, and “Hacksaw Ridge” features a similar scene that caused a few raised eyebrows.

But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.

While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
World War II mortarmen attack German positions in 1944. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This caused surface bursts, and most mortarmen wanted their rounds that were detonating against the surface to explode immediately. The further the main charge makes it into the ground before it explodes, the greater amount of the explosion that will be absorbed by the mud and dirt.

So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.

For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
An American mortar crew attacks German positions on the Rhine in 1945. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.

Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.

But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.

At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.

This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Hirohito was tormented by Japanese conduct in World War II

When Hirohito assumed the role of Emperor of Japan, the country was at the top of its game. A great world power, fresh off a victory over the Russian Empire, Japan enjoyed a booming economy, the third-largest navy, and a permanent seat at the head of the League of Nations. It soon began to unravel.


A swath of assassinations of government officials, attempts on the Emperor’s life, and a failed coup by a faction of the Japanese military may have left Hirohito suspicious and paranoid. He did little to stem to the rising tide of militarism in the Japanese government and did nothing to stop the military from ending civilian oversight of the Imperial Japanese Military. Most of us know what happened in the years that followed.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Hirohito toward the end of his life.

After World War II, much of Japan was able to move forward. Hirohito was not deposed but remained Emperor. Just how much control he was able to exercise over the governing of the empire is still a subject of debate in Japan to this very day. He claimed he was little more than a figurehead but many believe his god-like status in Japanese society could have done more. Only he, and perhaps those around him, knew for sure.

One of those around him published a book about his time with the Emperor.

Hirohito, now known as Emperor Showa in Japan, lived until 1989, just shy of his 88th birthday. A recently-published diary penned by Shinobu Kobayashi, then one of the Emperor’s chamberlains, one of the men who managed the Imperial household functions, says the Emperor was by no means happy about Japan’s entry in the war or how it was conducted in his name.

It is true that once many in the military government of Japan learned that the Emperor would broadcast a surrender order via the use of his voice recorded on vinyl, they attempted to depose Hirohito and destroy the record. The conspirators were thwarted by the layout of the Imperial Palace and the record was smuggled out by a laundry woman and broadcast the next day. But over the years, evidence and other memoirs have been published that paint a contradictory view of the man, who was certainly one of the 20th Century’s most important, controversial figures.

Kobayashi says the Emperor felt “anguish” over Japan’s entry into World War II, and feared that as his life continued, he would only attract more blame for his country’s actions. When the royal household attempted to reduce his workload after the death of his brother Prince Takamatsu, Hirohito was dismissive.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Hirohito next to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the days following Japan’s surrender. Many Japanese were offended by this photo, given the General’s casual stance in the face of the Emperor’s formality.

(U.S. Army photo)

“There is no point in living a longer life by reducing my workload,” the then-86-year-old Emperor said. “It would only increase my chances of seeing or hearing things that are agonizing.” Kobayashi tried to console the emperor by pointing to Japan’s miraculous postwar recovery in the intervening decades.

“It’s a page in history,” he wrote. “You do not have to worry.”

Hirohito managed to avoid being tried as a war criminal because Gen. Douglas MacArthur trusted that even the Emperor’s most fervent believers would adopt democracy after the war – with the Emperor’s blessing. Hirohito’s continued presence on the Chrysanthemum Throne became a unifying symbol of postwar Japan.

After Hirohito’s death in 1989, his son, Akihito, assumed the throne as the 125th Emperor of Japan. The line of monarchs can be traced back to 680 BC, with varying degrees of power and responsibility.

Articles

The Navy almost flew the Eagle off carriers

The Air Force has made the F-15 Eagle an icon of air superiority fighters. The Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has its iconic status, thanks in large part to Top Gun and JAG, among other Hollywood productions.


4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
A U.S. Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But the Navy could have flown the F-15 off carriers. In fact, McDonnell-Douglas, who had made the iconic F-4 Phantom, which was in service with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, proposed what was known as the F-15N “Sea Eagle.”

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
A formation of F-15C Eagles fly over Gloucestershire, England. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower)

There was, though, a problem with the Sea Eagle. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the design could not carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, which the Navy needed in order to counter Soviet long-range bombers armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.

The track records of both planes are nothing to sneer at. The F-14 proved to be a superb addition — it never had to face the big fight with the Soviet Union, but it nevertheless scored five air-to-air kills in United States Navy service. The F-15 scored 104 air-to-air kills with no losses across all operators, including the United States Air Force and Saudi and Israeli planes.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Here’s a video showing just what might have been, and why it didn’t happen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csBeVfeDCvg
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how you got away with drinking during prohibition

After a long shift, troops have the option to relax by kicking off their boots and cracking open a beer. However, this privilege wasn’t available to the veterans of World War I. On Dec. 18, 1919, a little over a year after The Great War, alcohol was an illegal substance in the United States. The veterans who fought in the most destructive war at that time were now denied the right to a cold brew. Imagine winning WWI, yet a civilian tells you you’re not allowed to drink. Fat chance.

The Eighteenth Amendment wasn’t perfect, which was perfect, because the loopholes allowed veterans to consume alcohol without directly violating the Constitution. The Lance Corporal underground of today can get away with some mischief, but they have nothing on the post-World War I veterans scoring some booze using a real underground.


4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

“I’ll start my own country, with blackjack…”

They bought it before it was illegal

Troops returning from the European theater had a valuable head start to legally purchase as many bottles as they could before Prohibition came into effect. It was legal to drink alcohol that was purchased prior to the 18th Amendment, in the privacy of your own home. The loophole in the law was the ‘manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors,’ not consumption, which is an important distinction if you’re dodging an NJP.

Modern troops that are stationed in Okinawa understand the essential skill needed to stockpile booze in preparation for monsoon season. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, every second counts.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Vino Sand Co.

They made their own wine

If you’ve never tried the Navy’s Well Wine, don’t.

Vineyards during prohibition ceased producing wine for distribution and instead sold bricks of dried grapes. These bricks could be mixed with water and left to ferment over the period of three weeks or more to create wine. Troops could purchase these bricks and accidentally let them ferment in a dark cupboard somewhere.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Blatz Products Company

They made their own beer too

Malt syrup was not an illegal substance, but it was the key ingredient to make beer at home. By adding water, yeast, and sugar to the syrup, a troop could buy one can and patiently wait for the fermented ingredients to produce 50 pints of beer.

This wasn’t legal, and raids were conducted on stockpiles of malt syrup, but if a troop wanted to get away with drinking beer, this was one they could get away with in their basement.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Auction Find

They would get a prescription for whiskey

A troop could legally purchase a pint of hard liquor every ten days at a drug store with a doctor’s prescription. It was during this time that Walgreens happily contributed to providing people with the medicine they so desperately needed in those trying times. Their aid in the legal sale of alcohol allowed them to flourish into 500 chain stores during the 1920s.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

“Extra, Extra, read all about it. Terminal Lance Corporals become clergymen en masse!”

US Navy 100912-M-2275H-196 A command chaplain holds church services aboard USS Kearsarge

A troop could get it from their Chaplin or religious leader

The Yorkville Enquirer reported the ban on sacramental wine on Sept. 1, 1922 had been lifted.

Imported or Domestic Product now allowed for Sacramental Use. David I. ltlair, commissioner of internal revenue, has definitely removed the ban from sacramental wine, in a decision which repeals two former decisions placing restrictions on wine for ‘sacramental use, and amends the regulations governing its distribution.

Incredibly, troops mysteriously became devout attendees to services because:

If a bonded winery for the purposes of manufacturing ceremonial wines for general distribution, but not for his congregation only. A priest, rabbi or minister of the gospel also may be employed as a qualified winemaker to supervise the production of the needed wines.

Naturally, the number of religious leaders also rose by dubious amounts after 1922.

To Alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.

www.youtube.com

Alcohol has a special place in our military history, and we can take solace in the fact that our forefathers got equally sauced as we do today using legal — or questionable methods.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The legend of Ed Loder: Boston Fire Department’s most decorated firefighter

The call rang out in the firehouse of Rescue Company 1 reporting a jumper at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ed Loder, a 41-year-old firefighter with 20 years on the job, threw on his gear and pulled himself into the driver’s seat of their fire engine. The sirens wailed as they sped down the narrow city streets of Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood in Boston. Loder steered the rig in front of the hotel, jumped out, and was handed a set of binoculars from the hazmat truck.

Against the dark sky he located a distressed woman on the 16th floor, sitting with her feet dangling over the ledge of a windowsill. A negotiation team of the Boston Police Department pleaded with the woman from inside the hotel room, but she wasn’t complying. Loder soon joined the other firefighters on the roof.


“We could look over the edge of the roof and see her, but she couldn’t see us because she wasn’t looking up,” Loder told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “She was looking in the room and talking to the cops.”

The woman had a razor in her hand. This rescue wasn’t going to be easy.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Boston firefighter Ed Loder talking to other firefighters on the ground while a building is ablaze. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

While other firefighters searched for a viable anchor point, Loder tugged ropes through the carabiner on his bumblebee suit. The nearby ductwork was unusable, but a window through an electrical structure on the roof was perfect. Loder tied in his line.

Their plan was to have the police distract the woman long enough for Loder to complete the rescue.

“They got her attention and the minute she looked inside of the room, I went off the roof,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “When I went off the parapet I naturally swung and kicked her in the side and she went into the room.”

The police officers immediately jumped on top of her and placed handcuffs around her wrists to prevent her from harming herself or anyone else. Loder, however, was left swinging outside and hollered for one of the officers to pull him in too.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

A newspaper clipping about the incident at the Ritz-Carlton, showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder after he made a daring rescue of a suicidal woman. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The Boston Globe would describe the heroic nighttime rescue that occurred on May 30, 1990, as “Mission Impossible.” Bill Brett, a Globe photographer, was a witness alongside 300 other spectators on the ground. “I never expected someone to come down and knock her in the window,” Brett said. “He drops down, and boom, she’s inside! Down where I was, everybody cheered; the crowd clapped and yelled; it was unbelievable, like a movie.”

For this action, the Board of Merit awarded Loder the Walter Scott Medal for Valor, the second highest in the fire service. But as he puts it, it was just another day on the job at Rescue Company 1.

The War Years

Ed Loder grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had long admired the World War II veterans who took jobs with the fire department down the street from his home. In fact, he wanted to be them.

The Boston Fire Department is rich with tradition and history that date all the way back to 1631. America’s first publicly funded fire department saw numerous innovations over the next handful of centuries. The first leather fire hoses were imported from England in 1799; all fire engines were equipped with aerial ladders by 1876; and radios were installed in all fireboats, cars, and rescue companies by 1925.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

A train collision that occurred in the Back Bay of Boston in 1990. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

In 1970, when 21-year-old Fire Fighter Edward Loder was appointed to Ladder Company 2 in East Boston, the Boston Fire Department was in the midst of the “War Years.” Between 1963 and 1983, there was at least one major fire every 13.6 hours. On average, a fire company reacted to as many as five to 10 fires in one tour of duty. Loder joined the fire service to be in on the action, and like the majority of other sparkies rising through the ranks, that’s exactly what he got.

Over the next decade, Loder responded to a variety of emergency situations as a part of Ladder Company 2, and later Ladder Company 15 in the Back Bay. He was there for a big oil farm fire in Orient Heights and a ship fire from Bethlehem Steel, but the most memorable for him was the 1800 Club, partly owned by former Red Sox player Ken Harrelson. The entertainment complex along the waterfront burned to the ground, with an estimated loss of id=”listicle-2648495230″ million.

Even some calls he didn’t participate in had an impact. After ending his shift on the morning of June 17, 1972, Loder and his wife went out in the afternoon, only to be stopped by a familiar face.

“We ran into this cop that I knew and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?'” Loder remembered. “He had this look on his face that I’d never seen before.”

The seven-story Hotel Vendome had caught fire and collapsed on top of Ladder Company 15’s truck. Nine firefighters were inside the hotel, and tragically, all nine lost their lives.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, kneeling second to left from Pickles, the “Dandy Drillers” Dalmatian. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The following year he responded to the worst plane crash in Boston’s history. Delta Airlines Flight 723 hit a seawall while trying to land at Logan International Airport. All 89 passengers and crew were killed.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘Geez, is this what the fire service is all about?’ It didn’t bother me in a way, but it was like a shock and awe after a little bit, and you adapted to it,” Loder said. “I said, ‘I don’t think there is anything else on this job that I could come across that’s probably going to bother me.'”

The days and nights spent on the job weren’t all tragic or intense. Every October throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Fire Department raised awareness through Fire Prevention Week with a squad dubbed the “Dandy Drillers” performing high-wire aerial exercises around the city.

“We took two 100-foot aerial ladders, we put them together at the tips, we tied them together up at the top, and hung a 150-foot piece of rope down the middle of it,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “I used to do the upside-down no-hands exercise. We had platforms attached to these aerial ladders probably 20 feet in the air, and we’d jump off of that into the life nets. We would also have 10 guys on each ladder that would hook into the ladder and lean out with no hands. I understand it was the only type of thing in the country.”

Boston City Hospital Rescue

After 12 or 13 years with various companies, Loder transferred to Rescue Company 1, where his reputation grew to legendary status. At one rescue, a deranged man was on the roof of Boston City Hospital. The man had hurled several brick-sized boulders at pedestrians standing on the sidewalk and at cars driving by on Massachusetts Avenue.

“If you come out, I’m gonna jump,” the man told the cops as they tried to talk him off the ledge.

Ladder Company 15, Loder’s old team, had arrived just as Rescue Company 1 pulled up to the scene. “Throw your aerial up on the side of the building,” Loder told them. “That way there if they chase him over here, he will see the aerial and he’ll go back.”

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, right, was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for Valor and four Roll of Merit awards, including one for a water rescue in the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

Loder took charge and ordered Ladder Company 17 to be posted on the other side to sandwich the man in between.

In the meantime, Loder went up the aerial ladder to get a better view of the rooftop and the distraught man.

“I’m gonna jump,” the man said once more.

“I looked at him and said, ‘What are you gonna do that for, you’re going to make a mess down there if you jump,'” Loder said.

The man ran to the edge only a few feet from where Loder was positioned. “We’ve been here for an hour playing with you — it’s lunch time, I’m hungry and want to go get a sandwich. How about you go inside the hospital and get something to eat?”

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

A screenshot from the Boston Globe newspaper showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder holding a man by his shirt with his fingertips while suspended 100 feet in the air.

“Fuck you,” the man hollered, as he climbed over the side and proceeded down a conduit pipe attached to the hospital building.

Arm by arm, the man took off his coat, threw it to the ground, and said for the final time, “I’m jumping!”

From the side of the aerial ladder, Loder reached out with both his arms and grabbed the man by his shirt. Dangling 100 feet in the air, Loder screamed at the aerial operator to lower the ladder.

“Instead of lowering the aerial, he hits the rotation on the turntable and slams me and the guy in the side of the building,” Loder said, explaining that the operator likely panicked during the split-second action. “He dropped the aerial down to maybe 10 to 15 feet off another roof that was there, and I let him go. I couldn’t hang on to him anymore.”

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Paul Christian, left, Boston fire commissioner between 2001 and 2006, and Ed Loder wearing Liar’s Club golf shirts. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Liar’s Club

A row of cars with the doors ripped off and the metal frames crumpled are remnants of a previous fire academy training class. There in the parking lot sits a small and unassuming office trailer known as The Liar’s Club. Since 1968, retired Boston firefighters have been meeting here every Wednesday morning to share stories, reminisce, and — sometimes — tell a few lies.

Driving up to the Liar’s Club in Loder’s pickup, we didn’t get very far before the first young fire captain approached the driver’s-side window, wanting to shake Loder’s hand. With some 43 years on the job, Loder is the most decorated firefighter in Boston Fire’s nearly 400-year history. Not that he boasts about the glory.

Inside, beyond the coffee and donuts, an old retiree says, “You know he’s one of the most decorated in the fire service?” while Loder rolls his eyes in the background.

In the back room, nicknamed “Division 2” in homage to the two districts between which the city is split, I listen as Paul Christian, the former Boston fire commissioner, shares a story about the old days.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

An infamous photograph snapped by a Boston newspaper photographer of Ed Loder wearing Sperrys on the job. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

“Today they have to put bunker gear on, put the boots on, put the hood on, put this on, put that on, get up on the truck, put their seatbelts on,” Christian said, in reference to the new OSHA regulations. “When I came on the fire department, you had to run to the piece [fire truck] while you jumped on with your coat while you’re going down the street. You’re putting on your belt, and the best you could do was kick your shoes off and put your boots on.”

Sometimes they forgot — and a Boston news photographer was there to snap the picture to prove it. “I get a call from headquarters and they wanted to know who the guy was with the Sperrys on,” Loder said and laughed. “Of course everybody said that nobody knew nothing, but it was me.”

Loder just celebrated his 72nd birthday and continues to give back to the fire service, teaching classes to the next generation. All the medals and the accolades later, Loder maintains that he was just doing his job.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

9 photos of escort carriers, the U-boat killers

Fleet-sized aircraft carriers, such as the USS Enterprise and USS Midway, captured the public’s attention during the air battles of World War II.

But the majority of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers during the war were actually smaller, lesser known vessels: Escort carriers.

There were five different classes of escort carriers, all of which varied slightly. But in general, they were about half the size of fleet-sized carriers.

The Casablanca-class, which had the largest number built with 50 hulls, typically carried 28 aircraft, including 12 Grumman TBF Avengers torpedo bombers and 16 F4F Wildcats fighters, Timothy Bostic, a reference librarian at the Navy Department Library, told Business Insider.

Referred to as “Jeep carriers” or “baby flap tops” by the press, escort carriers were slow, lightly armored and had few defensive weapons.

But they were also expert at hunting and killing enemy submarines, and exacted a heavy toll on Germany’s U-boats.

Here’s how they did it.


4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The USS Long Island underway in May 1943.

When German U-boats began sinking convoy ships in the beginning of the war, Great Britain asked the US for help, which responded by building escort carriers. The first escort carrier was the USS Long Island, which was built from an old freighter and launched in January 1940.

Source: US Navy

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The USS Chenango (CVE-28) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California on 22 September 1943.

The US then built four more from oiler hulls, including the Chenango, which were sent to help with landings in North Africa, where they proved extremely successful in anti-submarine warfare. This led to the building of dozens more and deployments to the Pacific.

In total, the US built and launched 78 escort carriers between 1941-1945.

Source: US Navy

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The USS Sangamon (CVE-26) anchored off the the Solomons in 1943.

Escort carriers had initially been used to protect convoys, ferrying planes, among other duties. But by 1943, the US had evolved its tactics to hunt and kill U-boats.

Source: US Naval Institute

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The USS Bogue (CVE-9) underway near Norfolk in June 1943.

In May 1943, the USS Bogue scored the first escort carrier kill of a German U-boat after spotting the surfaced U-231 and sent a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber after it, which released four depth bombs and took it out as it tried to submerge.

Source: US Naval Institute

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

A US Navy landing signal officer guides a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger on board the USS Card.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The USS Core (CVE-13) in 1943 or 1944.

But what led to the escort carriers’ eventual success over the German U-boats was the Allies code-breaking U-boat radio traffic in 1943, providing escort carriers with accurate locations of enemy submarines.

Source: US Naval Institute

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

USS Card (CVE-11) underway off Virginia in March 1943.

This breakthrough also allowed the Allies to hunt and kill German U-tankers, or “Milch Cows,” which refueled the short-range U-boats at sea.

Source: US Naval Institute

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

The US Navy escort carrier USS Santee (CVE-29) anchored in October 1942.

This new knowledge of German U-boat and U-tankers allowed the Allies to evolve their tactics, sending escort carriers with destroyers away from their convoys to hunt and destroy the enemy submarines.

Source: US Navy

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

USS Card CVE-11 in 1944.

By the war’s end, escort carriers had sunk a total of 53 German U-boats.

Source: US Naval Institute

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous mobster’s son was a West Point grad

Meyer Lansky was the mind behind the mob. Active in the criminal underworld since the days before Prohibition, Lansky – the “Mob’s Accountant” – was able to figure out how to make mafia earnings and turn them into legitimate businesses. It was because of his acumen that the mob was able to form a kind of national crime syndicate with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. He would become the highest-ranking non-Italian in the Mafia.

His kids were going to do something very different.


To the Sicilians, being in the mafia was an honorable occupation. According to the onetime head of the Bonnano crime family, Joe Bonnano, one of the terms that designated a mafioso was loosely translated as “Man of Honor.” For Jewish men like Meyer Lanksy, however, it wasn’t so honorable. In fact, Lanksy found the business shameful, despite spending his life building it. Still, he wanted a different life for his children.

One of his children, Paul, would actually attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – on his own merit.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

Meyer Lansky with his family: Sons (from left) Paul and Buddy, who had cerebral palsy, daughter Sandra, and first wife Ana.

“The Lansky boy has justified the confidence which was placed in him,” wrote Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver upon appointing Paul Lanksy to West Point. It was a far cry from the life his father lived, having created Las Vegas with his friends, other legendary members of America’s most notorious organized crime families. The younger Lansky would graduate from the Academy in 1954 and join the Air Force.

Lansky was in the Air Force until 1963, ultimately resigning his commission while at the rank of Captain so he could take a civilian engineering job in Tacoma, Wash. He stayed far from his famous father’s profession, going so far as to pretend that he and the elder Lansky had some sort of falling out and didn’t speak.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington’s massive whiskey distillery empire

Presidents of the past had some interesting hobbies. Abe Lincoln could kick your ass if he wanted to — and that’s exactly what he did wrestling in more than 300 matches. He only lost once. Calvin Coolidge installed an electric horse at the White House because he missed the joy of riding. And Dwight D. Eisenhower was a prolific painter, often giving his latest magnum opus to his closest friends. But before that, the OG President George Washington put them all to shame with his thriving whiskey empire in the final years of his life.

As was the norm during the 18th century, Washington was known to sip low-alcohol “Small Beer” for hydration — including while leading the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War. He wrote his own recipe upside down on the last page of one of his notebooks. He also famously ran up an epic bar tab in celebration of writing the Constitution. So when James Anderson, Washington’s Scottish farm manager, approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse, it was only natural for Washington to transform Mount Vernon into the epicenter of whiskey making in the United States.

Anderson leveraged his expertise distilling grain in Scotland and told Washington that Mount Vernon’s crops and copious water supply could produce a profitable whiskey business. The construction began over the winter of 1797 to 1798, and the distillery was built with large river rocks taken from the Falls of the Potomac and sandstone cut from Mount Vernon. Inside the 75-by-30-foot walls were five copper pot stills, a boiler, and 50 tubs for cooking the mash. It had a second floor for storing extra equipment needed for a sophisticated whiskey production and had sleeping rooms for the workers.

Under Anderson were six enslaved men named Daniel, Hanson, James, Nat, Peter, and Timothy, who brought Washington’s whiskey into being. They were all trained specifically for this operation, and it wasn’t out of the norm for other slaves to be skilled in the trades. On Washington’s gristmill-distillery complex, more than 50 enslaved men and women worked as coopers mending metal, carpenters building and repairing tools, blacksmiths for locks and horseshoes, grooms for the horses, textile workers for clothing, dairy maids to care for the estate’s cows, and gardeners for Mount Vernon’s gardens and orchards.

The average distillery of the era had only one or two stills and stilled for a month — Washington’s operation produced whiskey year-round. Washington was able to do this by favoring the innovation of Oliver Evans’ automated gristmill system, which mechanically milled grain and flour without the need of manual labor. This enabled the gristmill to produce 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal per day. And nothing went to waste. Even the slop from the distillery was given to Washington’s hogs in a pigpen located just outside. 

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The second floor of George Washington’s rebuilt whiskey distillery features a small theater that shows the History Channel’s Liquid Gold: Washington’s Distillery. Photo courtesy of mountvernon.org.

The recipe for Washington’s most common whiskey was 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. Rather than being aged, bottled, and branded like the spirits of today, it was poured into wooden whiskey barrels and distributed to merchants at their request. By 1799, the same year of Washington’s death, his side hustle was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey and pulling in a $7,500 profit. 

Washington’s distillery was re-created in 2007 thanks to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and it’s become an iconic tourist attraction where visitors get the chance to taste George Washington’s Rye Whiskey in person. It took a silver medal in the 2019 American Craft Spirits Association Awards and is recognized as the official spirit of the commonwealth of Virginia. If whiskey isn’t your thing, they also offer brandy and rum, suitable options for anybody looking to toast one of America’s founding fathers. At the very least, treat yourself to some of Washington’s pancakes.

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