How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

After the Second World War ended, Germany was split in two. The Allies took control over Western Germany while the communists shrouded the eastern half behind the Iron Curtain. Berlin, Germany’s capital, was also famously split in two. The city is nestled deep into the heart of Eastern Germany, leaving the West Germans living there to fend for themselves in a war-torn city without supplies.

Starting in June of 1948, the communists tried their best to cut West Berlin off from the outside world. In what was later dubbed the “Berlin Blockade,” the Soviets shut down all railway, road, and canal access to Western citizens. Just as quickly, allied humanitarian missions were carried out to get food and supplies to the starving people of West Berlin. Between June 24th, 1948, and September 30th of the following year, 278,228 air missions, collectively called “Operation Vittles,” delivered over 2,326,406 tons of supplies to keep the city alive.

But one man, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, went behind his commander’s back to deliver a little extra and help raise the children’s spirits. His personal mission was dubbed Operation Little Vittles.


How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

For this, the kids gave him the exceedingly clever nickname, “Uncle Wiggle Wings.”

(National Archives)

Lt. Gail Halvorsen arrived in Germany in July, 1948, and was given orders to fly one of the C-54 Skymasters into the city to ferry supplies. On his day off, he decided to walk around the airfield with a camera to get a couple good shots of aircraft taking off and landing. When he made it to the fence at the end of the runway, he noticed that a group of children were gathered to watch the planes.

They asked him all sorts of questions about the planes and their mission and, as a demonstration of good faith, he gave them the two sticks of gum he had in his pocket. The impoverished kids divvied the two sticks, splitting it evenly amongst the large gathering — they didn’t fight over who got the biggest piece. In fact, it was said that the kid missed candy so much that just smelling the wrapper was good enough.

Halvorsen was heartbroken. He promised the children that he’d return with more. He told them that he’d always “wiggle his wings” when he was flying overhead with candy.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Among all the fan mail and shipments of candy, Halvorsen also received plenty of marriage proposals from the ladies back home. Take notes, fellas.

(National Archives)

The very next day, he tied a bunch of candy to handkerchief parachutes and tossed it out of his plane to the kids waiting below as he took off. Halvorsen continued to do this every single day and, as he did, the daily gathering of kids grew larger.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, heard of what he was doing and was reportedly upset. It wasn’t until every newspaper in the region (and back home) started reporting on the heroics of “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Chocolate Flier” that the general officially allow Halvorsen to continue.

Soon enough, people began sending candy to Halvorsen’s unit. Folks back in the States started sending candy by the box, large candy makers donated to Halvorsen’s cause, and the West German children shared the bounty amongst themselves.

As Christmas, 1948, drew nearer, Halvorsen knew he’d have to do something big. By this point, candy makers had supplied him with 18 tons of candy and another 3 tons was given by private donors. In a single night, instead of tossing it to the kids gathered by the runway’s end, Halvorsen spread it across the entire city.

For one night, the spirit of Christmas was brought to the people of West Berlin. The kindness of Lt. Halvorsen, his crew, and the innumerable candy donors would never be forgotten.

To more on this story, listen to the silky smooth narration of Tom Brokaw below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims this new evidence proves it didn’t down plane

Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Sept. 17, 2018, it had new evidence that the missile that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014 was fired by Ukrainian forces.

The Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down by a soviet-made missile over the rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 27 Australians, were killed.

Remnants of the Boeing 777 aircraft that crashed outside the city of Donetsk in Ukraine have been analyzed extensively, and investigators are still trying to determine with certainty where the missile emanated from.


In May 2018, international investigators concluded that a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile supplied by Russian separatists in Kursk were responsible for the downing of MH17.

“The Buk that was used came from the Russian army, the 53rd brigade,” Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Reuters. “We know that was used, but the people in charge of this Buk, we don’t know.”

The investigating team has referenced images and video showing a white Volvo truck with markings unique to the 53rd brigade carrying the missile from Russia to the Ukraine. The Netherlands and Australia have directly blamed Russia for the attack, and have called on Moscow to admit responsibility and cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Russia’s Defense Ministry purported to show a “logbook” indicating that the Buk missile had been delivered to a unit in the Ukraine in 1986.

(Russian Defense Ministry / Youtube)

But Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement, and has instead shifted blame towards Ukraine with information investigators have deemed “factually inaccurate on several points.

On Sept. 17, 2018, Russia’s defense ministry claimed it had “newly discovered evidence” which potentially pins the attack on Ukraine.

According to the Defense Ministry, the serial number found on debris from the Buk missile was cross-referenced with a log book purporting to show it was produced in 1986. The missile was then delivered by rail to a military unit in Western Ukraine and to their knowledge had since not left Ukraine.

The ministry also claimed some of the video provided to investigators showing the Buk system being transported from Russia were manipulated. The ministry cast doubt on its authenticity.

The ministry also claimed to have audio recordings of Ukrainian airspace officials discussing shooting down aircrafts which flew over its restricted airspace, specifically calling out the targeting of Malaysian Boeings.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Russia also claimed that video provided to investigators used doctored footage of the Buk missile being transported on a white truck.

(Russian Defense Ministry / Youtube)

In response, the joint investigative team said they would “meticulously study” the new information as soon as the documents were made available, noting that previous information provided from Russia had been misleading on several fronts.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak on Sept. 17, 2018, dismissed Russia’s claims as an “absolute lie” and “another fake story.” Also on Sept. 17, 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree ending a bilateral friendship treaty with Russia amid deteriorating ties.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of April 20th

Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.


Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.

Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Terminal Lance)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(WATM)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Decelerate Your Life)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(/r/Military)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(WATM)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(PNN)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Military Memes)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Army as F*ck)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(The Salty Soldier)

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Disgruntled Vets)

Soon, this won’t be a joke.

When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

(Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon releases an artificial intelligence strategy and it’s straight up Skynet

The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019’s White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

“The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security,” Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.

The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy’s launch with reporters.


The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. “That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities,” he added. “The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS.”

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.

Speed and agility are key

Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.

“The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy,” Deasy said.

“I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC,” he noted. “Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department.”

Reforming DOD business

The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department’s business processes. “Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency,” he added.

Pentagon outlines its artificial intelligence strategy

www.youtube.com

AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.

JAIC: focal point of AI

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity,” JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.

The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 “to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.”

Mission themes

The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.

  • First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. “This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities,” he said. “The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption.”
  • Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact, Shanahan said. “One of the JAIC’s most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services,” he explained.
  • Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it’s important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
  • Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.

Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that “initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months.”

And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.

“Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners,” Shanahan said. “Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components.”

The JAIC’s mission, the director said, “nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there’s no time to waste.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to end the negative military spouse stigma

Military spouses have enough on their plates. They do not need your unsolicited, unfavorable, unmannered, advice. There are so many ways you can help end the falsified image of helplessness military spouses have been forced to live with, within our culture. We are educated, physically strong and well-rounded people. We don’t need a pity party.


What we do need is support for our working military spouses, efficiently running daycare facilities, and units that truly understand that we too are important to the readiness of our service members.

Do you want to strengthen our military communities? If so, here’s how you can help end the negative stigma of the military spouse.

Do Not Contribute to the degradation of our community.

If you hear a rumor don’t repeat it. If you see a hurtful meme, don’t share it. Oftentimes, bullying is concealed and bred this way. Eventually, it spreads into a full-fledged attack on military spouses. Further dividing our community. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

cdn.dvidshub.net

Be encouraging to those missing their loved ones.

Every second of every day, a military spouse is left as their service member goes off to training, temporary duty, or war. They may be a new spouse, or maybe not. Either way, when they post about missing their loved one, be compassionate, or be invisible. You don’t have to contribute to every post. Just scroll on by.

Volunteer within the military community.

Volunteering is a great way to learn about the needs of a community. This can help you get to know the struggles military spouses face and how you can be a source of strength and compassion for them. If you have time, go volunteer at the local USO. If you don’t have time, but would like to donate resources, the USO is always in need of items such as; candy, coffee, greeting cards, and other basic care essentials. Reach out to your local USO and find out how you can help.

Be an advocate.

Speaking up about the struggles affecting military families helps start the much-needed conversation about the services or lack thereof within our community. Many services and programs specifically for military spouses aren’t well supported throughout the military for various reasons. We don’t need our hands held but we would like those in high places to advocate the need for the funding of enrichment programs.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Hear our stories.

We all come from different walks of life. We are derived from diverse cultures and have unique skill sets. Learn about who we are. Some of us are doctors, some scientists, engineers, and many have served within the military ranks. Allow spouses to speak at military town halls, and conferences about those things that are in our lane of expertise.

Let’s end the negative stigma of military spouses. Learn who we are, be encouraging, be an advocate, and most importantly, do not contribute to the spreading of rumors or the bullying of military spouses. We deserve to be treated with respect. As our service members fight the battles abroad, we shouldn’t have to fight ones at home. We too matter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Marines of the future will get their heavy vehicles to the beach

The Navy’s first newly built Ship-to-Shore Connector maritime warfare craft launched on the water in early 2018, paving the way for stepped up production and introducing a new era in modern amphibious warfare for the Marines.

Naval Sea Systems Command recently awarded a deal to Ship-to-Shore connector-maker Textron to acquire long-lead early procurement materials for the new fleet of watercraft. The new SSC mobile amphibious connectors are able to transport larger armored vehicles, such as an Abrams tank, from amphibious assault ships to combat ashore.

The new SSCs are designed to replace the existing fleet of Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) able to move Marines, weapons and supplies from ship to shore for amphibious operations. The connectors will integrate emerging computer technology able to reduce the needed crew size and perform more functions independently.


The upgraded amphibious ship-to-shore craft includes lighter weight composite materials, Increased payload capacity, modernized engines, and computer automated flight controls, Textron Systems Vice President of Marine Systems Scott Allen told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

The SSC’s new Rolls Royce engines will have more horsepower and specialized aluminum to help prevent corrosion. The lighter weight be enable a better lift capacity, allowing the craft to transport up to 74-tons — enough to transport heavy armored vehicles from ship to shore for an amphibious assault, Allen said.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Textron Ship-to-Shore Connector.

The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.

Textron engineers also say the SSC is built with digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result, on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind speed and navigational information, they explained.

The new SSC’s have also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400 Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with Navy common standards, Textron developers explained. Along with these properties, the new craft reduces the number of gear boxes from eight to two.

With some of the existing fleet of LCACs approaching 30-years of service, the Navy needs to begin replacing them with new ones, service officials have told Warrior Maven.

The new Rolls Royce engine is the same one currently used in an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Textron developers said. The new SSCs also increases the strength of the deck and improve the propellers when compared with existing LCACs.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

An amphibious assault vehicle assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, embarks the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson)

LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well, service officials said.

Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain — even driving right up onto the shore.

In order to bridge the gap from existing LCACs to the new SSCs, the Navy implemented a special service life extension program for the LCACs — many of which are now approaching three decades of service.

The LCACs were re-engined with new engines, given new rotating machinery, new command and control systems, new skirts and fixes to corrosion issues. The effort is designed to put another 10 years of life back into the LCAC, Navy officials described.

The idea with the service life extension is to bridge the time-lapse or gap until the new SSCs are ready to enter the force in larger numbers, senior Navy officials explained.

Some of the enhancements being engineered into the SSCs are designed to address the changing threat landscape in a modern environment, a scenario that is expected to change how amphibious operations will be conducted in the future.

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New study suggests Loch Ness Monster may actually be a giant eel

The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster dates all the way back to 565 A.D. when a writer named Adomnan recounted a tale about Saint Columba coming upon local residents burying a man near River Ness. According to the tale Adomnan recounted, the man had died as a result of being attacked by a “water beast” from the loch. Later, in the 1870s, the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was reported by a man named D. Mackenzie, though his report wouldn’t see publication until decades later.


The Loch Ness Monster really grew to fame in the 1930s, with multiple sightings popping up throughout the decade, culminating in what is perhaps the most famous image of the supposed monster to date, the famed “Surgeon’s Photograph.”

This image was taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson (who was actually a gynecologist, but newspapers probably didn’t want to print a “Gynecologist’s Photograph”). For decades, the image served as proof of “Nessie’s” existence, that is, until the mid-1990s when analysis of the image all but confirmed that it was a fake.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Robert Kenneth Wilson’s 1934 photograph fooled the world for decades.

(WikiMedia Commons)

Despite the most famous bit of evidence likely being a forgery, there have still been countless sightings of what locals believe could be a living dinosaur in their loch, and the waterway’s size and extreme depth would allow for a population of aquatic wildlife to go largely unseen. But a dinosaur?

That’s what a new team of scientists and researchers hoped to find out over this past year, combing the loch for traces of hair, feces, scales, and anything else they could gather for DNA analysis. Their intent was to find evidence of an as-yet-unidentified species of animal living in the area, and in a strange twist, that may be exactly what they found. It just wasn’t the monster most people were looking for.

“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a press release. “Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.”

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

There may also be a Photoshop monster lurking beneath those waves.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The idea that the Loch Ness Monster may, in fact, be a giant eel has been proposed repeatedly over the years, with some suggesting that it was feasible as far back as the 1930s. To date, no giant eels have been caught in the loch, making them something of a mystery themselves, but despite the lack of official confirmation, Loch Ness has also been the sight of many eel sightings.

“Divers have claimed that they’ve seen eels as thick as their legs in the loch,” Gemmell pointed out before adding that an eel that thick would likely be in the neighborhood of 13 feet long — longer than giant eels are supposed to be able to get.

Many of the sightings and pictures of the Loch Ness Monster do look as though they could be the result of a large eel. The supposed long neck of the monster could actually be the eel’s body, and because giant eels aren’t known to live in the loch, it wouldn’t be hard to mistake a 15-foot eel for a sea monster. In fact, that’s exactly what such an eel really would be.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

It can be easy to see how an eel could be mistaken for the neck of a plesiosaur.

(Michael Hicks on Flickr)

This study doesn’t definitely close the case, of course. Despite an abundance of eel DNA found in many of the 250 studied samples, no giant eels have been caught or even cleanly observed in the area. Until giant eels are confirmed to reside in Loch Ness, believers will undoubtedly keep looking for the long neck of a plesiosaur peeking out of the dark waters of the loch.

“Is it a giant eel? I don’t know, but it is something that we can test further,” Gemmell concluded.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military prepares tanks for July 4th blowout parade in DC

President Donald Trump wants to put armored vehicles on the National Mall for his Fourth of July extravaganza, the Washington Post reported July 1, 2019, citing people briefed on the plans for the event.

The president has reportedly requested that armored warfighting vehicles be set up in the nation’s capital as props for his “A Salute to America” event. The vehicles being considered for the holiday blowout include M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

For President Trump’s previously planned military parade in DC, the Department of Defense rejected plans calling for tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, DC, arguing that they could damage the roads. The Pentagon is considering setting up static displays to fulfill the president’s request. Deliberations on this matter have not concluded, even as the Fourth of July is only days away.


The holiday blowout is expected to include a military parade, a flyover by Air Force One, the Blue Angels, and other military aircraft, fireworks, and a presidential address on the mall.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

The U.S. Navy fight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

President Trump has longed for a patriotic military parade since he experienced France’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris in July 2017. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” the president said a few months after the event. “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

“I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves,” he said. “So we’re actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”

In February 2018, President Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin planning a big military parade for Veteran’s Day. Critics compared Trump’s plans to the military parades characteristic of authoritarian regimes, such as China or North Korea; the US has historically only held military parades after victories like World War II and the Gulf war.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

An M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle kicks up plumes of dust.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The president later cancelled his planned parade as costs ballooned from million to million to as high as million. President Trump suggested that the event could be rescheduled for 2019 if costs could be kept low. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he tweeted after announcing the cancelation.

The initial estimate of million was based on a review of expenses for the Gulf war parade held in Washington, DC in 1991, the last major US military parade.

The cost of the president’s Fourth of July event has not been disclosed to date.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.


Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.

For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Counter-IED teams locate roadside bombs using Valon metal detectors. (Photo from Army.mil)

Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.

Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.

On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”

That is all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this ‘Silent Farmer’ earned the Medal of Honor in WWII

Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.

Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.

Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.

His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.


Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.

The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.

Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.

Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.

Quiet Farmer

When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.

“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”

After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner


Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.

For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.

During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.

The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.

Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.

Old Kentucky home

A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.

Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.

Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Fellow soldiers trusted Garlin Conner to lead them through difficult circumstances on the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, whose career extended over three wars, called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen.

He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.

Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.

Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”

In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.

For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.

When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”

Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.

Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.

“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”

Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.

He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.

As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.

But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.

The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.

“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.

Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.

A hero’s welcome

On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.

The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.

Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.

Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Pauline Conner, an 89-year-old resident of Clinton County, Kentucky, holds the photo of her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner.



Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.

“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.

When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.

“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”

But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.

Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.

“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”

“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”

Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.

He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.

Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.

At any cost

On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.

As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.

As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.

Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Garlin Murl Conner lived a quiet life on a farm in Southern Kentucky. His neighbors and even his family did not know the extent of his valorous acts during World War II until years after his death.



Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.

Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.

Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.

Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”

Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.

“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”

While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.

Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.

“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”

At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.

“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”

Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.

Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.

Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.

Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.

He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.

There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.

“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”

The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.

Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.

Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.

“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.

With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.

“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”

The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.

“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.

Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.

“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”

Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.

Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”

New beginning

In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.

Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.

The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Garlin Conner sits with his wife, Pauline, during the early years of their marriage.


“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.

But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.

Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.

That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.

Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.

Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.

Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.

Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.

As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.

“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”

Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.

“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”

Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.

Lifetime bond

“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”

Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.

Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Army veteran Garlin Conner (left) retreated to working on a tobacco farm following his military service in World War II.



Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.

In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.

Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.

“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”

At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.

“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”

Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.

Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.

A final plea

Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.

New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Garlin Conner took joy taking care of animals and working on his farm in southern Kentucky.


After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.

But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.

But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.

Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.

“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”

Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.

Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin
Garlin Conner’s grave sits in Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky.


The following Monday the phone rang.

“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.

“I go by Pauline,” she said.

“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.

“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.

“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.

“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.

“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.

“I am,” she confirmed.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”

The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.

A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.

“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”

Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.

Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.

“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”

“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”

The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.

Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.

“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”

Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

Veterans in cannabis industry denied VA home loans

Veterans in the cannabis industry have been denied home loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, prompting a response from Congress.

When one veteran was denied his home loan benefit, he reached out to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts), who joined with 20 members of Congress in writing to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The lawmakers wanted to know why their constituents were denied loans after citing their income sources as state-legalized cannabis activities.

“Denying veterans the benefits they’ve earned…is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs,” Clark wrote in her May 23, 2019 letter.


How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

Read the letter:

In the letter, shared with Roll Call, Clark stated, “A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry and, in coming years, that number is likely to further rise. The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”

She also acknowledged that “the ambiguity under which the cannabis industry operates is unique, and we fully understand the VA’s resulting aversion to legal and financial risk. [However]…in recent years, the Department of Justice has substantially narrowed its prosecutorial priorities in this area, and Congress has taken action to prevent federal interference with the implementation of state cannabis laws.”

More: Time to slay the myth around the magical unicorn called the ‘VA Loan’

Though Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, illegal under federal law, Military.com points out that “thirty-four states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have some variation of medical marijuana programs, while a dozen other states allow cannabidiol that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive component of pot that makes a user high — for medicinal purposes.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dan Anglin, CEO of CannAmerica, was also denied a VA home loan due to his work in the cannabis industry — and he’s not afraid to speak out about it.


Veteran Dan Anglin Denied Home Loans Due to Owning a Cannabis Company

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Veteran Dan Anglin speaks out

Also read: Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy EOD’s 2030 vision is more byte than bang

On October 19, the Navy EOD released its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, its blueprints for the next 10 years. Its leadership is looking to mold the military’s maritime EOD force into one that best supports the U.S., its allies, and partner nations to compete and win in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).

The Navy EOD’s mission statement is to “eliminate explosive threats so the Fleet and Nation can fight and win — whenever, wherever, and however it chooses.”


This mission statement is to be achieved through:

• Developing the force to win against near-peer competitors and empowered non-state actors.
• Expanding our advantage against competitors’ undersea threats.
• Capitalizing on our unique ability to counter weapons of mass destruction.
• Growing expertise in the exploitation of next-generation weapons systems.
• Emboldening allies and partner nation’s capabilities.

In the Strategic Plan, the community of operators internalized 80 years of knowledge and sacrifice to honor the legacy of those who have come before and develop and prepare future generations of the Navy EOD community. With Navy EOD being in its ninth decade of service, it is looking beyond the horizon to chart its future course. Its aim is to remain the world’s premier combat force for eliminating explosive threats.

This is the force’s first major mission update since 1997. The plan was developed to meet the challenges of a changing national security environment and position Navy EOD to best serve its role within the NECF said Rear Adm. Joseph DiGuardo, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

“The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF) clears the explosive, security, and physical hazards emplaced by our adversaries; secures battlespace for the naval force; builds the critical infrastructure, domain awareness, and logistic capacity to rearm, resupply, and refuel the fleet; protects the critical assets the Navy and the nation need to achieve victory and reinforce blue-water lethality,” DiGuardo said.

NECF is comprised of Navy EOD, the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, the Naval Construction Force, and diving and salvage units.

“As part of the NECF, our EOD forces play a pivotal role in clearing the explosive hazards in any environment to protect the fleet and Joint Force — from the simplest impediment to the most complex weapon of mass destruction—and build an understanding of our adversary capabilities by exploiting those hazards. Navy EOD is the key to our nation being undeterred by explosive threats,” DiGuardo added.

“The strategic plan ensures Navy EOD supports the NECF by eliminating explosive threats so the fleet, Navy, and nation can fight and win whenever, wherever and however it chooses,” Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the Coronado-based EOD Group (EODGRU) said.

According to the plan, the force’s 1,800 members can also expect an increased emphasis on building their knowledge and capabilities in areas critical to success in a GPC environment. This will include Navy EOD enhancing its expeditionary undersea capabilities by tapping into the cyberspace. The force will pursue unmanned systems (UMS) to access adversary communication networks in order to disrupt, delay, or destroy weapons systems.

Moreover, the plan calls for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) companies to test these new systems and software. “The operators using emerging UMS technology are the closest to the challenges. Our strategic plan will empower them to provide us feedback from the tactical level during the capability development process to help accelerate solutions to the ever-evolving threats,” said Rojas.

The Navy EOD community has evolved through the years to face new and troubling threats as they have emerged: Magnetic influence mines in World War II serving as coastal defenses or strategic deterrents. Sea mines blocking the Wonsan Harbor from an amphibious landing during the Korean War. Land and sea mines dotting Vietnam, preventing full maneuverability of American forces. Iranian-emplaced limpet and sea mines targeting both naval and commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf. WMDs during the Cold War and into today.

And nowadays, with non-state actors like violent extremist organizations or lone wolves having easier access to information on how to create and employ improvised explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons Navy EOD’s job has only gotten harder.

“Our strategic plan was designed to guide us in creating a force that can deter adversaries and win in a complex security environment,” said Capt. Rick Hayes, commodore of EODGRU-2. “That is why we dedicated an objective to specifically focus on developing and caring for our Sailors. Our people are our most important asset — they are our weapons system.”

As Hayes said, all the objectives put forward in the 2030 plan are essential to delivering a lethal, resilient, and sustainable Navy EOD force that can be called upon during contingency and crisis operations.

“Realizing this vision will be impossible without the support of everyone in the Navy EOD community. By leveraging their creativity, discipline, and leadership, we will develop a force for 2030 that continues to protect the security and future of the American people,” Hayes added.

Sailors training for the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal rating must complete the basic EOD diver course at Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The Navy EOD training pipeline can take nearly a year to complete and is unique among all other branches for teaching dive capabilities. Navy EOD technicians regularly integrate with special operations forces by regularly working alongside Navy SEALs or Army Special Forces soldiers.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Robert Downey Jr. might already be back as Iron Man

We loved him 3,000 in Avengers: Endgame, and even gave him an extended tearful goodbye in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but now it looks like Tony Stark might already be back in the Marvel game.

On Sep. 5, 2019, news broke that actor Robert Downey Jr. is already in talks to return as Tony Stark/Iron Man for a new Disney+ TV series. If true, Tony would feature in a show called Iron Heart, based on the Marvel comic book series and character of the same name. In contemporary Marvel comics, “Iron Heart” is the alias for a new version of Iron Man, who is actually a woman named Riri Williams. In the series, Riri takes over the mantle of Iron Man from Tony Stark, who basically retires.


If this all sounds a little like the relationship between Tony and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the past few Avengers movies, it should. But, because legal issues will likely prevent Spider-Man from crossing over with MCU films ever again, it’s telling that Iron Man may have another successor lined-up.

The only tricky part here, of course, is the simple fact that we all saw Tony Stark die in Avengers: Endgame. It feels pretty unlikely that Marvel would undo Tony’s meaningful sacrifice so soon, particularly if he wasn’t actually the star of a new Marvel film. After all, if an Iron Heart series happens, it will be Riri’s story about learning how to become the titular hero, not Tony’s.

The best bet? Maybe Robert Downey Jr. is coming back to play the voice of Tony Stark, and maybe Iron Heart is just one more installment of the upcoming animated What If? series, which specifically reimagines big Marvel heroes in a Sliding Doors kind-of-way. If that’s the case, then all of this makes sense. But, if Downey Jr. really is back, in the flesh, as Tony Stark, then Marvel has a lot of explaining to do. Plus, we’re going to bet that his daughter, Morgan Stark, is going to want to see him.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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