George "Speedy" Gaspard: A Special Forces legend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

‘A Warrior’s Warrior’ in MACV-SOG

During America’s long war in Vietnam, many of the Green Berets who fought there became legends within the Special Forces Regiment. And among those warriors were the men of MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group); the SOG warriors were among the finest the country has ever produced.

LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard was one of the most well-known and respected officers from that generation. After serving with the Marine Corps in World War II, Gaspard joined the Army. He was an original, volunteering for the newly formed 10th Special Forces Group and attending Special Forces Class #1. He would run cross border operations in the Korean War but really made his mark during the war in Vietnam, working in Special Forces A-Camps as well as running some of the most secret operations across the border into North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.


Gaspard became a “Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment” in December 2010.

Shortly after I moved to SW Florida I got into contact with Chapter XXI of the SF Association. I was checking out their excellent website, saw a large segment dedicated to LTC Gaspard, and remembered a brief meeting I had with him years ago. More to that soon.

George Wallace Gaspard Jr. was born at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Ala., on August 5, 1926. He was the son of the late George W. Gaspard of MN, and Annie Lou Bamberg of AL.

He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946 and fought in the final battle of World War II on the island of Okinawa with the 6th Marine Division. He first entered the U.S. Army on June 11, 1951.

In May 1952, Gaspard was a student in the first all-officer-class at the Ranger course. He then attended a special course at the Air Ground School located at Southern Pines, N.C. Afterward, he volunteered for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), which had just been organized at Fort Bragg, N.C.

His first assignment was as a team leader of the 18th SF Operational Detachment. In November 1952, he attended Special Forces Class #1. The fledgling Special Forces unit, much of it comprised of World War II vets from the OSS, was anxious to get involved in the Korean War and conduct missions similar to those conducted in occupied areas of Europe and the Pacific during the war.

The SF troops were put in an active intelligence operation that utilized Tactical Liaison Offices (TLO). Although they were initially manned only by anti-communist Koreans, the TLO would eventually conduct “line-crossing operations” which included using Chinese agents to gather intelligence on the enemy.

However, the Far East Command (FEC), assigned the SF troops as individual replacements rather than as 15-man A-Teams that SF was employing at the time using the OSS WWII Operational Group model.

In March 1953, then 1Lt. Gaspard was assigned to FEC/LD 8240AU FECOM. He commanded four enlisted men and 80 South Korean agents, who were dispatched behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on the North Koreans. Obviously the threat of double agents, something that would later haunt SOG operations in Vietnam, loomed. An excellent piece on this facet of the Korean War, written by former SF Officer and USASOC Historian Eugene Piasecki, “TLO: Line Crossers, Special Forces, and ‘the Forgotten War'” can be found here.

Gaspard was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for actions in combat during June 11-12, 1953.

In October 1954, Gaspard joined the 77th SF Group (A) as a guerrilla warfare instructor with the Psychological Warfare School’s Special Forces Department. He was subsequently transferred to the 187th ARCT and honorably discharged in September 1957.

From 1960 to 1962, he served as a civilian mobilization designee with the Special Warfare department in the Pentagon. In April 1962, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to the 5th SF Group (A) at Fort Bragg, commanding Det A-13. In September, he opened a new Special Forces Camp in Kontum Province at Dak Pek, Vietnam, which remained the longest continuously active SF/ARVN Ranger camp until it was overrun in 1972. That would be the first of seven tours of duty in Vietnam for Gaspard.

During the early days of Vietnam, there was a general lack of accurate reporting by the press on the fighting. However, there were a handful of reporters who were willing to walk in the field and endure combat with the troops. One of those was Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter David Halberstam. He was a special correspondent with the New York Times and not a wire reporter, so, he had the time to visit the troops and share a much closer look at what was truly transpiring on the ground.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

One of the first people that Halberstam met in Vietnam was Speedy Gaspard. The two developed a friendship and Gaspard became a source of what was really happening in the outlying areas of Vietnam where SF was working by, with, and through the locals. Halberstam was so taken by Gaspard that he modeled the lead character of his war novel “One Very Hot Day” after him.

Captain Gaspard returned to Fort Bragg in 1963 as adjutant and HHC commander of the newly formed 6th SF Group (A). In July 1965, he reported to AID Washington, DC, and subsequently to AID Saigon, where we was assigned as a provincial adviser in Quang Duc Province. He was instrumental in the very tricky negotiations to peacefully transfer FULRO personnel (Front Uni de Lutte des Races Opprimées — United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races) to the Army of South Vietnam.

FULRO was comprised of the indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam (Montagnards). They were hated by the lowland Vietnamese, both in South and North Vietnam and referred to as “moi” (savages). At the time, Vietnamese books characterized Montagnards as having excessive body hair and long tails. The Vietnamese rarely ventured into Montagnard regions until after the French colonial rule. Then, they built several profitable plantations to grow crops in and extract natural resources from those bountiful areas.

The simple mountain people were excellent hunters and trackers. They immediately bonded with the Green Berets assigned to stop the communist infiltration of South Vietnam and the Green Berets responded in kind. SF set up the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), which trained and led the Montagnards in Unconventional Warfare against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

But the South Vietnamese government never trusted and hated the CIDG program because it feared the Montagnard people would want independence. (Such was their hatred for the Vietnamese that the Montagnards would continue to fight a guerrilla war against unified Vietnam for 20 years after the war ended. There were reports of genocide against the mountain people and over 200,000 died during the fight.)

Gaspard was promoted to major in 1966, and after completing his tour, reported to 1st SF Group (A), Okinawa. In October 1967, he returned to Vietnam and directed the MACVSOG “STRATA” program until September 1968.

The commanders in Vietnam, especially among the SOG personnel, were never satisfied with the intelligence collection activities conducted in North Vietnam. STRATA was conceived to aid the intelligence situation by focusing on short-term intelligence-gathering operations close to the border. The all-Vietnamese Short Term Roadwatch and Target Acquisition teams would report on activities across the border and then be recovered to be used again. Gaspard and the SOG Commander, Col. Jack Singlaub, briefed Gen. Westmoreland and Gen. Abrams on STRATA operations.

Once, a STRATA team became surrounded and required emergency extraction. Gaspard, riding a hydraulic penetrator, twice descended to remove a wounded agent. He was subsequently awarded the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism and the Purple Heart Medal for his actions.

Moles inside South Vietnam’s government and military, even in SOG, were a constant source of leaks to the North, even in SOG. Some of these leaks came to light much later. However, Gaspard would remedy that. As written in a fantastic piece by SOG team member John Stryker Meyer, Gaspard moved the operations jump-off location out of South Vietnam and the intelligence leaks began to dry up.

“The unique aspect of STRATA, which operated under OP34B, the teams launched out of Thailand, flying in Air Force helicopters. The Air Force performed all insertions and extractions without pre-mission reports to Saigon. During Gaspard’s tenure at STRATA 24 teams were inserted into North Vietnam on various intelligence-gathering missions. Only one and a half teams were lost during that period of time that involved inserting and successfully extracting more than 150 STRATA team members during that time.”
“Again, a key part to our success was having our separate chain of command and not telling Saigon. We worked with the Air Force on a need-to-know basis.”

It wasn’t until many years later that Gaspard realized the extent of the communist infiltration of the south, right into SOG headquarters. Meyer describes in his piece the horror felt when someone close to the Americans, someone who had been vetted, was in fact a spy for the enemy.

“During a 1996 Hanoi television show, Maj. Gen. George “Speedy” Gaspard, was shocked when he saw an individual he knew as “Francois” receive Hanoi’s highest military honor for his years of service as a spy in SOG. Gaspard, who had several tours of duty in Vietnam and in SOG, knew “Francois” and was “shocked” when he saw the program. Francois had access to highly sensitive information while employed by the U.S.
Author and SOG recon man John L. Plaster, has a photo of Gaspard standing with Francois in Saigon when Gaspard had no idea of the spy’s real role for the NVA. That photograph of Gaspard and Francois is on Page 463 of Plaster’s book: SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars, by Paladin Press Book.
“There’s no question that he hurt SOG operations,” Gaspard said. “Again, how do you gauge it all? When you look at the success rate of STRATA teams by comparison, you can see why they succeeded. We were disconnected from Saigon and we didn’t have the NVA and Russians working against us.”
George (speedy) Gaspard – Vietnam War Veteran

www.youtube.com

Gaspard returned to SOG in 1969 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1971. He reported to 1st SF Group, Okinawa as the group executive officer, and later assumed command of the 1st Battalion. He retired in August 1973 after having served in three wars.

His earned multiple awards and decorations including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with V-device and five Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with V-device and three Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantryman’s Badge with one Battle Star, Master Parachutist Badge, Pacific Theater Service Ribbon with one Campaign Star, Korea Service Ribbon with two campaign Stars, Vietnam Service Campaign Ribbon with 15 campaign Stars, 18 other service and foreign awards including the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold, Silver and Bronze stars, U.S. Navy Parachute Wings, Korea Master Parachutist Wings, Vietnamese Master Parachutist Wings, Thailand Master Parachutist Wings, and Cambodia Parachute Wings.

LTC Gaspard was a member of SFA, SOA, VFW, MOAA, American Legion, and the Sons of Confederacy.

From 2004 to 2017 Speedy served as president, vice president, or secretary of the Chapter XXI President of the Special Forces Association. (The Chapter provided a lot of Gaspard’s personal biography listed here.)

In 1985, Colonel Gaspard entered the South Carolina State Guard and in 1987 was appointed Chief of Staff with the rank of Brigadier General. In 1991, he was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In the early fall of 1989, when I was a student in the SF Officer’s course at Ft. Bragg, one of our fellow students was a young man named George Gaspard, the son of Speedy. Young George, whom we knew as “Buck” was an outstanding officer and an even better man who was very popular among the officers in the class.

We learned that General Speedy Gaspard was going to address our class. He first showed us an outstanding slideshow of pics he took while conducting some hair-raising missions with SOG. They were better than anything we had seen in any book or magazine. He then addressed the class in his self-effacing style and said: “standing before you is an old, fat man, but in Vietnam, I was an old, fat captain… but I relied on and surrounded myself with outstanding SF NCOs who made me look brilliant.”

He encouraged the future A-Team commanders to trust in their team sergeants and NCOs and they’d never be steered wrong. SF NCOs, he said, were the true leaders of Special Forces and officers need to realize it, work together, and take care of NCOs. Of course, sitting in the rear of the classroom was General David Baratto commander of the Special Warfare Center and School (SWC), who cringed a bit at those pointed comments.

Sitting in the back, my buddy Wade Chapple and I were stealing glances at General Baratto who looked pained… In a typical Chapple bit of sarcasm, he leaned over and said to me, “I think his (Baratto’s) head is about to f***ing explode.”

After the day was over, our entire class, including many of our instructors, joined Speedy Gaspard at the “O-Club” for a cocktail or three. He regaled us with some cool stories about the SF and SOG guys he served with. It was a memorable night. When we left that night, he made everyone feel that we knew him well. It was an honor to have met him.

LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard passed away on January 30, 2018.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘The Black Widow’ might reboot the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel officially announced its massive upcoming slate that will kick off phase 4 of the MCU starting with “The Black Widow” solo movie coming to theaters May 1, 2020. Black Widow finally getting her own movie should come as no surprise, as the superspy is one of the OG Avengers and is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest actresses in the world.

However, there is one big potential problem: Black Widow is, for lack of a better word, dead, as she sacrificed herself to help the other Avengers get a hold of the Soul Stone. Obviously, this means that “The Black Widow” will be an origin story set in the past but it also begs the question: could “Black Widow” being the first movie in phase 4 mean that the MCU is finally ready to embrace the multiverse?


Confused? Well, it’s possible that “The Black Widow” could just be a standalone origin film but given the interconnectivity of the MCU, that feels unlikely. “Captain Marvel,” the last movie before “Endgame,” took place in the 90s but it still managed to connect itself to the larger narrative (“Captain America” did the same thing). This makes it feel highly unlikely that “Black Widow” will be a stand-alone story that marks the end of Johansson’s time with Marvel, especially considering the fact that it has been chosen as the movie to start the post-Iron Man and Captain America era of the MCU.

This is where the multiverse comes into play because it could potentially allow the titular secret agent to find her way back into the story while also finally opening up the MCU to other universes. The MCU has been hinting at the multiverse theory for a long time, most recently via Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but so far, it has only dipped its toes into the complex tapestry of parallel realities.

The multiverse theory makes even more sense when you look down the rest of the phase 4 schedule, as a lot of the upcoming shows and movies seem to suggest the possibility of alternative universes, as they are packed with dead members of the MCU. Loki, who died in “Infinity War,” will be getting his own show in 2021, while Vision, who was murdered by Thanos, is set to have a major role in “WandaVision,” another show set to air on Disney+.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
(Disney/Marvel)

Is Marvel just getting really into prequels? Maybe (although Vision and Wanda don’t meet until Ultron so that doesn’t really make sense) but how would that explain “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” At this point, Marvel is basically winking at comic book fans with its seeming embrace of the multiverse.

So when “Black Widow” hits theaters next year, don’t be surprised if its a badass espionage flick that also sets the foundation of the Avengers diving deep into the wonderfully weird world of the multiverse. This would open it up to infinite possibilities, including rebooting storylines and bringing back characters who are currently dead.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Julie Golob: Army veteran, professional shooter, NRA board member

When she was 8 years old, Julie Golob got an unexpected Christmas present from her grandfather — he had bought all his grandchildren life memberships to the National Rifle Association.

“He was an all-around Rush Limbaugh guy, World War II veteran, the guy back in the ’80s wearing the NRA cap when it wasn’t so popular. We weren’t exactly thrilled,” Golob said, laughing, “but I knew how much it meant to him, something he so believed in.”

Decades later, Golob is thankful for a gift that ended up reflecting so much of where life would take her.


George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

Julie Golob is a decorated professional shooter for Team Smith Wesson.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob is now not only a recently seated member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, she is also a successful author and one of the most decorated female competitive shooters in America. She is the only woman to have won all seven divisions of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Championships, as well as a multiple International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) Ladies Classic title winner. In 2017, she won the gold in the Lady Classic division at the IPSC Handgun World Shoot.

Her career in competitive shooting began as a teenager in Seneca Falls, New York, where her dad taught her to shoot for fun and competition. She was recruited by the U.S. Army to join their shooting team after high school by enlisting to serve in the military police.

“The Army marksmanship unit was the cream of the crop,” Golob said, “so having a dedicated unit for shooters was definitely exciting. It was one of those things that I really needed to make the commitment for, signing up for five years to be a soldier in the Army.”

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

An AMU poster of Golob from 1999.

(Courtesy of Julie Golob)

But commitment is one thing Golob has never lacked when it comes to shooting. “Even as a kid,” Golob remembered, “I always wanted to be the best at something, and I was always frustrated that I couldn’t find out what that ‘best’ was. But when I found shooting, I realized that if I worked hard at it, I could set goals and I could meet them. And it’s that constant goal setting and achieving those goals that makes me feel very fulfilled. It gives me an empowered confidence.”

After her time in the Army, Golob took a break from shooting with the intention of becoming an English teacher — but she missed it.

“I missed the people in the sport the most,” Golob said. “I rediscovered all the reasons I enjoyed shooting from when I was a kid instead of doing it as a JOB job. I just did it for fun … and then it became a job again.”

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

Golob is the only 7 Division USPSA Ladies National Champion; she also has over 140 major wins in state, regional, and international competitions and more than 50 national and world titles.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also parlayed her shooting success into a second career as an author. Her first book, “Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition,” is a primer for anyone interested in learning more about the shooting sports.

Her second book grew out of the other most important role she plays: the mother of two young daughters. So she wrote “Toys, Tools, Guns, and Rules.”

“I was always finding resources that were for boys, dads and sons specifically,” Golob said. “And firearm safety is universal. It should be something every child learns. My husband is in law enforcement, so it’s a part of our lives. We always stop and answer the questions, they always know the rules, and it’s not anything that’s taboo.”

Her older daughter was 9 years old when they competed together in their first Empire Championship. “I love being a mom,” Golob said enthusiastically. “So being able to bring my daughter with me to a few competitions here and there is really icing on the cake.”

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

When not shooting, Golob participates in NRATV and posts tips and tricks to her own JulieG.TV YouTube channel. Golob also advocates for the Second Amendment as a guest on podcasts and TV shows.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

As another platform to further the understanding of and support for the shooting sports, Golob ran for and was elected to the NRA’s Board of Directors. She hopes the position will allow her to advocate to increase participation in shooting sports.

“I never even realized how many wonderful programs we have until I became a director, but we really need to connect the dots between those programs and the people who might be interested in them,” Golob said. “It’s not an ad on social media and that sort of thing — we really need to get back to that grassroots level, help the local clubs connect and reach the people in their communities.”

Although approximately only 10 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA, Golob is bullish on their role as “the lead organization, fighting the fight at the highest levels.” When asked why some gun owners might be skeptical about joining, she mused, “I think it comes down to identifying with a specific group. I do understand — I don’t agree with absolutely every message we put out. But we have 5 million members. That’s a huge number of voices. As a collective group, we are very, very powerful.”

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

“I love the thrill of competing and testing my skills on a challenging course of fire,” Golob wrote on her website’s blog at the end of the 2018 shooting season.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also is sympathetic to people who do not view the Second Amendment in the same way that she and the rest of the NRA’s membership do. “At the end of the day we all want the same things,” Golob said. “We want people to be safe, we want people to feel the world is a good place to live in, and we don’t want horrible things to happen. It’s just the direction of how we get there. We need to maybe not head in the opposite direction but maybe just take a whole new direction.”

To Golob, that new direction involves open communication between dissenting groups. While she is uncompromising on her wholesale support for the Second Amendment, she recognizes that the NRA may need to work harder to spread their message to skeptics. “We need to do a better job of connecting with people who have that emotional reaction and let them know that we are all on the same side,” she sad. “But the challenge is getting in the room. We’ve got to get in the room.”

At an age where many professional athletes hit “the mark of the slow decline,” as Golob laughingly described it, she somehow finds a way to balance her responsibilities as a shooter, a mom, an author, and now an NRA board member.

“When I was in the military,” she said, “I went to 24 matches in a year. And I don’t know if I want to live that life right now.”

SHOT Show 2019!!! | JulieG.TV

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY FIT

Processed foods aren’t evil, your brain is just dumb

Everyone other than the likes of the Nabisco executive board agrees that processed foods are bad for you. But why exactly are they pinned as the food version of Lucifer by modern popular health gurus?

Do they cause disease?

Do they have mind control chemicals in them?

Or,

Are they simply a misunderstood solution to a problem we no longer have as a society?


George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

Yes MREs are processed… Did I even need to point that out?

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt)

Why are our brains dumb?

We are mentally weak when it comes to unnaturally delicious foods.

Think about it in this context:

In Ye Olde Cave Man Days, food tasted terrible.

Fruit and veggies were fibrous and bitter, and animals were fast and difficult to catch.

Whenever they were caught, they were lean and not that delicious; they were, after all, eating the same fibrous foods as our ancestors.

If a food was delicious, it was a sign that it was calorie-dense, because it was loaded with either lots of fat or sugar. That food was devoured quickly, because it would provide much more energy than the foods on the typical menu.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

If you’re gonna eat it, at least get it in your mouth!

(Photo by Luísa Schetinger on Unsplash)

Processed food isn’t the devil. Eating too much is.

Some research suggests that processed foods cause obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, and cancer. But the poison probably isn’t the food itself. It’s the dose.

Too many processed foods lead to the above issues because it’s so easy to overeat them.

For instance: in order to get the same number of calories as a 16 ounce package of Oreos, you would need to eat roughly 250 ounces of broccoli. That’s over 15 pounds of broccoli! I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.

We usually only fill our gas tanks to the amount they can hold. What if instead of stopping there, I popped the hood of my car and sprayed gas all over the engine and other vehicular unmentionables? What if I then opened the driver’s side door and shot some gas into the passenger compartment of the car?

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

She is not going to have a happy tummy after that meal.

(Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash)

Do you think that there may be some negative side effects of over-fueling my vehicle in this way? Might my car develop type 2 car diabetes?

This is exactly what we do to our cells when we over-eat consistently. Our mitochondria (cellular engines) can no longer hold all of the energy inputs from the food we eat, just like the gas tank couldn’t hold any more fuel. Our mitochondria overflow and fuel spills out everywhere.

This is how we get fat and sick. This is also how you cause irreparable damage to the interior of your car.

Certain foods may be more prone to this phenomenon, like ultra-processed hyper-palatable foods. It is, in theory, possible with any food though.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

There were no trees growing donuts 15,000 years ago…

(Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash)

Food doesn’t just taste better now, it’s prettier too

Some reports say up to 60% of national caloric intake is ultra-processed.

It’s a no brainer as to why we are the fattest humans to ever inhabit planet earth.

Most ultra-processed foods are designed to taste amazing so that we want more of them.

Fat + Sugar + Salt + Attractive Colors + The Perfect Shape = Hyper-palatable Impossible To Resist Foods.

That math adds up to constant overeating which has led to the multiple health epidemics we are experiencing today.

In the wake of food industrialization after WWII, we realized that we can make more food, faster, and better tasting than ever before. Who would say no to that?

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

Don’t do it! You have so much to live for!

(Photo by Ethan Sexton on Unsplash)

Blinded by dollar signs, food companies raced to make the best tasting foods they could, profiting off of its addictiveness. In fact, it has similar effects on our gray matter as opioids.

Here we are more than 60 years after this process started trying to clean up the mess. We easily overeat hyper-palatable foods, and our bodies try to hide the extra energy, but there is nowhere reasonable for it to go in a timely manner. This causes our health to take a dive.

What initially started as a way to ensure people never starve like they did during the Great Depression turned out to be profitable. So profitable that the health of the nation became a secondary concern of food companies. They became slaves to the bottom line.

Food companies became so good at convincing our dumb caveman brains to buy their products that we are now experiencing a great depression of a whole different degree. A great Individual depression when we look at our naked bodies in the mirror.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
popular

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Troops die in battle — it’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S. “Battlefield crosses” were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop’s rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Despite the fact that it’s called a cross, there’s no single religious ideology attached to the practice.


The tradition of marking the site where a troop met his end began in the Civil War. Historically, large-scale battles meant mass casualties. After armies clashed and the smoke settled, bodies were quickly removed from the field to stop the spread of disease. Blade-cut, wooden plaques were placed at temporary grave sites so that others could pay respects.

 

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
The grave marker of Lt. Charles R. Carville, a member of the 165th New York Volunteers who died at Port Hudson May 27, 1863. (Nation Museum of American History)

It wasn’t until World War I, when troops were issued rifles and kevlar helmets, that these wooden blocks were replaced with the crosses as we know them. To many, it was the equipment that made a trooper, so creating a memorial from that same gear was poignant.

In World War II, dog tags were standard, making troop identification easier. The tags were eventually placed on the memorials, giving a name to the troop who once carried the gear on which it was draped. When available, a pair of boots was placed at the bottom of the shrine, too.

A pair of boots, a rifle, a helmet, and some identification — there’s something eerily, symbolically beautiful about the battlefield cross, composed of the core components of a troop.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
A battlefield cross sits on display during sunrise, April 15, 2016, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing set up the cross for Lt. Col. William Schroeder. (Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

Today, given the technology, photos of the fallen are also sometimes placed near the memorial. These crosses help give troops closure and a way to pay their respects to their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new US experimental helicopter is cleared for flight tests

When talking the future of helicopters, the Sikorsky S-97 Raider has been figuring prominently in the discussion. This is because the Raider holds the potential for high performance not seen since the AH-56 Cheyenne took to the skies. Now it has gotten its “test flight” card, and according to DefenseNews.com, the Raider will get its chance to show its stuff.

The Raider had a bit of a setback last year when the first prototype had what was called a “hard landing” (really a delicate way of saying it crashed). The Raider uses what is known as X2 technology, which uses a combination of counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail to attain high speeds. While the Raider itself has only pushed past 150 knots, the X2 demonstrator blew past 250 knots in 2010.


Plans call for the Raider to push past 200 knots in the testing. The Raider is seen as a contender for armed reconnaissance missions, where two other helicopters, the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, did not manage to reach front-line service. The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired, and the scout mission was passed to the AH-64 Apache.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

The S-97 Raider is seen as a contender for the armed reconnaissance role.

(Lockheed Martin graphic)

The Raider and the larger SB-1 Defiant are among the designs contending for all or part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. The goal of this program is to replace the current Army helicopters, including the classic UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook, and AH-64 Apache with more advanced airframes through a series of Joint Multi-Role Helicopters.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

The S-97 uses a pusher rotor, much like that on the AH-56 Cheyenne.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

The plan is to shrink the current inventory from 25 types of helicopters and tiltrotors to as few as five: JMR-Light, a new scout helicopter; JMR Medium-Light; JMR-Medium, which will replace the AH-64 and UH-60; JMR-Heavy, a replacement for the CH-47; and JMR-Ultra, which will combine the payload and performance of the C-130J with vertical lift capability.

The first of these next-generation helicopters could emerge as soon as 2027. But we are getting a glimpse at what they will be able to do now.

MIGHTY HISTORY

In a military exercise, try not to really shoot anyone


There are a couple things that everyone going into a military exercise absolutely has to get right. First, get good training and look for ways to improve both personal and unit performance. Second, and perhaps more importantly, don’t really shoot anyone.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Hint: U.S. Navy pilots aren’t supposed to do this to U.S. Air Force pilots. (Photo: Public Domain)

Guess which thing Navy Lt. (j.g.) Timothy Dorsey, an F-14 pilot, messed up while shadowing an Air Force RF-4C Phantom over the Mediterranean on Sep. 22, 1987?

Dorsey and his radar intercept officer, Lt. Cmdr. Edmund Holland, were taking part in an exercise testing the defenses of the Navy carrier USS Saratoga against enemy attacks. The Air Force had provided a jet and aircrew, Capt. Michael Ross and 1st Lt. Randy Sprouse, to act as the opposing force.

Ross took off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and began searching for the carrier. The unarmed jet would need to get within visual distance of the Saratoga and read off its hull number to count a “kill” against it in the exercise.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
The RF-4C Phantom was a reconnaissance plane and typically carried only cameras. (Photo: US Air Force)

The exercise orders called for Dorsey and another F-14 to be unarmed as well, but both Navy jets were actually carrying live missiles. The Navy pilots would have to simulate an attack on the opposing force jet to win.

The Air Force crew faced trouble early on when its equipment for hunting the Navy carrier and its fleet electronically malfunctioned. Ross and Sprouse began conducting a visual search instead. The Navy jets got lucky early when the combat controllers sent them after a radio contact that turned out to be the RF-4C refueling from an Illinois Air National Guard KC-135 tanker.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
A Navy F-14 prepares to link up with a tanker for fuel. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Gaddis)

Dorsey’s flight joined up on the tanker and picked up fuel. Ross and Sprouse flew away first and returned to searching for the carrier. Dorsey and Holland, obviously believing that they had spotted their quarry, pursued the Phantom.

The Air Force jet found the carrier, but also knew that a Navy jet was on its tail. Sprouse, the backseater on the Phantom, alerted Ross to the Navy presence.

“There`s a Navy F-14 sitting on our left wing at about 8 o’clock,” Sprouse said.

“Okay, he’s a good guy,” Ross said.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
The USS Saratoga’s hull number was 60. There, now no one has to be shot down to get it. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Meanwhile, Dorsey was tracking the Air Force jet’s progress toward the carrier. When the RF-4C got to about 15 miles from the Saratoga, Ross initiated a diving turn at the carrier, simulating the start of an attack run. Dorsey called out the threat to Holland and they alerted the Saratoga.

So far, everything is good. The Air Force is simulating an attack on the carrier, the Navy is simulating the protocol for attacking a threat to the carrier.

The Saratoga responded, “Red and free on your contact.” And that was where everything got messy. Dorsey, relatively new to the Saratoga and with only a couple hundred hours of flight time under his belt, was under the impression that “red and free” was a command to fire that was only used in real-world, “Shoot that guy right now!” situations.

Still, he hesitated and asked for guidance.

“Jesus, do they want me to shoot this guy?” he asked.

The phrase, “red and free,” was commonly used around the Saratoga in exercises. Holland, thinking that Dorsey still understood that everything was taking place within the limits of the exercise, not an actual fight, responded with, “Yes. Shoot!”

Dorsey armed one sidewinder and attempted to fire, but the missile failed. So, he fired another and this one slammed into the back of the recently-fueled Air Force jet.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Again: These aren’t meant for friendly jets. (Photo: Public Domain)

Holland later said of that moment, “I heard a ‘whish’ sound from the right side of the aircraft, and I looked out and I said, ‘What was that?’ I saw the front end of an F-4 and the back end was in flames. I said, ‘You shot him down!’ and I was absolutely amazed.”

It was Holland’s shock and sudden questions that alerted Dorsey to the fact that he had done something very wrong.

Ross and Sprouse, meanwhile, we’re going through their own sudden crisis. They mistakenly believed that they had collided with the F-14 that was tailing them. The RF-4C was shaking violently and parts of it were on fire.

Ross gave the order to eject.

“I’m gone,” Sprouse said as he pulled the ejection handle. Both airmen got clear of the dying jet and Holland radioed for an at-sea rescue.

“Mayday! Mayday! Got a kill on a Fox 4!”

For obvious reasons, Navy commanders immediately started asking what had happened. Ross and Sprouse were fished out of the water and questioned by Navy lawyers. They both gave full statements before the commander of the Saratoga, Navy Capt. David Frost, told them what really happened and apologized. (Probably something like, “oh, by the way, we shot you down. Sorry. Okay, who’s up for some great Navy chow?”)

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Probably some awkward dinner conversation on the Saratoga that night. Photo: US Navy

Sprouse and Ross received medical attention, Navy uniforms, and a swag bag. They were given the best dinner on the ship and good spots to sleep until they could be sent back to the Air Force.

Dorsey was grounded but allowed to stay in the Navy. He made it to the rank of captain in the reserves as an intelligence officer and then an inspector general. In 2012, he was recommended for promotion to admiral. When Congress heard about his 1987 incident, they declined to vote on his promotion, effectively rejecting it.

Many suspect that Dorsey wouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the Navy if it weren’t for the fact that his father was James Dorsey, a prominent figure in the Naval aviation community. In 1987, Dorsey was the captain of the USS America, a supercarrier.

Ross’s injuries from the shootdown appeared slight when he was rescued from the ocean, but grew steadily worse as he aged. He received 32 surgeries and became fully disabled.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 3 weirdest ways Iran’s military uses martial arts (includes an all-female ninja army)

In the modern world, most nations cultivate a variety of martial arts disciplines within their borders, not as a formal effort of the government, but rather as a byproduct of public interest. Here in the United States, motivated students can find places to study anything from Japanese Karate to Israeli Krav Maga at their local strip mall, so it should come as no surprise that the military has also come to adopt a variety of disciplines into its own approach to martial arts-based combat.


The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, as one example, borrows from no fewer than 17 distinct martial arts disciplines, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu, to ensure Marines are as capable in hand-to-hand combat as they are with their rifles.

Iran has also placed an emphasis on martial arts for the sake of defense, though like the nation’s military apparatus itself, their approach has been heavily informed by their culture, internal politics, and unusual military hierarchy, resulting in less than stellar results.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

These guys look exactly like the generals that would show up in a movie with that plot.

(Mohammad Akhlaghi via WikiMedia Commons)

Iran has allegedly forced martial arts instructors to work as assassins

According to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan’s Baku Mission that was revealed by WikiLeaks, the Iranian government expects martial arts schools and clubs to serve in the role of “enforcers” when it comes to stemming public dissent, but that’s far from the worst that’s been pressed upon martial arts instructors.

The wire, which came with the decidedly metal headline of, “IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION,” goes on to claim that the “ninja black belt master” in question knew of at least one instructor that “was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months.” These alleged victims were referred to as “young intellectuals” and “pro-democracy activists.”

IRAN’S NINJA GIRLS

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The Iranian government built an all-female, 3,500 strong ninja-army

Women in Iran may not enjoy the same rights or parity that can be found in Western nations like the United States, but that’s not to say that the Iranian government doesn’t occasionally recognize a woman’s ability to kick ass for their benefit. Most women may not be allowed to travel outside of their homes without a male escort, but some are trained in Japanese Ninjutsu to become stealthy assassins for their government.

In 2012, 3,500 women were registered to begin their training to become ninjas, according to a segment produced for Iran’s state-run media. Some in the United States have opined that Iran permits this training as a means to appease their stifled female population, but it seems more likely that Iran’s government believes it has a use for women that can fight.

The video of these women training may seem cheesy, but their form actually looks a lot better than some of Iran’s highly trained Special Operations troops…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWKhiSmj73s
Iranian Army’s Shocking Martial Arts Demo

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Iran’s Special Operators were defeated by pottery

Every nation occasionally releases motivational videos of their highly trained troops executing unusual techniques. The U.S. does insertion and extraction demonstrations with special operators at SOFIC in Tampa, Florida each year. Russia releases footage of their troops shooting live rounds at each other, and Iran… well, Iran’s special operators can be seen in this video losing a fight to a vase.

In the video, Iranian officials are shown looking on as men that have been referred to by a number of news outlets as Special Operations troops execute a series of dramatic spin kicks and even spinning back-hands to a vase that simply refuses to break. Eventually, the troops set the intact vase down and bow as their clearly disappointed superiors look on. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this demonstration characterizes all of Iran’s military martial arts efforts, but if these generals were smart, they probably forgot about the demonstration and went straight to the guy that made that vase to see if he was interested in getting into the tank business.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s longing for former Soviet Union hits 14-year high

More Russians regret the breakup of the Soviet Union than at any other time since 2004, an opinion poll shows.

In a survey whose results were published on Dec. 19, 2018, two-thirds — or 66 percent — of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they regret the 1991 Soviet collapse.

That is up from 58 percent a year earlier and is the highest proportion since 2004, the last year of President Vladimir Putin’s first term, Levada said.


One-quarter of respondents said they do not regret the Soviet breakup, the lowest proportion since 2005, and 9 percent said they could not answer.

Putin, president from 2000-08 and 2012 to the present, has often played up the achievements of the Soviet Union while playing down some of its darkest chapters.

In 2005, Putin called the Soviet breakup the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, citing the large numbers of Russians it left outside Russia.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

In March 2018, when asked what event in the country’s history he would like to have been able to change, he named the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Levada said that Russians’ concerns about their economic security today were among the main reasons for the increase in the number voicing regret.

A highly unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by five years has stoked antigovernment sentiment and pushed Putin’s own approval ratings down in 2018.

The peak of regret over the Soviet collapse came in 2000, when 75 percent of Russian polled by Levada answered “yes” to the same question.

In 2018, Levada surveyed 1,600 people nationwide in the Nov. 22-28, 2018 poll.

The pollster said that 52 percent of respondents named the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “single economic system” as the main thing they regretted.

Worries about their current economic situation and prospects were a major factor for many of those respondents, Levada said.

At the same time, 36 percent said they miss the “feeling of belonging to a great power,” and 31 percent lamented mistrust and cruelty in society.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Memorial Day let’s look a little deeper into our veteran characters

Breaking into Hollywood is hard. We all know that behind every working writer, director or actor there is a lot of hard work, failure and luck. I should know; my path to booking the role of Gilly, an Afghan war veteran on FX’s Mayans, came from actually going to war and being lucky enough to survive.

In Gilly, I’ve tried to channel the pure joy that veterans feel when they are part of a pack, either in uniform or riding motorcycles. There is also the fierce loyalty to one another that can turn into a heated argument or a hug. But at the end of the day, there is reality.


George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)

My reality as I was writing this was to stop to answer a call. It was a call I didn’t want to receive. I was being notified that one of my friends – a Marine combat veteran – had committed suicide. In an instant, his story was over. He wanted to be an actor. We were making plans to meet up in Los Angeles, so I could help him network and find his way into film and television. He had so much more to give this world… but now he’s gone. This Memorial Day, I will remember him, but more importantly, I will channel the hurt inside into my craft.

War and homecoming are some of the greatest highs and lows of the human experience. The thrill of combat, the isolation of coming home as an outsider and the pain of losing a friend are the basis for characters that would impress Miesner, Chekhov and even Stanislavski. So the question I ask myself this Memorial Day is, why aren’t more veterans working in Hollywood?

I can’t tell you why, but what I can tell you is that veterans working in the entertainment industry have the potential to change the way the world sees those who serve and to create some of the most iconic moments of our generation. Thankfully, history is on my side. Audie Murphy, a decorated WWII veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor came to Hollywood and starred in over 40 films. His films, such as to Hell and Back, helped a nation come to terms after a massive world war. What most people don’t know is that James Cagney (yes that one) is the one who invited Murphy to Hollywood.

Seventy five years later, I am asking the Hollywood system to invite other veterans to join their ranks, as equals, just like I was embraced by the showrunners, cast and crew of the Mayans. In doing so, we have an opportunity to not only create amazing content but also harness some of the most captivating characters of our generation. Sadly, where we stand and who we are as veterans is not shown in the best light. That needs to change, and I intend to be a beacon for that change.

The common stereotype of combat veterans focuses on struggles with drinking, drugs, post-traumatic stress and even suicide while trying to find a sense of normalcy in society. Although there is truth in these experiences and I will never discount those who are hurting, it is a severe misrepresentation of who we are as a whole. The veteran community is filled with success stories — beautiful stories of courage, strength, and determination.

It wasn’t long ago when every gang member in a movie was portrayed as Hispanic or African American. Asians were depicted as liquor store owners who spoke broken English. Since that time, there has been a beautiful shift in the portrayal of other diversity groups, However, we still have a long way to go with regard to the portrayal of combat veterans.

(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)

If there were more inspirational films with an honest narrative, would that have saved my friend? Would he have gravitated toward that inspiration and pulled himself from the darkness?

Maybe…

If we genuinely want to make a positive impact in the veteran community, we have to change the narrative! We have to tell stories about the ones who faced the hardships and adversity but continued to fight for their own success. We have to be more than they give us permission to be or expect us to be.

To my knowledge, out of the over 2.5 Million Americans who have deployed since 9/11, I am currently the only Iraq and Afghan war combat veteran to hold a recurring role on television series. I’m not sure why that is because there are so many talented veteran storytellers and actors out there. I don’t credit my success to any extensive training or some unbelievable skillset. It’s more of being at the “right place at the right time with the right look.” But since I am here, I’ve had the opportunity to see how Hollywood portrays us, and I am not exactly proud of how we are being represented.

What would make me proud is to see a massive influx of veterans working in the entertainment industry. Whether they’re onscreen or behind it, I want us to tell our own stories. And I want those stories to be genuine, successful and make us better people.

The world needs to know that we are more than just boots and weapons. The world needs to know that we have lives, families, accomplishments and goals long past the physical wars we fought.

If we want to see this change, we have to lead by example and become that change. Seeing the potential in ourselves and building up our brothers and sisters is literally a matter of life or death.

Will you stand with me and make that change?

R.L.T.W.

Articles

See what it was like to fight in a WWII Sherman tank

The Sherman tank of World War II is both legendary and infamous. It was selected for World War II by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. himself, America’s first tank officer and a pioneer of armored strategy.


The traits for which Patton loved the Sherman, its speed and agility, ease of transport, and decent gas mileage, made it a general’s tanks. The tanks could reliably be manufactured in large numbers and easily be deployed into transport.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
American M4 Sherman tanks advance during fighting in the European Theater of World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the tradeoffs that made those traits possible came at a cost of what crews wanted in tanks. Their speed and gas mileage came from — relative to most of their German counterparts — light guns and armor. The Sherman’s engine was designed for aviation use and was light and powerful but used a more flammable fuel than other tanks of the era.

So, while the Sherman could support friendly infantry and annihilate enemy infantry, they were vulnerable to attack from enemy armor.

The war in Europe was therefore a nightmare for the tank crews who fought their way east from Normandy. They fought in cramped quarters, had to desperately vie for close shots on the flanks and rears of German tanks, and often had to reinforce their own armor with items stolen off the battlefield.

Get a look at what the crews in World War II Shermans had to live with in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the Air Force went inverted over a Russian bomber

Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.


“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974.  The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS.  The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
In June 1973, the F-4s replaced the F-102s at Keflavik. (All images: R. Sihler)

I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.

Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it.  They photographed us as well.  The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really!  The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”

The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Paramarine assaulted Iwo Jima with an improvised machine gun

During the invasion of Iwo Jima and the assault on Mount Suribachi, a Marine Corps Reserve infantryman and paratrooper carried his weapon — an ANM2 aircraft machine gun capable of firing 1200-1500 rounds per minute — onto the beaches and used it to devastate Japanese pillboxes even though it was shot from his hands…twice.


George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Marine Cpl. Tony Stein was an infantryman and paratrooper in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Cpl. Tony Stein’s family later received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.

Stein was a Golden Gloves boxer and machinist before enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve in September 1942. He graduated boot camp and then became one of the few Marines to attend airborne training in World War II. He served in a number of battles in the Bougainville campaign early in the war.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
American Marines engage in airborne training in 1943. (Photo: U.S. Department of the Navy)

After the short-lived Marine Parachute Regiment was disbanded, Stein was assigned to the 5th Marine Division and sent to Iwo Jima. Marines in his unit came across a crashed SBD Dauntless dive bomber, a plane known for its slow speed but deadly armament. It’s pilots racked up an impressive 3.2-1 air-to-air kill ratio in the bomber.

The Dauntless’s lethal bite came from its ANM2 aircraft machine guns, .30-caliber weapons based on the M1919 light machine gun. The aircraft version was lighter and fired approximately three times as fast as the standard M1919. A unit armorer enlisted Stein’s help in adding buttstocks, bipods, and sights to the weapon.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

Each battalion in the unit was assigned one of the modified weapons, which were dubbed the “Stinger.” Stein was chosen to carry his battalion’s.

The weapons were fitted with 100-round ammo belts carried in aluminum boxes, meaning the weapon could unleash hell for about five seconds at a time.

When the Marines landed at Iwo Jima, Stein pressed forward to where the fighting was hottest and placed carefully aimed bursts into Japanese pillboxes, usually by charging them alone and firing at close ranges against the crews inside.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Marine Pfc. Douglas Lightheart cradles his M1919 30-cal. machine gun as he and his buddy, Pfc. Gerald Churchby, take time out for a cigarette while fighting on Peleliu Island. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. H. H. Clements)

Of course, with only five seconds or less of fire per ammo belt, he quickly ran dry. He threw off his shoes and helmet for speed and made running trips back and forth to the beach carrying wounded Marines down to aid and bringing ammo belts back. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he made at least eight trips that day.

During the fighting, the Stinger was shot from Stein’s hands twice. But he simply picked the weapon back up each time and kept fighting.

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend
Marines burrow in the volcanic sand on the beach of Iwo Jima, as their comrades unload supplies and equipment from landing vessels despite the heavy rain of artillery fire from enemy positions on Mount Suribachi in the background. (Photo: National Park Service)

The Marines pushed farther forward than they could hold. When the unit was ordered to withdraw, Stein covered the movement with the Stinger.

As the invasion continued, Stein was wounded on the famous Mount Suribachi and evacuated to a hospital ship. When the regiment took additional casualties, Stein slipped off of the hospital ship and joined his unit once again.

He was with his company when it was pinned down by a Japanese machine gunner on March 1. Stein led the movement to find and destroy it but was shot by a sniper in the attempt. A Medal of Honor for Stein’s actions on the beach of Iwo Jima was presented to his widow in 1946.

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