How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll - We Are The Mighty
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How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“If you are qualified, fate has a way of getting you to the right place at the right time – tho’ sometimes it appears to be a long, long wait,” professed Marine Col. Dave Shoup.


Fate was certainly on Shoup’s side at Tarawa Atoll, and he didn’t shrink from the occasion.

The 38-year-old Indiana native was one of the four Marines awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds at Tarawa Atoll in November 1943, one of the most brutal engagements fought in the Pacific during WWII.

Shoup was the only recipient to survive the battle and receive this honor in person.

The battle as a whole was plagued by bad planning and poor decision making, but individual acts of heroism and the sheer willpower of the troops engaged in combat won the day for the Americans.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
General David M. Shoup (1904-1983), Medal of Honor recipient and 22nd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (1960-1963). (Photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps)

Shoup was born in December 1904 on a farm in Battle Ground, Indiana, near the site of General William H. Harrison’s victory at Tippecanoe in 1811. Shoup would mirror the same bold leadership qualities of the leader of that battle fought in his backyard 90 years before.

Upon completing high school, Shoup desired to attend college and not remain as an “Indiana plowboy” for the remainder of his life. He attended DePauw University as an ROTC student and successfully graduated in 1926. He transferred to the Marines in the same year after spending only one month in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

Leading up to 1943, Shoup spent time on a number of assignments in the United States, China, and Iceland. He slowly climbed up the ranks in his 15 years of service leading up to WWII, when he was promoted to colonel.

He had a reputation of being a straightforward officer, earning the praise of the men under his command for sharing in their hardships on and off the battlefield. One correspondent described him as “a squat red-faced man, with a bull neck,” known by those who surrounded him as a “profane shouter of orders.”

The greatest trial of Shoup’s life came during the invasion of the Japanese-held Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.

Tarawa Atoll consisted of a series of islands surrounded by a large coral reef stretching up to 1,100 yards from the shoreline. The Japanese occupied Tarawa Atoll in December 1941 and spent two years leading up to the battle turning it into a formidable obstacle. They fortified the islands with barbed wire and a network of trenches and built an airfield.

The Japanese garrison consisted of about 5,000 men, all willing to die to the last man. Occupation of the island was critical for the U.S. to establish forward operating bases in the Pacific, and the Japanese continued to fortify it up to the day of the invasion.

Shoup was one of the 20,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Division to land at Tarawa Atoll on November 20, 1943. The Marine division — meshed with veterans of Guadalcanal and raw recruits — made their way to the beach transported by amtracs and landing craft.

The small perimeter of the beachhead became cluttered with bodies and debris as parties of Marines attempted to gain a foothold and power their way inland, while exposed to a barrage of Japanese machine gun and mortar fire. Chaos reigned supreme as the some of the vehicles loaded with reinforcements became bogged down on the reef.

For a time, it appeared the attack on Tarawa Atoll would falter, as many men were pinned down in the shallow water near the reef, either unable or unwilling to move to reinforce the beachhead.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Marines storm the beach at Tarawa Atoll, November 1943. (U.S. Archives)

Shoup ordered his men to advance forward from the reef to the beachhead as Japanese artillery, machine gun barrages, and rifle fire rained down on them. Suddenly, a Japanese mortar round exploded nearby, flinging shrapnel into his legs.

He refused to be evacuated despite the severity of the debilitating wound.

At one point, the defiant colonel shouted to his men, “Are there any of you cowardly sons of bitches got the guts to follow a colonel of the Marines?” The Marines were inspired by his valor and selflessness, and followed him forward.

Shoup assumed command of all land troops upon reaching the beachhead. He ignored the agony of his wounds, and marched up and down the line with his pistol unholstered, coolly directing the advance of Marines further inland.

Success was measured in yards, and the Marines methodically overcame the Japanese defenses.

By the time the battle ended, less than 200 of the original 4,000-man Japanese garrison remained to surrender. They had inflicted a staggering 3,000 casualties on the Second Marine Division. Shoup remained on his feet directing the fight for about 50 hours, finally relinquishing command to be treated for his wounds only when most of Tarawa Atoll was in Americans hands.

Without Shoup’s direction and valor, Tarawa Atoll may well have been a catastrophic defeat. Shoup lived for another 40 years until his death in 1983 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Founder of organization that assists families of the fallen receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
(Photo: Andrew Harnik, Alaska Dispatch News)


Bonnie Carroll, the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House on November 24. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Carroll founded TAPS after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, TAPS provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of a military family member. The organization’s programs like Good Grief camps and National Military Survivor seminars have brought effective comfort and care to families of the fallen since 1994, most acutely in the years since 9-11.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Carroll told WATM immediately following the ceremony. “It’s a recognition of American respect and reverence for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they loved and left behind.”

Sixteen others were recognized by President Obama during the event including entertainers James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Barbara Streisand, baseball legend Willie Mays, lawmakers Shirley Chisholm and Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, composer Stephen Sondheim, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

“It was wonderful to meet [the other awardees],” Carroll said. “Gloria Estefan lost her dad in the Army, so she’s kind of a TAPS kid. And Steven Spielberg was telling me about a project he’s working on to bring awareness to those dealing post traumatic stress and veteran suicide. So this was a tremendous opportunity to meet those who’ve made a difference in the county and also take our work forward.”

Carroll is also a retired major in the Air Force Reserve. She serves on the Defense Health Board and co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.

“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” President Obama said during the ceremony.

For more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go here.

Articles

The 9 most badass unit mottos in the Marine Corps

There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.

Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.


These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.

1. “Whatever It Takes”

1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

2. “Get Some”

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

3. “Balls of the Corps”

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

5. “Retreat Hell”

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”

2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

9. “Make Peace or Die”

1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Articles

The killer priests of the Spanish Civil War

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll


The Spanish Civil War

From 1936 through 1939, the Nationalist rebels warred against the government of the Second Republic of Spain. During the war, Francisco Franco ascended above other Nationalist generals and was recognized by Nationalist Spain — and fascist Germany and Italy — as the undisputed Generalissimo of Spain. In March 1939, the Republic of Spain surrendered to the Nationalists, ushering in Francisco Franco’s fascist dictatorial regime.

By no means was the Spanish Civil War a fight of gentlemen — if war can ever be pure and honorable. Quite the opposite, the Spanish Civil War was filled with atrocities on both the Republican and Nationalist sides, rivaling the horrors of World War II. Both sides used torture, humiliation, and execution during the war, and the Franco Regime continued to execute dissidents well after the war was over; many mass graves are just now being uncovered.

Surprisingly, the Spanish Civil War turned Catholic laymen and priests into executioners and the executed. They cheered on the Nationalist rebels and were killed by Republican forces. The hands of priests were covered with blood — either their own or their enemy’s.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Mass Grave of 26 Republicans discovered in 2014 | Creative Commons

Religious Persecution in the Spanish Republic

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Republic was governed by a leftist coalition. Among the coalition, some political parties were deeply suspicious of the Catholic Church. The hostility toward religion, specifically held by some socialists, communists, and anarchists in the Republic, allowed for many executions of Catholics to go unpunished. Spanish Civil War historian Paul Preston records in his book, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, a staggering 4,184 lay clergy were killed (18% of laymen in Republican territory), 2,365 monks were killed (30% of their population in Republican territory) and 296 nuns were killed (1.3% of the nun population in Republican territory).

These tragic numbers piled ever higher because of mass executions of religious people, as happened in Lleida near the Aragon front—in one night 73 people were killed simply because of their religion (Preston The Spanish Holocaust 243). After execution, the bodies may have been further humiliated, for the region of Aragon had an unfortunate practice of burning the gasoline-soaked corpses of executed priests. Aragon also participated in the killing of religious women—in 1936, three nuns were raped and killed at Peralta de la Sal (Preston The Spanish Holocaust 249). Understandably, these killings made religious Spaniards angry and defensive. Justified or not, some priests did much more than turn the other cheek.

Father Martínez Laorden

One priest who was heavily supportive of, but not involved in, the brutalities of the Nationalist rebels was Father Martínez Laorden. After supporters of the Spanish Republic burned his church, the father fled to the Nationalist forces, along with his niece and his niece’s daughter. After Nationalist forces executed 60 people over a three-month period, Father Martínez Laorden called for the Nationalists to be more thorough in their repression. He even shouted an impassioned speech from atop a town hall balcony: “You all no doubt believe that, because I am a priest, I have come with words of forgiveness and repentance. Not at all! War against all of them until the last trace has been eliminated” (PrestonThe Spanish Holocaust 148).

Father Vicente

A more active priest, but still somewhat restrained, who supported the Nationalist rebels was Father Vicente. Peter Kemp, a British volunteer who joined the Nationalists wrote of the enthusiastic priest:

“He was the most fearless and the most bloodthirsty man I ever met in Spain; he would, I think, have made a better soldier than a priest. ‘Hola, Don Pedro!’ he shouted to me. ‘So you’ve come to kill some Reds! Congratulations! Be sure you kill plenty!…Whenever some wretched militiaman  bolted away from cover to run madly for safety, I would hear the good Father’s voice raised in a frenzy of excitement: ‘Don’t let him get away — Ah! Don’t let him get away! Shoot, man, shoot! A bit to the left! Ah! That’s got him,’ as the miserable fellow fell and lay twitching” (Preston The Spanish Holocaust183).

Benito Santesteban

Few priests, however, supported the Nationalist cause more than the odd cleric, Benito Santesteban, who worked alongside a Nationalist group known as the Requeté, a particularly ruthless group in Navarre. The Requeté scoured the land for Republican sympathizers, leading to around 3,127 people being killed in the region of Navarre. Benito Santesteban claimed that he, himself, killed more than 15,000 communists in the areas of Navarre, Sebastían, Billbao and Santander, though the figure is clearly inflated (Preston The Spanish Civil War 183). Santesteban, despite claiming to have killed thousands of people, was not completely heartless — as he saved several people from execution. Saving a few, while helping kill many, however, is unlikely to have redeemed Benito Santesteban.

Navarre, specifically the city of Pamplona, emphasized a sad truth about the Spanish Civil War — it was dangerous to criticize brutality on both sides of the war. Most priests did not fall into a bloodlust during the Spanish Civil War, but it was dangerous for them to speak out against the violence. A perfect example was the tragic death of Father Eladio Celaya, a 72-year-old priest of Cáseda. In 1936, disapproving of the actions of Benito Santesteban and the Requeté in Navarre, Eladio Celaya traveled to Pamplona to speak out against the executions and murders — he arrived in Pamplona on August 8thand by August 14th Eladio Celaya was dead and decapitated by Nationalist zealots (Preston The Spanish Holocaust 184).

Blood on all sides

The religious people of Spain were in a terrible position during the Spanish Civil War. They were often supportive of and targeted by executions and persecutions. The Spanish Civil War was a crusade of passions on both side of the war, with conflicting philosophies and lifestyles leading to overzealous, fanatical fighters. As in every crusade, the Spanish Civil War left religion unnaturally tainted with blood.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Generalissimo Franco and Nationalist soldiers

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Spanish Republic recruits in Teruel, c. 1938

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Spanish Republic troops near Madrid, c. 1936

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Heinrich Himmler observing Nationalist troops in Madrid, c. 1940

Read all of C. Keith Hansley’s articles here, where royalty-free images, recommended books, and keen quotes can also be found.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 heroes who saved American lives on Heartbreak Ridge

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.

Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:


How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

(Military Sealift Command)

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.

Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.

He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.

(U.S. Army)

Sgt. Homer I. May

On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.

He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.

(National Archives Records Administration)

Cpl. James E. Smith

Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.

He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

French Sgt. Louis Misseri

French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.

When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Sgt. George R. Deemer

On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.

When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 photos of escort carriers, the U-boat killers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how they did it.


How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

The USS Long Island underway in May 1943.

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

Source: US Navy

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

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

Source: US Navy

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

Source: US Naval Institute

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

Source: US Naval Institute

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

Source: US Naval Institute

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

Source: US Naval Institute

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

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

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

Source: US Navy

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

USS Card CVE-11 in 1944.

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

Source: US Naval Institute

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the one boxing match the Navy doesn’t want you to know about

Boxing is a sport that empowers human ambition and drive unlike any other form of activity. The physical preparation boxers make before a fight is unparalleled and the adrenaline rush after a well-deserved victory is irreplaceable. There’s just no comparison to any other form of winning. Maybe that was boxing’s appeal to deployed American sailors.

By the end of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. Navy occupied the Dominican Republic and sent a heavy naval force along the shores of this small Caribbean island in order to protect the U.S. government’s financial interest.

Theodore Roosevelt was president at the time and he believed implementing combative boxing events on naval vessels would increase military morale by having competitors pummel one another for glory. These events grew very popular and in no time boxing became a main sporting activity widespread across the Navy.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan…until one match went too far and turned fatal on July 8, 1908, aboard the USS Yankee.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Light Heavyweight match between Navy sailor Dale Alexander (right) and his Marine opponet.
(U.S. Navy photo)


Not long after the orders were passed down, boxing matches were being held on the decks of naval vessels in order to generate unit cohesion. To liven up the troops and sailors alike, these events were code-named “Smokers.”

Smokers went from a recreational sporting matches to prizefighting spectacles in no time, providing the opportunity to earn respect and extra pay for those sailors in need of a salary hike. This gave minority sailors – primarily Jewish and black sailors –the chance to be seen as more than just their ethnic background. It was one way to earn respect from and build camaraderie with their white counterparts in the days before a racially integrated military.

On July 8, 1908, onlookers cheered and mocked the fighters as the contestants took the stage. Raphael Cohen, a Jewish coal shoveler on the USS Yankee, awkwardly took the ring, awaiting the confident Jordan R. Johnson, a black gunners-mate from the USS Olympia, whose experience could be seen in his cold, unbroken deathly glare.

Both men came from humble beginnings, hardened by their fair share of turmoil, which may have been what brought them into the ring – or as the fighters would call it, the circle of truth.

Johnson joined the military at age 15 and quickly became a victim of physical abuse by his fellow shipmates. This was easily identifiable by unexplained scars on his ribs, abdomen, and neck. Growing up, Johnson spent nights shackled in irons, which turned him into a hardened fighter and earned him fear and respect on the Olympia. The ship’s decks became his training ground as he fought anyone who would meet him.

Cohen, on the other hand, was a young man looking for his identity, merely trying to to find where he belonged in this testosterone-heavy environment. After marrying at a young age, he believed the Navy would turn him into a man (or at least the man he thought he should be) so he searched to prove to himself that he was tough enough to hang with the other fighters.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
A U.S. Navy-sanctioned boxing match.

Both fighters were eager to get the fight going once the bell rang. The fully-charged Cohen fearlessly ran straight at Johnson, whose patience and experience kept him calm throughout the exchange. They fought hard, throwing caution to the wind, and neither giving in as the rounds continued.

Hundreds of sailors and Marines went wild as the two boxers pummeled one another. As each round continued, the crowd could see Cohen weakening. Even the referee questioned Cohen’s condition before allowing him to remain in what would become Cohen’s last stand.

By the eighth round, Cohen had enough, finally slumping to the ground after a crisp shot to the temple landed by Johnson rattled Cohen and left him unable to continue.

Johnson was victorious but what had he really won? Cohen would later be raised onto a stool and carried out of the ring. Two hours later, he was pronounced dead in the medical room.

An autopsy would later reveal the cause of death being a massive blood clot found inside of Cohen’s brain, attributed to the excessive beating he received in the bout. Captain Edward Francis of the USS Yankee later denied all involvement with the organization of the fight and reported Cohen’s death as “not in the line of duty.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
The telegram informing Cohen’s family of his death.

Cohen’s remains were buried in the Dominican Republic but later sent back to his family in New York in 1911. His remains were finally laid to rest in Maimonides Cemetery in Brooklyn. Jordan Johnson was cleared of all wrongdoing and left the Navy a year later. In 1929, Johnson passed away at the young age of 46, leaving the events of that day as a piece of untold military history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A paratrooper supply clerk survived a combat jump with zero training

In the military, sometimes things just get lost in transit. Gear goes adrift, paperwork gets filed wrong, and soldiers with no training in parachuting from a perfectly good airplane end up getting thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. It was bound to happen, and frankly, we should be a little surprised it took so long.


On Feb. 22, 2000, U.S. Army Spc. Jeff Lewis made his first ever parachute jump from a C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, N.C. The only problem was that no one had ever trained Specialist Lewis on how to jump from an airplane with the Army. Lewis was with the 82nd Airborne, so his unit was correct, it just turns out he wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a supply clerk. The then-23-year-old never mentioned anything to the jumpmaster because he wanted to do what the Army expected him to do.

“The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it. I had a job to do, and I had to believe in what I was doing.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

A Jumpmaster can be held responsible for any training accident.

Lewis did eventually go to jump school, becoming airborne qualified just a few weeks after jumping out the airplane door for the first time. He was also promoted in that timeframe. But Lewis didn’t go out the door entirely unprepared. He took the 82nd’s one-day refresher course for those soldiers who are already airborne-qualified, and it might have saved his life. After stepping out of the airplane on the wrong foot, his equipment apparently got tangled. He was able to open the canopy by kicking with his feet, as instructed in the class.

Even though the troopers were doing a static line jump, the jump was only half the instruction necessary. The other half is, of course, the landing. Paratroopers are trained to land safely using certain techniques that redistribute the energy from the force of their fall. Even with the chutes, they can hit the ground as fast as 15 miles per hour. The untrained or new paratroopers can snap their legs when landing incorrectly and taking the brunt of the fall.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

This could have been his first jump.

There’s a reason paratroopers train for weeks to learn to properly stick the landing. The chutes used by the Army aren’t like civilian chutes. They’re designed to get the trooper to the ground faster. While the Army could definitely afford safer, easier-to-use parachutes, the entire point of paratroopers is to get them on the ground and fighting as fast as possible. The more time they spend suspended in mid-air, the more opportunity enemy troops have to light them up.

In short, Lewis got lucky.

Articles

How to handle sleep deprivation, according to a Navy SEAL

Everybody always says the same thing when you announce you’re expecting: “Better catch up on your rest!” Or, “Sleep in while you still can!” Or even worse, “I’m your carefree single friend who stays out until two AM and then goes to brunch!” All of them also think they’re sharing a secret, as if they’re frontline soldiers watching new recruits get rotated to the front. These people are incredibly annoying. Or maybe they’re not. Who knows, you’re in a groggy, sleep-deprived haze.


Related: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

How you deal with sleep deprivation defines your first years as a parent. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about propping up sagging eyelids, it’s John McGuire. A Former Navy SEAL, he not only survived Hell Week — that notorious 5-day suffer-fest in where aspiring SEALs are permitted a total of only four hours of sleep — but also the years of sleep deprivation that come with being a father of five. McGuire, who’s also an in-demand motivational speaker and founder of the SEAL Team Physical Training program, offered some battle-tested strategies on how to make it through the ultimate Hell Week. Or as you call it, “having a newborn.”

Get Your Head Right

It doesn’t matter if it’s a live SEAL team operation or an average day with a baby, the most powerful tactic is keeping your wits about you. “You can’t lose your focus or discipline,” McGuire says. In other words, the first step is to simply believe you have what it takes best the challenge ahead. “Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.” This applies to CEOs, heads of households, and operatives who don’t exist undertaking missions that never happened taking out targets whose the Pentagon will not confirm.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Navy photo

Teamwork Makes The Lack Of Sleep Work

“In the field, lack of communication can get someone killed,” says McGuire. And while you might not be facing the same stress during a midnight diaper blowout as you would canvassing for an IED, the same rules apply: remain calm and work as a team. Tempers will flare, but the last thing that you want, per McGuire, is for negativity to seep through.

One way to prevent this? Remind yourself: I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I love my family, so I’m going to really watch what I say. At least that’s what McGuire says. And when communicating, be mindful of your current sleep-deprived state: “If you are, you’ll be more likely say something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling myself because I didn’t get enough sleep,'” he says.

Put The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First

The more you can schedule your life – and, in particular, exercise – the better, says McGuire. And this is certainly a tactic that’s important with a newborn in the house. “It’s like on an airplane: You need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put one on your kid.” Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and get the endorphins pumping. “You can hold your baby and do squats if you want,” he says. “It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.” Did your hear that, maggot!?

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. U.S. Navy photo

Don’t Try To Be A No-Sleep Hero

McGuire has heard people say that taking naps longer than 20 minutes will make you more tired than before you nap. Tell that to a SEAL (or a new dad). McGuire has seen guys sleep on wood pallets on an airplane flying through lightning and turbulence. He once saw a guy fall asleep standing up. The point is, sleep when you can, wherever you can, for as long you can. “Sleep is like water: you need it when you need it.”

Know Your Limits

Lack of proper sleep effects leads to more than under-eye bags: your patience plummets, you’re more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods, and, well, you’re kind of a dummy. So pay attention to what you shouldn’t do as much as what you should. “A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse,” says McGuire. “If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Students in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 279 participate in a surf passage exercise during the first phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf passage is one of many physically strenuous exercises that BUD/S class 279 will take part in during the seven weeks of first phase. The Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land. U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau

Embrace The Insanity

It would be cute if this next sentiment came from training, but it’s probably more a function of McGuire the Dad than McGuire the SEAL: Embrace the challenge because it won’t last long. Even McGuire’s brood of five, which at some point may have seemed they may never grow up, have. “You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children,” he says. “Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs,” he says. It won’t last forever — and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Tax Day, so don’t forget to file and/or pay. You know what’s not taxing? Military memes. Now that you’re probably broke, here’s a few you can enjoy for free.


1. Tax Day is the day the government makes sure military members pay their fair share of their own salaries. (via The Salty Soldier)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

2. Even death isn’t an escape. (via Decelerate Your Life)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

3. To be fair, you can’t fit the Air Force salad bar in a 2002 Civic. (via Pop Smoke)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

4. She’s a harsh mistress. (via Air Force Memes Humor)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

SEE ALSO: This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

4. I always said the Air Force doesn’t get enough safety briefings. (via Air Force Nation)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

5. I give this guy 4 out of 5 Hurt Lockers. (via Marine Corps Memes)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

 

 

6. The Navy is acting like a bunch of sailors lately. (via The Reactor is Critical)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

7. How did she know it was a Coastie? (There are military members who’ve never seen an actual Coast Guardsman.)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

8. Accurate. (via Air Force Nation)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

9. Nothing says freedom like that cat’s face. (via The Salty Soldier)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

10. Jody keeps getting younger. (via Sh-t my LPO says)

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

11. I honestly never know if I should feel guilty or proud when answering this question.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

12. Nothing’s worse than the gas station cashier who tells you all about how he “woulda joined, but…”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

 

13. Logan Nye will be back to the memes rundown next week. He was busy this week.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

 

Articles

Watch Russia test fire a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile interceptor

The Russian military recently tested a short-range ballistic missile interceptor that’s meant to detonate a small-yield nuclear warhead in the air over Moscow to prevent a nuclear strike.


But there are a couple of problems with that, mainly that a nuclear blast over Moscow would already provide an electro-magnetic pulse effect that would cripple the city’s electric grid.

The system, called the A-135 AMB, also highlights differences in philosophies between the US and Russia when it comes to missile defense. The US builds missile interceptors that hit to kill, requiring a high degree of precision and guidance. The US’s THAAD missile defense system, for example, doesn’t even have a warhead.

Russia’s solution to the complicated problem of hitting an incoming warhead at many times the speed of sound is to nuke a general area of the sky.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
The A-135 AMB fires. Photo courtesy of RT.

While the US tries to station its nuclear weapons far from population centers, Russia has 68 of these 10 kiloton interceptors all around Moscow, its most populous city. Unfortunately, even in the most careful settings, nuclear mishaps occur with troubling regularity.

Additionally, as Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk writes, interceptor misfires do happen, and with a nuclear tip, that could mean catastrophe.

“It is not clear to me that, if a nuclear-armed interceptor were used over Moscow against a flock of geese, that the Russian command-and-control system would understand it was one of their own or survive the EMP effects. Then all hell might break loose,” writes Lewis.

The fact that the Kremlin is willing to have 68 nuclear devices strewn about Moscow speaks to how much they fear an attack that would threaten its regime security.

Watch the video below:

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

What Chinese veterans of Korea think about their war

The Korean War is strange anomaly in the history of American wars, especially of the 20th Century. So much consideration is reserved for wars and the people who fought them in today’s culture that it makes the term “the forgotten war” seem like an impossibility. But that’s what we face with Korean War veterans.

Theirs is a very insular generation of veterans. Those who don’t share an experience in World War II or Vietnam because they only fought in Korea, they can only find an ever-dwindling number of fellow Korean War veterans.


Because of this, they have a very detailed memory and analysis of not just their part in the war, but of the entire war itself, so conversations tend to be lively between them. And, if you have a question, you will find a thoughtful answer. They’ve discussed every aspect of the war quite a bit.

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Some Korean War veterans, like the “Chosin Few” seen here, form alumni groups of single battles.

So it makes sense that whenever I talk to Korean War veterans, there’s one thing they all say they want to do: talk to veterans who were fighting on the other side of the fiercest battles. Whenever old adversaries get together, the talk generally comes to heal the emotional wounds of both parties, whether it’s between Americans and Germans, Japanese, or Vietnamese counterparts.

“They were fighting under the same orders I had,” Marine Corps veteran Joe Owen said when he told me about North Korean troops just days before his death in 2015. Owen was a lieutenant at the Chosin Reservoir. “They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them… I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

But Korean War veterans will likely never get this experience.

North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. It is extremely difficult to get in as an outsider, especially as a U.S. military veteran. North Korea did not fare well during the Korean War. Despite its early success, the North was pretty much ravaged and bombed away for three years and today’s North Koreans remember the war very differently than the rest of the world. An American Korean War veteran visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang would either have to be extremely diplomatic or agree to a vow of silence as he walked through.

Chinese veterans of the war are a different matter. China is a much more open, and relatively progressive country. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army sent upwards of a million Chinese to North Korea during the war, with many of the surviving veterans still alive, like Zhang Yuzeng. Zhang told Voice of America News that even though the two were allies, North Koreans generally acted independently and the two forces couldn’t understand each other.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
“There were few [North Koreans],” he said. “[They were] badly equipped and were not as good at fighting…”The North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped.”

To the Chinese fighters, they were protecting their country from American Imperialism, a protection they firmly believed was necessary. CNN interviewed a Chinese veteran of Korea at his retirement home in Henan Province. He proudly wears his Chinese Army dress uniform. He told CNN it was necessary to help the Korean people during the war.

“The people of Korea were suffering,” Duan said.”Seeing the people of Korea farming the land and being killed by enemy planes … what were they to do if they could not farm? The planes would just come and bomb them to death. We had to help protect the people of Korea.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

A United States Marine stands guard over captured North Koreans just after the Inchon Landing.

Now Read: 8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

Zhang Kuiyuan joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army at age 18 and was sent to Korea. He drove a supply truck to the front lines and also mentioned the lack of cooperation. They were not even to speak to or form relationships with the locals.

“We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he said. Duan Keke remarked that North Korean people today probably have no idea what sacrifices were made by the Chinese fighting man on their behalf, since they were not allowed to communicate on a personal level. He laments that the Koreans only know what their government wants them to know.

What the Chinese and American Korean War veterans have in common is that their war, decades old, remains “forgotten” – especially by the youth of their respective countries.

“Young people? Of course they don’t know,” says You Jie Xiang, a former infantry soldier who was assigned to guard American POWs. “These wars took place decades ago. All the young people have no idea.”

Like Joe Owen, the salty former lieutenant who commanded Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, these Chinese veterans harbor no ill will toward their former adversaries. They call Americans a “peaceful people” who “did not want a war in Korea.”

“War is death,” the old Chinese vets agree, nodding to each other.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 times Russian psychics got war and combat predictions right

Russians love psychics. They love mysticism. Even the Russian military is claiming to have received psychic technology from dolphins – in an official Russian Army publication, written by a Russian military officer that the Russian military not only isn’t disavowing but is actually doubling down on.


Also read: Um, Russian ministry report claims soldiers have dolphin-derived telepathy?

But whether the Russian military and Russian people believe it or not, Russians have a long history of loving their gifted predictions and the people who make those predictions. Even the Tsar’s wife had Rasputin around to make sure the future was going to be okay.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

Spoiler: It was not okay.

One of Russia’s most popular TV shows is a reality show called Battle of the Psychics. One-fifth of all Russians have visited a psychic, and 63 percent of Russians believe in astrology, fortune telling, or the evil eye. Russians have never lost their love for the metaphysical, even throughout the Soviet years. Superstitions die hard, and mystics are still popular.

One such mystic was Baba Vanga, a Bulgarian clairvoyant who lived in a rural mountainous area, who died in 1996. But Eastern Europeans still make pilgrimages to her gravesite. She made a number of seemingly insane predictions about war and geopolitical affairs that seem to have come true.

So maybe the dolphins aren’t that crazy after all.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

1. The fall of the Soviet Union

Long before the USSR’s fate was sealed, Baba Vanga predicted the fall of the Evil Empire. This was a particularly bold move, considering it could have put her in a gulag and/or put a bullet in her. She also predicted the death of Joseph Stalin, which is probably why Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev once personally came to visit her.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

2. The 9/11 attacks

In 1989, Baba Vanga predicted the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001:

Horror, horror! The American brethren (the two ‘brother’ towers) will fall after being attacked by the steel birds. “The wolves will be howling in a bush and innocent blood will gush.”
How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

3. The sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk

A full two decades before the fateful event, the old Bulgarian woman predicted the sinking of a submarine that didn’t yet exist in an accident she couldn’t possibly understand.

“At the turn of the century, in August of 1999 or 2000, Kursk will be covered with water, and the whole world will be weeping over it.”
How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

4. President Barack Obama

Baba Vanga predicted that the 44th President would be an African-American, but she also predicted that he would be the last president. Some sources believe she predicted the next president (that would be Trump) would fall ill with brain problems and tinnitus and that Russian President Vladimir Putin would face an assassination attempt.