On May 1, 1945, the 5th Marine Regiment arrived at the Shuri line in Okinawa, Japan, to support the war-torn 27th Army Infantry Division. As the Marines patrolled the dangerous area, a Japanese machine gunner opened fire on the incoming grunts, killing three and wounding a few others.
After taking cover, Sgt. Romus “R.V.” Burgin decided that he needed to take action and bring the fight to the enemy.
“I was with some of those Marines out there for two and a half years, and whenever somebody gets hit it’s just like your family,” Burgin states in an interview. “That’s when I decided he needed knocking out right quick.”
At that moment, the Japanese machine gunner was completely hidden, and Burgin needed to locate the threat immediately. He knew what direction the incoming fire came from but he needed to acquire a proper distance to call in for support.
Burgin stepped out into the open and proceeded in the direction of the shooter, hoping to spot the enemy gunner’s muzzle flash — and making himself a target.
After a few steps, the brave Marine’s plan began to work, drawing the enemy’s fire once again. Burgin dodged the incoming fire, two rounds ripped through his dungarees — but the quick-footed Marine was safe.
Little did the Japanese gunner know, he’d just given away his position. Burgin spotted his target and called in the enemy’s coordinates for a mortar strike.
Veterans often wonder what to do when they leave the military. Sometimes finding the right job can be tough, but for some, perhaps motor sports may be an option, if not as a career, then as a way to help recover from the invisible wounds of war.
According to Racer.com and USA Today, a number of efforts to encourage veterans to get involved in various types of auto racing have emerged recently. One is MilitaryToMotorsports.com, a venture from Andretti Autosports. The Andrettis are one of the biggest names in the auto-racing world, and this team has won the Indianapolis 500 four times, captured four IndyCar championships, plus two X-Games Gold Medals.
According to the MilitarytoMotorsports.com site, veterans can apply to be anything from a motor transport driver (perfect for folks who drove a HEMTT in their service) to a machinist to hospitality staff to being on a pit crew. In other words, the job you did in the military could have a lot of applications in helping an IndyCar driver win the next Indianapolis 500!
The chairman of Military to Motorsports is Navy veteran David Tilton, whose lengthy career included a tour on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) and a tour with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He retired after a back injury in 2003, and first became involved with Andretti Autosports in 2015.
“I am very excited to be part of the launch of the Military to Motorsports Program with Andretti Autosport,” said Tilton. “This program will give well-deserved military personnel the opportunity to utilize their skills and discipline, gained during their service, as part of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.”
NASCAR is not being left out, as a number of NASCAR drivers and teams have become involved with Hope for the Warriors, a Veterans Service Organization founded in 2006. According to USA Today, the drivers and team invite veterans like ex-Marine Ryan Harshman, a combat-wounded vet, to races.
“NASCAR events can be very organically therapeutic. If you can challenge somebody’s hesitations by putting them in an environment like that where they’re very excited to be there, it helps. They are distracted from the chaos, but the chaos is actually helping to ease the PTSD and the noise issues and so forth,” Hope for the Warriors President Robin Kelleher told USA Today Sports.
Today, Harshman is working at an outdoor store, and remains involved with the charity.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Iceberg” Smith was the only American military officer invited on a bold, new expedition in the late 1920s: An 8,000-mile journey over the Arctic in the Graf Zeppelin, one of the premier airships at the time.
Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Iceberg” Smith, an Arctic expert, World War I veteran, and Coast Guardsman invited to take part in the 1931 Aeroarctic Expedition.
(U.S. Coast Guard Compass)
Smith was one of the top experts on icebergs at the time, an interest he discovered after his service in World War I. The young Coast Guard officer had been assigned to convoy duties during the war, but was assigned to the international ice patrol soon after.
This scientific zeal drew the attention of Arctic explorers planning in the late 1920s to fly an airship to the North Pole while a submarine simultaneously made the same journey under the ice. The submarine would then bore its way to the surface, and the two crews would meet for handshakes and an exchange of mail before departing.
The trip went through a number of redesigns as the death of its leader, mechanical problems with the submarine, and funding issues all challenged elements of the plan.
But, in 1931, the plans were finalized for the Graf Zeppelin to meet up with a Russian icebreaker near the North Pole and exchange mail before collecting a large amount of scientific data and returning to Berlin — all within a single week. As Smith wrote in his notes following the trip, earlier expeditions along a similar route, conducted on foot, had taken almost a year to go one direction.
The Graf Zeppelin in Berlin.
(U.S. Coast Guard Compass)
The zeppelin took off on July 24, 1931, and proceeded to Berlin and then Leningrad for additional fuel and hydrogen before setting off north for the Pole. They crossed into the Arctic Circle at 7 p.m., July 26.
While the trip was certainly easier than a traditional Arctic expedition, it was still very dangerous. The men on board had limited emergency gear and food if the zeppelin was forced down by bad weather or mechanical failure. But, as long as the ship held up, it was reported as actually being quite pleasant despite how cold it was.
The Arctic ice sheets that proved treacherous for explorers on foot were quite beautiful from the sky by all accounts. And Russians, excited about their men meeting up with the zeppelin in the historic journey, had sent the airborne expedition off with crates of prime caviar.
A photo of the Arctic ice fields in 1931. The shadow on the ice is from the Graf Zeppelin.
(U.S. Coast Guard Compass)
The zeppelin usually flew between 200 and 500 meters off the surface, and scientists, including Smith, took measurements of the temperature, wind speeds, and other data while photographing areas about which little was previously known.
On July 27, the crew made radio contact with the Soviet icebreaker Malygin and was able to meetup with it a few hours later. The zeppelin was sent down to hover just over the surface of the sea with anchors fashioned from canvas buckets — and the icebreaker had been specially decorated for the occasion.
Despite the festive air, the exchange of mail was conducted quickly because floating ice packs were drifting dangerously close to the zeppelin and leaders were worried the engines could be damaged.
During the night of July 28th, the men dropped packages of mail and potatoes down to a Soviet station on the route before continuing north. This was the zeppelin’s last mail mission during the trip — all that was left was collecting additional scientific observations as it finished its loop back to Berlin.
The Graf Zeppelin’s 8,000-mile route through the Arctic Circle to the North Pole and back.
(U.S. Coast Guard Compass)
Smith helped capture the exact geography of the area over which the airship transited, and he published his findings later that year in an article titled “The Aeroarctic Expedition,” in The Geographical Review.
His notes called into doubt the existence of previously observed islands and confirmed that one island was, in fact, just a peninsula of a larger one.
The men of the expedition were greeted as heroes in Berlin, and crowds thronged to hear tales of their dangerous exploits. But, since they had suffered none of the mechanical failures of previous airship attempts, they had nothing to report except for 8,000 miles of beautiful views and dutifully collected scientific data.
The Graf Zeppelin was returned to its normal transatlantic route until the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 nearly ended zeppelin travel. For the next few decades, the only real zeppelin program to speak of was managed by the Goodyear Company as only America had the required helium reserves to conduct lighter-than-air travel safely.
American zeppelins would go on to serve in World War II, but not under the care of Coast Guard officers like Smith. Instead, they belonged to the Navy and were used primarily for anti-submarine duties.
All photos are courtesy of the Coast Guard Compass which published an article and accompanying photos about Smith and the Aeroarctic Expedition in 2015. To learn more about Smith and the Coast Guard’s role in exploration, you can read their article here.
On September 17, 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious mission to cross the Rhine River into Germany dubbed “Operation Market Garden.” Allied leaders hoped the mission would lead to end of World War II by Christmas.
Known to many as the operation that was “a bridge too far” and for being a strategic failure, it was not without incredible tales of personal courage, grit, and determination. Here are four of those amazing stories.
1. Pvt. Joe E. Mann
Private Mann was a scout assigned to the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division when it jumped into Holland. During fighting around the city of Best, Mann crawled within bazooka range of a German artillery emplacement and single-handedly knocked it out. He then began picking off Germans one-by-one with his rifle before he was wounded four separate times. Despite gunshots to both shoulders and one of his arms, he wasn’t out of the fight, insisting on standing guard through the night.
When a German attack came early the next morning, a grenade landed near Mann. Unable to raise his arms because they were bandaged to his body, he did the only thing he could — he jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast to save his friends. Private Mann was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Maj. Julian Cook
Three days into the operation, stiff German resistance managed to hold onto the Nijmegen Bridge despite efforts by the 82nd Airborne to dislodge them. With the timetable of the British XXX Corps advance in jeopardy Gen. Gavin ordered an assault crossing of the river to seize the bridge from the far side.
With 26 collapsible canvas boats, the 307th Engineers rowed two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment across the river under heavy German fire. Some of the men had to use their rifle butts as paddles. Major Julian Cook led the 3rd Battalion across first and established a beachhead. The engineers in the boats then returned and re-crossed the river four more times, delivering the first battalion. Cook pulled several men from the water and tended to several wounded. He then led the remnants of his battalion in a 2.5 mile assault to capture German positions and secure the bridgehead.
Major Alison Digby Tatham-Warter, often just called “Digby,” was an eccentric character and hard-charging officer. Troops knew Digby by the umbrella he carried because, as he said, he “couldn’t remember passwords and anyone would recognize the bloody fool carrying the umbrella as an Englishman.”
He used the umbrella in one instance to stop a German armored car by shoving it through a gap and incapacitating the driver. When a fellow officer questioned his carrying of the umbrella he humorously replied, “My goodness Pat, what if it rains?” Another time, Digby led a bayonet charge wearing a bowler hat while wielding a pistol and his trusty umbrella.
Eventually, not even Digby’s courageous antics could stop the inevitable. With no options left, Digby transmitted his last radio message “out of ammo, God save the King” before being captured by the Germans. Digby’s captivity would not last long. He was transported to a hospital for his wounds and escaped that evening. He then helped organize Operation Pegasus, the rescue of British paratroopers trapped across the Rhine. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order upon his return to the United Kingdom.
4. Pvt. John Towle
Private Towle was only 19-years-old when he entered combat in the Netherlands as part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He survived the Waal River crossing led by Maj. Julian Cook, but it was when German tanks attacked the paratroopers’ bridgehead that Towle sprang into action.
Towle left his foxhole with a bazooka and rifle to engage the German tanks. It took several bazooka rounds each before the tanks retreated in the face of the lone paratrooper. Towle then started taking fire from a building the Germans made into a strongpoint. One well-aimed shot eliminated all nine German soldiers.
When a German half-track appeared, Pvt. Towle advanced again. Just as he was preparing to fire, an enemy mortar round struck his position and killed him. Towle’s tenacity and bravery single-handedly broke up the German attack and earned him the Medal of Honor.
Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.
Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.
1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)
The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.
The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.
Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.
Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.
Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.
This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.
Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.
2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)
In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.
On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.
While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.
While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).
The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.
While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.
Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.
If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.
Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.
However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.
Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.
Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.
3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)
While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?
In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.
The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.
In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:
The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.
Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:
…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.
Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.
While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.
U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.
Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.
Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.
Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.
Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.
Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.
Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”
Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.
Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.
President Donald J. Trump today announced his intention to nominate Philip Bilden as the 76th secretary of the Navy.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bilden will replace Ray Mabus, who was the longest serving Navy secretary since World War I.
The announcement follows the president’s nomination of Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary and Vinnie Viola as Army secretary.
“All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. “They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process.”
Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.
He was commissioned in 1986 in the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer and served for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain. Bilden’s family includes four consecutive generations of Navy and Army officers, including his two sons, who presently serve in the Navy.
“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come. I am proud of the men and women of our armed forces. The people who serve in our military are our American heroes, and we honor their service every day.”
“I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”
Ever since the Greeks met the Persians at Thermopylae, it has been the iconic standard of a small force pinning down a much larger army for the greater good. Though the movie 300 would have us believe that the number of Greeks defending the pass was just 300, the actual number of defenders was more like 7,000.
Still, a great victory, even though the odds were slightly better. The Polish Army at the beginning of World War II in Europe had much larger odds to contend with, given their circumstances. Though it lasted little more than a month, the stories of Poland’s stalwart defenders are so numerous, despite being outnumbered, outclassed and outgunned by the German Wehrmacht and being invaded from almost all sides.
The Battle of Wizna is one of those astonishing stories.
In the first week after German forces invaded Poland, they came across a small fortified Polish position near the town of Wizna. Though reinforced, the position was manned by only 700 soldiers armed with just two 76mm anti-tank guns, 42 MGs and 2 anti-tank rifles. Coming at them was 42,200 infantry, 350 tanks and 657 artillery pieces from the German 10th Panzer Division.
Though massively outnumbered, its commander, Capt. Władysław Raginis, knew he had to delay the Germans to prevent the encirclement of Independent Operational Group Narew and allow for time to prepare for the defense of Warsaw. Raginis swore he would hold the position as long as he was still alive, a promise he kept.
The Pole occupied a series of 12 bunkers arranged along the line of Narew River. Though the position was small, it was an important hub given its position along major roads and waterways. The Germans could not go around it nor could they simply blast it to bits with artillery. When the assault began, the Germans were able to force the Poles to escape from the field trenches around the fort or retreat over a nearby bridge that was burned to keep it from the Germans.
The Germans paid a high price for that action and the Poles were now left to the series of bunkers with no relief in sight. Time and again the Germans assaulted the bunkers as engineers systematically destroyed parts of the fortifications. For three days, the Poles held on, taking a heavy toll on their attackers. Each bunker that fell to the enemy only came as a result of heavy fighting.
After three days, only two bunkers were still standing. Most of the Poles were wounded and they’d lost most of their heavy weapons keeping the Germans at bay. The Wehrmacht commander, Heinz Guderian then gave Raginis an ultimatum: either surrender the fortifications or he would start shooting Polish prisoners of war. A cease-fire came only after a German envoy approached under a flag of truce.
Considering his situation, Raginis – Poland’s King Leonidas – decided that his wounded and tired men should surrender to the Germans rather than be killed to a man, or risk losing the Polish POWs. Being nearly completely out of ammo, they surrendered – all except Raginis.
True to his promise of holding the bunker as long as he was alive, Capt. Raginis placed a grenade under his chin and pulled the pin.
No one really knows what happened to the Poles taken prisoner by Guderian that day. Only 70 defenders of Wizna survived. Guderian wrote in his diary that 900 Germans died at Wizna, along with 10 tanks and even one aircraft being destroyed.
Today, just one of the ruined bunkers still remains on the site and the heroic stand of the Polish at Wizna is well-known in Poland. For his part, Capt. Władysław Raginis is still a national hero in Poland.
Did you know that every 65 minutes a veteran takes their own life? Or that over 30 percent of all veterans have considered suicide? And that more US personnel have died by suicide since the war in Afghanistan began than have died fighting there?
One week changes everything. Save A Warrior(SAW) is the original warrior-led conversation that provides a well-grounded and commonsense week-long healing experience for active duty military, veterans, and first responders who are struggling with post-traumatic stress (PTS). On Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00 pm, a nationwide screening of award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien’s acclaimed documentary “The War Comes Home: The New Battlefront” will be shown in movie theaters around the country.
This moving film follows the journeys of Delon Beckett and Garrett Combs, two young men who came home from war, and their personal battles of the wars that came home with them. For both veterans, within months of returning, their relationships were crumbling, their children were frightened of their rages, and suicide became a choice they both thought could be a solution for their anguish.
These two men are not alone. One in five veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or severe depression, cited in a Rand Corporation study. Post-traumatic stress is a significant predictor of suicide among all veterans. Almost 8,000 veterans of all U.S. wars commit suicide each year, and more than 22 veterans take their own lives each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The film chronicles their experiences and powerful transformations as they make their way through the Save A Warrior program (www.saveawarrior.org). SAW is an innovative program founded and led by Jake Clark, a U.S. Army veteran, and former Secret Service, LAPD, and FBI. The intensive week-long residential program includes equine therapy, training in Warrior Meditation, and physically and emotionally demanding trust exercises. Warriors access their own internal adaptive mechanisms and experience profound life-changing transformations.
Two months following their participation in SAW, both men appear remarkably changed as they describe the progress they have made. Combs speaks optimistically about pursuing his career dreams and becoming a better father; Beckett talks about reconnecting with his children and pours the alcohol down the drain that he had grown dependent upon to medicate his pain.
“The War Comes Home: The New Battleground” is produced by SoledadO’Brien‘s Starfish Media Group.The nationwide Fathom Event will be shown only on Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00pm at nearly 300 theaters across the country. For tickets visit FathomEvents.com.
After about ten to twelve years, it’s usually time for a military working dog (MWD) to retire.
Unlike us, they don’t get out and start celebrating life immediately. Hundreds of them are sent to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas every year. Before November 2000, most of the dogs were euthanized or just left in the battlefield troops just left (because despite the rank and funeral honors, they’re listed as equipment).
Thankfully, “Robby’s Law” opens up adoption to their former handlers, law enforcement, and civilian families.
When a dog is retired out, it is usually because of injury or sickness and the best person to care for the puppy is the handler. More than 90% of these good dogs get adopted by their handler. Makes sense — calling a military working dog your “battle buddy” seems less awkward when the context is with a Labrador Retriever.
Next on the order of precedent in MWD adoption is law enforcement. Their services would be invaluable within police forces because they are trained to do exactly when the police would need them to do. However, the dogs are contractually agreed to belong to the department. They are the only ones allowed to allow the dogs to perform patrol, security, or substance detection work and the DoD has strict restrictions otherwise.
Sadly, even the police force won’t take the rest of the military working dogs because of their age or injury. This is where civilians come in. Bare in mind, adoption isn’t a quick process and applicants are carefully screened. It may take about a year on the waiting list to get your first interview.
They are not some goofy pug you can just adopt and take home. These dogs have usually deployed and show the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. These dogs were trained to sniff out roadside bombs and to fight the Taliban and now have trouble socializing with other dogs and aren’t as playful as they were before.
The MWD selection process demands that the most energetic and playful puppies are needed for combat. After years of fighting, these old dogs show signs of nervous exhaustion and distress. If that pulls at your heart strings because it hits close to home, it is scientifically proven that dogs (including these MWDs) can aid and benefit those with Post Traumatic Stress.
If you don’t mind the wait, have an appropriate living space for a large dog, and are willing to aid these four legged veterans, there are organizations that can help. Save-A-Vet and Mission K9 Rescue are great places to start.
“I don’t have time” is the number one phrase that I hear from people when we discuss their health lifestyle. One thing I’ve never had was a bunch of extra time on my hands. Most of my extreme time management started at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where wasted moments can result in some bad situations. During medical school, and currently, as I resident, I continually find ways to get more done in a limited amount of time. Most of this I attribute to desire and discipline, but the other piece is planning.
I’ve summarized 5 things I’ve incorporated into my busy schedule that I think have contributed a huge amount to my health and fitness goals.
1. Keep water easily accessible
You can store water bottles in the trunk of your car for quick, easy access. You can also carry a plastic or glass water bottle. Carrying a large amount of water at one time not only limits the number of times you have to grab another bottle or refill, but it’s also psychological and continually reminds you to drink up. I’ve used a one liter Nalgene bottle since college. It’s not too small but also professional enough to carry around to meetings and around patients, if need be. It’s my habit to refill it 3 times in a day – that way I drink about 1 gallon a day without overthinking it.
2. Keep convenient protein sources on hand
The hardest macronutrient to access quickly is usually protein. It’s quite easy to grab carbohydrate and fat sources, but protein can be difficult to find and pricey. One way to avoid this issue is to keep high protein sources at work or in your car. Some sources I recommend are protein powder (keep it in the huge container and keep a protein shaker nearby it), protein bars (by the box), or tuna in the pre-drained packs (by the box). I’m up walking around a lot so I stuff one of these in my white coat so I’m never without food when things get hectic.
3. If traveling, plan to stay near a gym
If going out of town on business, and you have the opportunity to choose where you’ll be staying, scout out the gym options beforehand. If you are going to stay in a hotel, find out if the hotel has a gym that’s adequate for your workouts. If not, then do a quick internet search on gyms nearby and find out if you can do a day pass. For military members, with ID card, they will typically cut you a break on paying a fee. If there are no gyms nearby, don’t give up. Opt for the bodyweight exercises right there in your room.
4. Incorporate active breaks into your routine
If working at a desk, get up and move as often as possible. If the building has an elevator, choose the stairs most of the time. If staying in a hotel, choose a room on an upper floor and use the stairs. You can also use small weights and bands at work when taking breaks. My co-workers and I use a push-up count system for various events that occur at work, so it’s a fun way of incorporating fitness into our daily workload.
5. Prep meals ahead of time
This one takes a little more time but is the major key to success if you can make it happen. Choose one or two days out of the week to cook all your food for the week. The best day might be when you go to the grocery store. Right after your grocery run, start up your stove. The key is to be creative with the way you cook different items so many things can cook at the same time (i.e. what can go in the oven while the stove top is busy?). If your budget allows, buy certain things pre-cooked. If you like certain vegetables, then stick with those. Once all the foods are cooked up, separate them into separate meal containers and store in the fridge. As each day comes grab what you need and stick it in a ready-to-go meal container (like the ones from Isolator Fitness).
Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. You can contact/follow her here: email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram: @simonemaybin, Snapchat: @simoneyroney, Facebook: Simone Maybin, or Twitter: @simonemaybin.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A CV-22 Osprey connects to an MC-130H Combat Talon II air-refueling receptacle during a training mission at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 7, 2016. The Osprey is a versatile, self-deployable aircraft that offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft, enabling Air Force Special Operations Command aircrews to execute long-range special operations missions.
F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., fly over New York City, Sept. 10, 2016. The F-15’s were flying over New York for the U.S. Open Championship woman’s tennis final.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Sept. 6, 2016.
A U.S. Army Soldier assaults an objective while conducting a raid during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 6, 2016. Combined Resolve VII is a 7th Army Training Command, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations.
Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) heave in a line during a replenishment-at-sea with the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea to support security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) visit, board, search and seizure team and medical response team depart on a rigid hull inflatable boat to provide medical assistance to a sick crew member aboard the Liberian general cargo ship Fernando. San Antonio is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Marines with Bravo Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division prepare for training exercises at Ft. Pickett, Virginia, August 29, 2016.
Marines with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, ride in an MV-22 Osprey before participating in a vertical assault raid at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, August 23.
Training doesn’t just mean learning about the job, it can also help prepare for the worst case scenarios. U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego Jayhawk helicopter crews practice entering life rafts during survival training to simulate water survial, foster teamwork and provide survival equipment familiarization.
Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa stand with intercepted bales of narcotics onboard the Tampa in the Pacific Ocean, Aug. 4, 2016. During this patrol, Tampa’s crew successfully interdicted approximately 2,059 kilograms of narcotics with an estimated wholesale value of $68 million.