This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

During World War II, 22 Asian Americans earned Medals of Honor, but, due to prejudices that lasted until decades after the fighting, only one received the award during the war: a young infantryman who fought in Italy and France before giving his life to save his comrades by eliminating machine gun nests and then throwing his body on an enemy grenade.


This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

100th Infantry Battalion soldiers receive grenade training in 1943.

(U.S. Army)

Pfc. Sadao Munemori trained in civilian life as a mechanic but, unable to find work, ended up joining the Army instead in February, 1942, just a couple of months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Like most Asian Americans at the time — and nearly all Japanese Americans — he was sent to noncombat units to conduct menial duties.

But patriotic Japanese Americans like Munemori got a new chance in early 1943 when the Army formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated combat unit for Asian Americans. Munemori was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion and shipped to Europe in April, 1944.

Munemori first saw combat in Italy, but he was then sent to France, where he took part in the historic rescue of the Lost Battalion. The 100th Battalion had already distinguished itself multiple times when the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment, found itself cut off with limited food and water.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

A painting illustrates the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Combat Team, breaking through the German lines to rescue the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment.

(U.S. Army)

The 100th was sent to rescue it, an order that remains controversial as it’s unclear whether the 100th was sent because of its already-impressive combat record or because the Japanese soldiers were considered expendable next to their white counterparts.

Either way, the 100th threw itself to the task, pushing forward for six days in a slow but unstoppable crawl. An apocryphal story claims that Hitler himself ordered that the trapped unit be be blocked off and exterminated. But, on October 30, the Japanese American soldiers breached the Axis perimeter and allowed the 1-141st to escape.

The 141st, who already knew about the 442nd’s combat prowess, was overjoyed to see the Japanese Americans attacking the German troops.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team stands in the snow while their citations for rescuing the “Lost Battalion” are read out.

(U.S. Army)

“To our great pleasure it was members of the 442nd Combat Team,” said Major Claude D. Roscoe of the 141st Regiment. “We were overjoyed to see these people for we knew them as the best fighting men in the ETO.”

Nearly every 442nd soldier involved in the rescue received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, or both, and the 442nd received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. They rescued 211 Texans, but suffered 800 killed and wounded while doing so, earning them the name, “Go For Broke Battalion.”

In early 1945, the 442nd was sent back to Italy, where Munemori would make his last heroic sacrifice. On April 5, Munemori was part of an attack on mountain positions near Seravezza, Italy. German machine gun fire from higher altitude pinned down members of his unit and wounded his squad leader.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Pfc. Sadao Munemori was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor whose wartime recommendation for the Medal of Honor was originally approved. An additional 22 Asian Americans would be awarded the top medal in 1995 after a review of their actions.

(U.S. Army)

Munemori took over as squad leader, but twice ran through enemy fire on his own to get close to machine gun nests and destroy them with grenades. While making his way back from the second nest, enemy machine gun fire and grenades rained down around him.

He was still uninjured as he approached the shell crater that he and his men were using as cover, but an enemy grenade bounced off of his helmet and into the hole. Munemori dove onto the grenade and his body absorbed the blast. The other soldiers in the crater were still injured, but survived thanks to Munemori’s sacrifice.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in early 1946, and was the only recipient whose recommendation during the war was approved. During a review of Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross awards in 1995, 22 other Asian Americans medal recipients were recommended for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor for actions in world War II. Three of these upgrades were awarded to members of the 100th Battalion for their role in rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in France.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oregon Veterans Home pleads for video messages to bring hope to residents in lockdown

The veterans currently living in the Lebanon Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon have walked through tough times. The majority of them are over 70 years old and around one third of them over 90. Many of them saw combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even World War II. They made it home from those wars only to have another show up at their doorstep at what should be a quiet time in their lives: COVID-19.

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


The Lebanon Veterans Home houses more than 145 veterans and some of their spouses. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the home, which has been wreaking havoc on the world. On Sunday March 22, 2020, a veteran of the home died from the disease. He was in his 90s and served this country with honor.

While the residents of the home continue to reel from the death of one of their friends and neighbors, the fight for their well-being is just beginning. The entire facility is now in complete lockdown with no visitors allowed. The residents are also now barred from doing group activities or even eating together anymore. In a sense, they are quarantined to their rooms. This is a traumatic change for these veterans and is causing a negative impact to their mental health.

The intensity of the response to combating COVID-19 for these veterans is due to all of them being considered high risk with their age and medical conditions. Although warranted to prevent the spread of this disease, the veterans are suffering in their isolation.

But the public can help change this.

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Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs spoke with We Are The Mighty to ask our readers for their help by submitting messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude via homemade videos. The veterans home has a closed-circuit TV that they can showcase the videos on. These videos would go a long way to let these veterans know they aren’t alone and they can make it through this tough season.

“The Lebanon Veterans’ Home is an amazing place,” Francke said, “and it’s all because of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and the incredible residents who live there. The men and women there are unbelievable. They’re our nation’s heroes, and yet, they ask for nothing. Instead, they do what they can to brighten your day. Around the Home, I know it’s become something of a rallying cry: ‘They fought for us, now we fight for them.’ I know there are a lot of people all around the community, the state and even the country who are pulling for them, and we just thought this would be one really cool way for everyone to show it.

Francke asked that people send 30-45 seconds of positive videos with big smiles and clear voices offering messages of support, encouragement and hope. These can easily be done on a cell phone and do not require any production.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

These videos would take but a moment out of your day to make a veteran smile and bring hope to their hearts. This is a great project for kids to do while they’re in virtual learning. Many of the veterans have grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’re unable to see, and it’s a great way to teach your kids about history, service and selflessness.

These veterans sacrificed so much for America, help show them they haven’t been forgotten and that they can make it through this.

Videos should be submitted to: odvainformation@odva.state.or.us

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 American traitors more destructive than Benedict Arnold

What causes someone to betray their country, everyone and everything they’ve ever known, and risk their freedom – and maybe even their life – for some kind of short term gain? For some it’s power or prestige. For others, it’s just cold, hard cash. Some are willing to betray their countrymen for a little taste of countrywomen.

No matter what their motivation, traitors have the ability to cause the most grievous harm to the security of the United States and compromise its military and foreign policy objectives. These are the people we trusted the most – and had the most to gain through their subterfuge.

1. John Anthony Walker 

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
John Anthony Walker. (Wikimedia Commons)

John Walker worked within the U.S. Navy’s secretive submarine force and came to manage the submarine force’s entire communications network. With a long career of seemingly excellent service, he was promoted quickly and given a top secret clearance, along with access to the Navy’s most sensitive information. 

Walker’s attempt at living a playboy lifestyle caught up to him eventually. In the face of mounting debt, he walked into the Soviet Embassy and offered his services to the USSR. Over the course of more than 20 years, he gave away more than a million decrypted secret messages, the code keys to deciphering more messages, the locations of American nuclear submarines, and the entire planning and operational guides to the ongoing war in Vietnam. 

The KGB spy also recruited friends and family members into his growing spy ring, all for his own monetary gain. In the end, his wife and daughter, who he failed to recruit, gave him up to the FBI. In a quick investigation, Walker was finally apprehended aboard the USS Nimitz, caught red handed with a trove of classified information. He had to be escorted under guard to keep him safe from sailors and Marines who wanted to dole out their own punishment. 

Walker was convicted and handed a life sentence, which ended when he died in federal custody in 2014. 

2. Aldrich Ames

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Aldrich Ames. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ames was almost a lifelong CIA employee, first coming to the agency doing clerical work in high school. After a brief stint in Turkey and elsewhere as an operative, he returned to CIA headquarters stateside and began working the Soviet – East European Division. Along the way, he developed a noticeable drinking problem and picked up an expensive mistress. His debts began adding up as he was placed on the Soviet counterintelligence mission.

After releasing what he believed to be harmless information to the USSR, he received a quick payday, and was soon hooked into giving the Soviets more and more information for more and more money. He began giving out the names of counterintelligence assets and operations that the KGB rolled up in a hurry. The quick end of these operations led the CIA to believe a mole was in counterintelligence. Meanwhile Ames was making a fortune to the sum of $4.6 million. Between 1985 and 1994, Ames fed information to the KGB about every western mole in Soviet intelligence, compromising the lives of countless informants.

3. Aaron Burr

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775

Thomas Jefferson’s vice president had a number of plans to betray the United States. He offered to take Louisiana out of the Union for the British in exchange for $500,000 and a few ships of the line. He made this offer to a British agent on no fewer than three separate occasions, even while still sitting as vice-president. 

Burr’s grand scheme was creating a group of wealthy planters and Army officers to capture a large swath of North America, specifically, the American Southwest, maybe even conquer Mexico, and form a separate government. He was ultimately betrayed by James Wilkinson in New Orleans and was put on trial. Without credible testimony, he was acquitted. 

4. James Wilkinson

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
James Wilkinson. (Wikimedia Commons)

Wilkinson was one of the most trusted soldiers in U.S. Army history, serving in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He took on the role of governor of the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory and became one of the Army’s most senior officers. There were many problems with Wilkinson’s service but the foremost among them was that he had been spying for the Spanish most of the time. 

When his role in Aaron Burr’s own treason was nearly discovered, he placed New Orleans under martial law and imprisoned anyone who might be able to prove Wilkinson was complicit in the plot. Wilkinson was never caught during his life, but his papers were discovered in 1854, leading Theodore Roosevelt to say, “In all our history, there is no more despicable character.”

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How the white Toyota HiLux became the favorite vehicle of terrorists

Troops working at base entrances or traffic control points inspect vehicles with great care. Troops search every inch of a vehicle to ensure that there aren’t any explosives or terrorists onboard. But there is one specific make, model, and color that will always trigger a more thorough search: a white Toyota HiLux. The truck is beloved by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Somali pirates, and, recently, ISIS.


In the manufacturer’s defense, Toyota strongly condemns the use of their vehicles in this manner. They have made strong efforts to stop terrorists from getting their hands on these vehicles, including limiting the number of vehicles and dealers in the Middle East region. Unfortunately, most terrorists aren’t waltzing into dealerships to get the vehicles.

 

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Even SNL got ISIS’s love of Toyota right in one of their skits.

Nearly all Toyota vehicles that end up in terrorist hands are stolen or are sold through third-party buyers until they end up in Syria. In Australia, where the truck is the best-selling model of any vehicle, theft is extremely common. Of the 834 HiLuxes that were stolen in New South Wales, Australia alone, nearly half of them were rediscovered in war zones.

The high praise for the vehicle is often attributed to the utility of a truck that was specifically made for off-roading in the desert. The HiLux is also very sturdy, as demonstrated by an experiment done by BBC’s Top Gear where they crashed it into a tree, submerged it in the ocean for five hours, dropped it 10 feet, crushed it under an RV, drove it into a building, hit it with a wrecking ball, set it on fire, and then placed it on top of a 23-story building that was demolished. After all that, all it took to get it running again was a hammer, some wrenches, WD-40 — no spare parts.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

 

They are also easily adapted into “technicals” by mounting heavy weapons on the bed of the truck. These played a key role in the 1987 Chadian-Libyan conflict, now known appropriately as the Toyota War. Libya had Russia’s backing, giving them tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters. The Chadians had about 400 HiLuxes and Toyota Land Cruisers at their disposal along with some anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. Surprisingly enough, the Chadians won because they were more agile and able to easily maneuver the Saharan deserts.

Terrorists all over took notes, and the Toyota HiLux is still very common in war-torn regions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 German designs used by Japan in WWII

Although the Japanese feudal period ended at the turn of the 17th century, isolationist policies delayed the country’s advancement compared to western nations. The shogunate and samurai culture persisted until the mid-19th century with the opening of Japanese ports and the restoration of the imperial family. While literacy and numeracy flourished under the shogunate, Japan was technologically inferior to the countries that it engaged with.

The country quickly transitioned to an industrial economy and adopted western technology and ideas. Following successful wars with China and Russia, Japan expanded its empire and validated its new industrial military. Moreover, Japan’s participation as an ally in WWI allowed it to seize former German colonies in the South Pacific. Leading up to WWII, Japan continued its military conquest in East Asia with a second war against China.

Japanese aggression in the Pacific prompted economic sanctions on the country by the United States. In response, Japan joined the Axis forces in 1940. Through the Tripartite Act, Nazi Germany gained an ally in the Pacific and access to crucial raw materials like rubber from Indonesia and Malaya. In turn, Japan gained access to much of Germany’s military technology. These are four German designs used by Japan in WWII.

1. Messerschmitt Me 262 — Nakajima Kikka

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
The Kikka was smaller than the Me 262 and used straight wings


After the Japanese military attaché in Germany witnessed the Me 262 trials in 1942, the Japanese Imperial Navy requested that Nakajima develop a similar aircraft, once again based on German designs. The new plane was intended to be used as a fighter-interceptor and fast-attack bomber. The Imperial Navy also required that the aircraft be able to be built largely by unskilled labor and possess foldable wings. These features were included in anticipation of the defense of the Japanese islands. Using German design photographs and cut-away drawings of the Me 262, Nakajima engineers built Japan’s first jet aircraft. Development took so long that the first flight didn’t take place until the day after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The prototype was damaged on its second test flight and was not repaired before the war ended.

2. Messerschmitt Me 163 — Mitsubishi Shūsui

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
The Shūsui used German rocket propellants


Another aircraft borrowed from the Luftwaffe, the Shūsui was a rocket-powered interceptor built for both the Army and Navy. Based on one of the German designs, Komet, the Shūsui was designed to intercept high-altitude allied bombers. One Komet was disassembled and sent to Japan in 1944. All submarines carrying the aircraft’s components were sunk though. Instead, the Shūsui was reverse-engineered from a flight operations manual. Mitsubishi built seven operational variants of the Shūsui. Test flights were troubled, but the engineers persisted. The aircraft was close to full-scale production by the time Japan surrendered. No Shūsuis were flown operationally during the war.

3. Junkers G.38 — Mitsubishi Ki-20

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
The Ki-20 had a wingspan of over 144 feet


The Ki-20 differs from the previous two aircraft. The heavy bomber was based, not on a WWII-era military aircraft, but a late-1920s airliner. When it was built, the Junkers G.38 was the largest land-based plane in the world. In 1932, Mitsubishi licensed the G.38 and redesigned it; instead of carrying passengers, the plane would carry bombs. Using Junkers-made parts, two Ki-20s were built and flown later that year. Four more aircraft were built from 1933 to 1935 using Mitsubishi-built parts. Capable of carrying 5,000 pounds of bombs, more than twice the bomb load of the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Ki-20 was the largest aircraft flown by the Japanese Army Air Service during WWII. Only one of the six aircraft survived the war.

4. Tiger I

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Japanese officers test their Tiger I in Germany


Yup, the Japanese had a Tiger tank…technically. Japanese tanks were inferior to the M4 Sherman and M3 Lee tanks that the allies fielded in the Pacific. Japan sought to even the odds by buying German panzers. In 1943, a delegate of Japanese officers was sent to Germany to make the purchase. A deal to acquire two Panzer III variants, one Panther, and one Tiger I was struck. The Japanese officers spent a month testing their new tanks in Germany. Afterwards, the Tiger was disassembled and prepared for shipment to Japan. However, Japan’s I-400 super submarine was not yet finished and the existing submarine fleet was not capable of transporting the heavy tank’s components. The Tiger was stored in Bordeaux until it could be shipped to Japan. However, following D-Day, Germany needed every available tank to repel the allied invasion. The Japanese Tiger was bought back and sent it into battle. Although the tank never made it to Japan, this German design helped to influence late-war Japanese tank development.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

The 14,000 Canadians and 200 tanks that landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 fought bitterly to breach Fortress Europe and begin the long march to Berlin. Almost a year later Canada and the rest of the Allied powers celebrated the fall of Nazi Germany.


This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Crewmembers and officers who served on the Bomb pose with it on Jun. 8, 1945 in the Netherlands. Photo: Library Archives of Canada

Only one Canadian tank from those 200 fought every day of the invasion across Western Europe. “Bomb,” a Sherman, travelled 4,000 miles and fired 6,000 rounds while fighting the Nazis. From Juno Beach, Bomb was sent northeast to the Netherlands through Belgium before cutting east towards Berlin.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
A tank from the Bomb’s regiment, possibly the Bomb itself, hunts snipers in Falaise, France in 1944. Photo: Canadian National Archives

Soon after Bomb crossed into Germany near Emden, Bomb was sent to Kleve on the German side of the border with the Netherlands. In the early morning of Feb. 26, 1945 Bomb escorted a column of infantry in armored vehicles forward. German artillery opened up and pinned the column down in thick mud.

The Germans put up a smoke screen and continued their attack. But the Bomb led a counterattack that relieved the pressure. Surrounded by German anti-tank teams and under heavy mortar, artillery, and machine gun fire, Bomb and another Canadian tank held their ground for 20 minutes until infantry was able to reinforce them, stopping the Germans from destroying the Canadian column.

Neill was later awarded the Military Cross for the battle.

As the war wound to a close, the Bomb found itself in continuously heavy combat. On the last day of the European war, the Bomb was under the command of Lt. Ernest Mingo. He and his men faced off against a German officer who kept sending soldiers to try and Allied Forces.

“The land between us was covered with dead German soldiers,” he said, according to a Sunday Daily News article. “He must have known the war was over, but he just kept sending them out, I guess trying to kill Canadians.”

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Photo: Wikipedia/Skaarup.HA CC 4.0

Despite being the only Canadian tank to serve every day of the war in Europe, the Bomb was nearly melted down as scrap in Belgium after the war. It was rescued and went on display in 1947. In 2011 the tank underwent restoration. It is currently at the Sherbrooke Hussars Armoury in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, cheating death and Hollywood Glory

We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.

Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)


When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.

One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.

Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.

After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”

Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.

The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.

But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.

Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.

The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.

Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.

A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.

Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Once a Marine, always a Marine

His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.

Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.

Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.


Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.

“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”

Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.

“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.

The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.

“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.

What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.

Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”

The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Once A Marine Always A Marine

Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.

His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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5 messed-up ways troops welcome the new guy

The military is a close-knit family, built upon multiple generations of camaraderie and inside jokes. Whenever a new person is introduced into that family, they have decades of knowledge to catch up on.

Troops will always rib the new guy — it’s their way of welcoming a new brother and sister.


Of course, just because it’s time to share a life lesson or two doesn’t mean troops will pass up the opportunity to have some fun at someone else’s expense. The following techniques apply to anyone new to a unit — not just the boots.

For maximum effect, mess with the butterbars.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
“Hurrying up and waiting” is the most valuable skill in the military
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Teach them the unit’s pace

The moment you meet a new guy is the perfect time to show them how things are done — first impressions and whatnot. Chances are, they’ve still got a lot of in-processing that needs to get done and they’ll need a sponsor.

Now’s your chance. You can make this go one of two ways: Move things along at a blistering pace and watch as the new guy tries to keep up or grind things down to a screeching, maddening halt. Choose whichever way more accurately describes your unit.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Everyone will find it funny. Totally.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

 

Introduce them to their new unit

Your unit has been strengthened by years of bonding. Any dumb fights or petty squabbles have been lost to time. The new guy, however, is fresh meat. You get to relive all of those old jokes without letting them know you’re joking.

For example, let the new guy know that the dude in supply isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed — so they’ll talk extremely slowly to them. Or inform them that the hard-ass First Sergeant really enjoys hugs if you go for one. The sky’s the limit.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Great way to get them up to speed on how PT is done in the unit as well.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Introduce them to the unit after hours

Troops wear their hardcore alcoholism on their sleeve. If the new kid just graduated high school, the most they have to brag about is, likely, that one party where someone’s dad gave them a beer. What better way to give them a more interesting story than subjecting them to possible liver failure?

This is the point where I should throw out there that, legally speaking, consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is against the law, UCMJ action could be taken, and the MPs will bring the hammer down on those who provide alcohol.

But, you know… Not all military traditions are technically “legal.”

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
If they’re a lieutenant, everyone will just believe your story that they just “wandered” around post.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Show them the local landscape

You’d be amazed at how quickly someone learns geographical landmarks when they’re lost. Even more so if they’re on foot. It’s like an impromptu land-nav lesson. Show them the company area and then swing by the Exchange for lunch. Then, out of the blue, you’ll just happen to get an important call the moment they’re out of sight.

It’s a win-win scenario. They learn the area like the back of their hand and you get a break from babysitting.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
Either way, the FNG probably won’t get that you’re messing with them, so have at it.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

 

Scavenger hunts!

There is no time-honored tradition tradition quite sending the new guy to retrieve one of the many items in the endless treasure trove of “completely real” things. Recruiters and older vets may try and take away the fun by letting the younger kids know that “blinker fluid” isn’t real, but there are plenty more in the cache.

Get creative and reach for the obscure. Ask the radio guys for a “can of squelch” or the not-blatantly-obvious ID-10-T form. It may sound cruel at first, but on the “search,” they’ll be run around the company area, getting familiar with who does what and where things are kept.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this operation is guarding the nation’s skies

Following the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Defense identified flaws in its security procedures within the airspace surrounding the National Capital Region. In response, Operation Noble Eagle was created to protect the skies of North America.

An important training element of Noble Eagle, Fertile Keynote exercises utilize the Air Force’s civilian auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.

With the combined support of the Air National Guard’s 113th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, the CAP’s Congressional Squadron, 1st Air Force and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Fertile Keynote missions simulate responses to unauthorized aircraft intruding into the restricted airspace surrounding the U.S. capital.

Other Fertile Keynote exercises take place every week across the country, with aerospace control alert fighter units and CAP squadrons participating.


Each component is vital to the exercise’s goal of rapidly intercepting low- or high-speed aircraft that show signs of distress or those not in compliance with air traffic control instructions.

Once the mission is initiated, fighter pilots, on 24-hour standby, scramble to practice their ability to get airborne quickly in response to a potential threat.

After establishing communication with NORAD and 1st AF, the pilots intercept the CAP aircraft, which simulate the intruder, or track of interest. After initial assessment, the pilots relay information about the TOI’s condition and intent, which ground personnel are not able to determine.

The aircraft is then either assisted, escorted out of the restricted airspace, or, if the intruder is determined to be a threat, the aircraft is eliminated.

Using aircraft from the Air Force Auxiliary as targets has two advantages; it provides participants with a realistic simulation of intercepting slower aircraft, at significantly reduced operational and maintenance cost to the Air Force. If another Air Force F-16 was used as a target for this exercise, it would cost approximately ,000, but operating the CAP aircraft, with volunteer pilots, costs approximately id=”listicle-2639898032″,000.

Exercises like these are conducted throughout the United States, giving pilots, controllers and NORAD personnel an opportunity to practice air defense capabilities against different airframes. In 2018, CAP aircraft flew 251 Air Defense Intercept training missions, including Fertile Keynote, in the National Capital Region, logging 1,635 flight hours on 861 sorties across the country.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

How the KGB trained its ‘illegal’ sleeper agents

Contrary to what some science fiction and superhero movies might have you believe, the KGB – the Soviet Union’s state security and intelligence service – didn’t grow its agents in laboratories. They didn’t have superpowers and they didn’t have supernatural combat training. 

What they did have was exceptional intelligence, training, and preparation. Jack Barsky was born Albrecht Dittrich in Soviet-dominated East Germany. He trained as a chemical engineer and chemistry professor before he was recruited by the KGB in 1969. In his book, Deep Undercover, he recalls the process by which he learned to be a KGB “illegal” living in the United States.

While studying for his PhD in chemistry, the KGB sent him to East Berlin to learn to adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment. While there, he decided to join permanently. He left his family behind to learn Morse code, short wave radio, cryptography and a language. Dittrich chose English. While in East Berlin, he also learned how to recognize and ditch a surveillance team. 

He was so good at avoiding detection, only one KGB surveillance team ever got the best of him. It led to the new agent’s belief that he was smarter than everyone else in the intelligence organization. He could also decrypt messages at the rate of 100 words per minute. 

The KGB also taught him an advanced means of using invisible ink to send letters through the mail. It began with writing an “open letter,” to a false family member or friend. This is the letter one would read upon opening. 

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
“Dearest mother… did you know they have more than one TV channel here?!” (Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

He would then use a piece of contact paper and a pen to write the secret message, one that could only be read if someone knew the secret message was there. It was sent to one of many flagged KGB addresses. Only KGB headquarters, called “The Center,” would know how to develop it. 

They also taught him how to recruit Americans sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

On top of the spycraft, he also had to learn to adapt to his new environments, wherever they would be, with whatever means he had at his disposal. He learned the nuances of American English watching TV. His “legend” – the background narrative of his American life – said that his mother, an immigrant, spoke German at home, which is why he had a slight German accent. 

An American working for the KGB in Moscow blessed his American English well enough that the KGB decided to send him to the U.S. to be an illegal, a sleeper agent living under an assumed identity in the United States. 

To enter the United States, he would first have to get a real identity, beginning with a real birth certificate. KGB illegals would use birth certificates from recently deceased Americans who were roughly their same age, requesting the certificates through the mail. Once they had the birth certificate, they could get other legal documents. 

Dittrich’s first attempt to enter the U.S. involved getting the birth certificate of an American named “Hank” while posted in Montreal, Canada. He learned a lot of American English while watching U.S. television in Canada, which gave him a more believable American accent. Although that mission was a bust, The Center had an authentic one waiting for him in Moscow.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II
“Dy-no-MITE! Oh, I’m using that for sure…” (Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay)

His new identity was that of American Jack Barsky. Within weeks of obtaining that official document, KGB agent Jack Barsky was living in New York City and had received a library card, a driver’s license and was working as a bike messenger. 

The KGB’s biggest goal was an authentic American passport. An illegal with a real U.S. passport would be used to bring the entire system down, Barsky says. But it was not to be. Barsky not only never received a passport, he was eventually recalled to Moscow under the penalty of death.

By this time he had a family in New York (he also had a family in East Berlin). But the birth of his daughter in the United States prompted him to ignore Moscow’s warning. To find out how Jack Barsky managed to stay in New York without retribution from the Soviet Union, read his book, Deep Undercover


Feature Image by Roberto Lee Cortes from Pixabay

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Austin is now officially home to the new Army Futures Command

After months of tedious searching, top U.S. Army leaders on July 13, 2018, announced that Austin, Texas, will be the location of its new Futures Command, which will lead the service’s ambitious modernization effort.

Army Secretary Mark Esper, surrounded by other key leaders, said that Army Futures Command will “establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. It will turn ideas into action through experimenting, prototyping, testing.”


Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018, that the Army chose Austin for a variety of reasons.

“Not only did it possess the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and the cost of living they can afford,” he said.

The announcement comes after the Army scoured the country searching for major cities with the right combination of an innovative industrial presence and academia willing to work with the service in creating its force of the future.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank

The effort began three months ago with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed down to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Army announced its plan to build a future force in October 2018. It named six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the service.

If all goes as planned, the Army’s new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its “Big Five” combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter, and Patriot air defense system.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Supreme Court will uphold transgender military ban

The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.


The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.

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

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