Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.
(U.S. Air Force)
Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.
After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.
Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.
(U.S. Air Force)
Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.
Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.
It’s a touching scene that even the most stoic of us will get choked up over. The titular character runs into enemy fire to save his brothers-in-arms. Without hesitation, he carries each wounded soldier to safety — all while being severely wounded.
That fantastic scene earned Forrest Gump‘s place in cinematic history. What makes this and the rest of Forrest Gump’s Army scenes so great is that they were entirely based off the career of Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, to include the Medal of Honor ceremony.
Unlike Gump, Davis was an artilleryman. His fateful night began around 2AM when the enemy engaged Davis’ unit with a 30-minute barrage of mortar fire. The moment he got the all clear, he showed them what his 105mm Howitzer could do. He fired the first beehive shot and the enemy returned fire with a recoil-less rifle that hit eight inches from his head.
After recovering from an insanely close call, he grabbed his M-16 and fired on the advancing enemy. When he fired all but three rounds, he then turned back to his Howitzer to get off that beehive. The weapon had taken a heavy beating and much of the powder was scattered. But he loaded what he could find. Under normal circumstances, seven bags of powder is fine. Davis loaded nearly 21. It almost destroyed the cannon but also devastated the enemy.
The Howitzer blew up and rolled over Davis and nearly 30 fragments of the beehive were in his back. Davis, just like Gump would in the film, took the shrapnel in the buttocks. His body and his cannon were in terrible condition.
That’s when he noticed some American G.I.s on the other side of the river.
He had been shot in the leg and was partially deafened, his ribs were broken and his spine fractured, and there was still plenty of beehive in his back — yet he grabbed his Army-issued air mattress and swam to his brothers without even a second’s thought.
Surrounded by enemies, he had to sneak around with nothing but an air mattress until he found the soldier waving at him. There, he found three wounded men in a foxhole — two were ambulatory but one was shot in the head and somehow still holding on. Davis grabbed the soldier with the head wound and placed him on the mattress and the four of them headed back across to safety.
Much of the film touches on Sammy L. Davis’ life, which he openly embraces. Every military scene is based off Davis, including the scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson bestows the Medal of Honor upon Forrest Gump. That was literally Sammy Davis under Tom Hank’s CGI face. Granted, Davis is a much more eloquent speaker.
For more about Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, please watch the American Legion video below.
In addition to playing a Resistance lieutenant, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd had a special second role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Lourd stepped in to play Princess Leia during the short flashback scene in “Episode IX.”
“Billie was playing her mother,” Industrial Lights & Magic visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Yahoo Entertainment. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”
Here’s a reference of how Leia looks in most of “Return of the Jedi.” The look is reminiscent of how we see her in the new film.
“If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from,” added Tubach. “The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”
The ILM team told Insider that bringing Fisher back was “a gigantic puzzle.” The team utilized previously unused footage from director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” to help bring her to life.
In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.
The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?
How much is it really costing us?
Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.
This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.
According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.
At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:
DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).
Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?
Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.
Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.
Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.
Their mental well-being
The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.
Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.
With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.
The way forward
Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.
Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.
General James Longstreet was one of the Confederate army’s most trusted and capable officers. After the Battle of Gettysburg and long after the end of the Civil War, Longstreet takes much of the blame for the southern loss at the battle – and sometimes for the loss of Civil War itself.
For many people who blame Longstreet for the loss (or show outright disdain for the man), it all goes back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg — specifically, Pickett’s Charge. It was an attack Longstreet didn’t order or want, but he still takes the blame for its failure.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee gave the order, Longstreet openly voiced his disagreement with it. He relayed the order to Pickett anyway, but was very unhappy to do so. Longstreet didn’t think the Confederate army should have been so far north at all. He takes a lot of blame for the failure at Gettysburg overall, because it’s said he delayed his actions during the battle.
Whether it was a good idea or not, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg saw 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged an entrenched and fortified Union position protecting Cemetery Hill. The hill commanded a network of roads essential to command of the battlefield. The Union commanders predicted the attack and the chargers took at least 50% casualties.
The Army of Northern Virginia never recovered from the failed assault and the Confederate Army never recovered from the loss of at Gettysburg. It was the turning point in a battle that was the turning point of the Civil War. Longstreet saw it all coming and tried to talk Lee out of it, but to no avail.
No matter what the armchair historians may say, Lee is actually responsible for the failed attack, and he knew it right away. He was so personally devastated by the losses incurred in Pickett’s Charge that he offered his resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who turned it down).
Longstreet takes a lot of the blame for Pickett’s Charge (and the defeat at Gettysburg) because he, for the most part, didn’t think the Confederate Army should have been there after the first day of fighting.
It’s said that Longstreet dithered and delayed so much and so often throughout the battle that it was almost considered intentional sabotage. When it came to Pickett’s Charge, he openly disagreed with Lee, which earned him a transfer West after the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania.
Gen. Longstreet believed that it was more important to defeat Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee and less important to invade the North. He felt so strongly that the disagreement went all the way up to Jefferson Davis. Lee argued that moving troops to the West would force his army to stay closer to Richmond. Davis sided with Lee, so the perception was that Longstreet’s disagreement and delays during the battle were mostly sour grapes.
And since the battle – and Pickett’s Charge – was so pivotal to the Confederacy’s survival, the idea that Longstreet didn’t do his best is why he takes much of the blame.
Longstreet also takes a lot of blame in the eyes of Southern historians, especially propagators of the “Lost Cause” mythology, because of his postwar activities. Longstreet actively sought to rejoin the Union and earn a pardon. He eventually ended up working in a presidential administration – under President Ulysses S. Grant.
As for who is actually responsible for the failure of Pickett’s Charge, when asked after the war, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett went on the record as saying, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
When you think about the best attack helicopters out there, the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Westland Lynx, the Mil Mi-24 Hind, and the Kamov Ka-50/52 Hokum all come to mind. But one of the world’s best attack helicopters comes from a surprising place: Italy.
Yep, that’s right, the land of pasta, romance, and Roman legions is also the birthplace of one of the world’s best tank-killing helicopters. That helicopter is the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Italian for ‘mongoose’). The project was ambitious, but would never reach its full potential thanks to the end of the Cold War.
This was a very capable attack helicopter. It had a top speed of 174 miles per hour, a maximum range of 317 miles, and a crew of two. The firepower it could bring was impressive: A M197 20mm Gatling gun (that gave it a bite just like the AH-1 Cobra’s), eight BGM-71 TOW or AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, not to mention rocket pods and gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns. Yeah, this chopper would definitely ruin some armored column’s day.
Italy planned to build 100 of these helicopters. It first flew in 1983, but the research and development process took a while, and West Germany eventually bailed on the program, leaving Italy to for ahead alone. The first production examples didn’t arrive until 1990. The planned purchase of 100 was then slashed to 60. Another version of this chopper capable of hauling eight troops in addition to the firepower, the A139, never got off the ground.
Still, the A129 has served Italy well. In fact, the Italians are converting two dozen of their existing choppers into armed reconnaissance helicopters to join two dozen newly build helicopters. Plus, Turkey has acquired a production license to build a local version of this lethal helicopter.
Learn more about Italy’s deadly helicopter in the video below.
The M4/M16 family of rifles has been in service with the U.S. military and many of its allies since 1964. Since then, many programs have attempted to replace the rifle, the most recent being the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program. However, the past few decades have seen a number of militaries and agencies adopt rifles that use elements of a later rifle from the mind of Eugene Stoner.
While working for the ArmaLite/Fairchild Aircraft Company, Stoner designed a battle rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO to replace the U.S. military’s M1 Garand service rifle. However, Stoner’s AR-10 tested poorly during the Springfield Armory trials and was passed on by the U.S. Although the AR-10 was purchased by other countries like West Germany, Italy, and Sudan, Stoner and ArmaLite pursued a U.S. government contract.
When the Army requested a rifle with a smaller caliber to replace the M14, Stoner got to work. He scaled down the AR-10 to make the AR-15 and chambered it in .223 Remington per the Army’s request. The new rifle allowed soldiers to carry three times the ammunition compared to the M14 and was tested to be three times as reliable. However, Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor vetoed Eugene Stoner’s design to retain the M14.
In 1959, finding little success with their AR-10 and AR-15 and facing financial difficulties, ArmaLite sold the weapon design rights to Colt. With a few redesigns to make the rifles more user-friendly and easier to mass produce, Colt managed to sell their new Colt ArmaLite AR-15 Model 01 to the U.S. military in 1960. The new rifle, first adopted by the Air Force and Army Special Forces before it became standard issue, was designated Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M16 and the rest is history.
ArmaLite lost out on the profits of Stoner’s AR-15 design. Moreover, they had sold off his direct-impingement operating system. This forced the company to use the more conventional short-stroke gas piston operating system in the 7.62x51mm chambered AR-16. The rifle, Stoner’s last design for ArmaLite, was made of stamped sheet metal and targeted smaller countries that didn’t have the industrial capacity to produce the more elaborate forged aluminum AR-10 or AR-15.
Following Eugene Stoner’s departure in 1961, ArmaLite assigned chief designer Arthur Miller to continue Stoner’s work on the AR-16. Miller redesigned the rifle for the .223 Remington cartridge and created the AR-18. With its gas piston system, the AR-18 was more reliable than the direct-impingement AR-15. The new rifle was accurate up to 500 yards and its simple construction made it cheap to manufacture. However, this came at the cost of a rough appearance compared to the sleek lines of the AR-15 and the rifle garnered few sales. Small numbers were sold to the militaries and police of countries like Botswana, Haiti, and Malaysia. A civilian version, the AR-180, was produced but also found little success.
Although the AR-16 and AR-18 did not have the commercial success of the AR-10 and AR-15, their designs did inspire many rifles which were used concurrently with the M4/M16. The British SA80, Singaporean SAR-80, Belgian FN F2000, Japanese Howa Type 89, and German H&K G36 were all inspired to some degree by the dual captured recoil spring of the AR-16 and AR-18.
The new SIG MCX from Sig Sauer is a 21st century weapon system that is also heavily inspired by the AR-18. Thanks to the AR-18-style recoil system, the MCX is extremely modular and can be configured to suit a wide range of mission requirements. For this reason, it is currently used by special police units in Germany and the UK as well as military special forces like the Danish Frogman Corps and USSOCOM.
Although Stoner’s AR-16 design and its AR-18 derivative were not nearly as successful as his previous AR-10 and AR-15 designs, they influenced many service rifles throughout the 20th century and continue to influence firearm design today.
It’s been 45 years since the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam, but the conflict continues to play an outsized role in American politics and popular culture. From John Wayne’s stern-jawed performance in the 1968 propaganda film The Green Berets to Robert Downey, Jr.’s antics in the 2008 meta-comedy Tropic Thunder (a movie about a movie about Vietnam), the war’s complexity and social impact have made it an irresistible subject for generations of filmmakers and moviegoers. These nine films set the standard for the Vietnam War movie.
Fresh off an astonishing run of success that included The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola set out to make a Vietnam War epic based on Joseph Conrad’s anti-colonialist novella The Heart of Darkness. It would turn out to be one of the most arduous productions in the history of cinema, taking over three years to complete and nearly destroying Coppola’s health and career in the process. But the result was nothing short of a masterpiece. With a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now added the indelible phrases “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” to the American vernacular and was ranked 14th on Sight and Sound‘s 2012 poll of the Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time.
Stanley Kubrick’s darkly comic and deeply disturbing portrait of war’s dehumanizing effects follows a group of U.S. Marine Corps recruits from basic training on Parris Island to the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive. Adapted from Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers, the screenplay was co-written by Kubrick, Hasford, and journalist Michael Herr, author of the acclaimed Vietnam War memoir Dispatches. Starring real-life drill instructor R. Lee Emery as the virtuosically profane Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann, Full Metal Jacket met with criticism from some early reviewers who found the film’s second half unequal to the brilliance of the boot camp scenes. It’s now recognized as a classic of the war movie genre and ranked 95th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list.
Winner of five Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter is the saga of three Russian American steelworkers who leave their working-class Pennsylvania hometown to fight in Vietnam. Written and directed by Michael Cimino and starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and John Cazale (in his final role before succumbing to lung cancer), the film sparked controversy for its famous sequence in which sadistic Việt Cộng soldiers force POWs to play Russian roulette. There were no documented cases of Russian roulette during the war, but critics such as Roger Ebert defended Cimino’s use of artistic license, arguing that the deadly game is a “brilliant symbol” for how the conflict touched the lives of U.S. soldiers and their families.
The first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a Vietnam veteran, Platoon was based on Oliver Stone’s real experiences as an infantryman during the war. Charlie Sheen, son of Apocalypse Now star Martin Sheen, plays a naive college student who volunteers for combat duty in 1967. Assigned to an infantry platoon near the Cambodian border, he is caught up in a bitter rivalry between two veteran NCOs: hard-edged and cynical Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the more compassionate and idealistic Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe). Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film achieved its consummate authenticity by hiring retired USMC Colonel Dale Dye to put the principal actors through an intensive 30-day boot camp before filming started.
A brilliant blend of comedy and drama, this Barry Levinson film is loosely based on the experiences of real-life Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronaeur. Robin Williams, who improvised most of his broadcast scenes, stars as Cronauer, a wild card whose irreverent sense of humor and love of rock and roll infuriated his immediate superiors but made him hugely popular with the enlisted men. Set in Saigon during the early days of the war, the screenplay offered a more nuanced portrait of the Vietnamese people than previous Hollywood films and earned Williams his first Academy Award nomination.
Based on David Morrell’s novel of the same name and starring Sylvester Stallone as a former Green Beret who fought in Vietnam and received the Medal of Honor, First Blood is the opening chapter in the hugely popular Rambo series. Set in the fictional town of Hope, Washington, the plot revolves around John Rambo’s escalating confrontation with a tyrannical local sheriff played by Brian Dennehy. Forced into the wilderness outside of town, Rambo relies on his survival and combat skills to escape capture by hundreds of state troopers and national guardsmen. By turning its veteran hero into a guerrilla fighter like the Việt Cộng, this blockbuster action film played an influential role in America’s reckoning with its first military defeat and helped raise awareness about PTSD.
Oliver Stone’s second film about the war is based on the bestselling autobiography by Ron Kovic, a patriotic Long Islander who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Vietnam before a firefight left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Struggling to adjust to life in a wheelchair and haunted by his role in the death of a fellow soldier, Kovic battles alcoholism, depression, and PTSD before eventually finding redemption as a leading activist in the anti-war movement. Tom Cruise received his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Kovic, who thanked the actor by giving him the original Bronze Star Medal he received after the war.
Directed by Brian De Palma, written by Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, and based on Daniel Lang’s New Yorker article and follow-up book, Casualties of War is the story of the Incident on Hill 192, a notorious war crime committed by U.S troops in 1966. Penn plays Sergeant Tony Meserve, an experienced squad leader who seeks revenge for his friend’s death by ordering his men to kidnap and rape a Vietnamese girl. Fox is Private First Class Max Eriksson, the only member of the patrol brave enough to stand up to Meserve. Told in flashback, the film has a hopeful ending that resonated with viewers seeking to put the horrors of the war behind them. Quentin Tarantino has called it “the greatest film about the Vietnam War.”
According to Michael Moore, it’s “the best documentary I have ever seen” and the movie that inspired him to pick up a camera. But Hearts and Minds polarized audiences even before it was released. Columbia Pictures refused to distribute it, and an interviewee unhappy with his portrayal obtained a temporary restraining order against the producers. Despite the controversy, Peter Davis’s searing indictment of America’s involvement in Vietnam won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in March 1975–one month before the fall of Saigon brought an end to the war. Featuring interviews with subjects on all sides of the conflict, from General William Westmoreland to Daniel Ellsberg to a Vietnamese coffin maker, and a wealth of archival news footage from the font lines and the home front, this landmark film is a must-see for anyone seeking to understand the meaning and significance of the Vietnam War.
The National Guard, a unique part of the American military, traces its origins to the birth of the first organized colonial militia regiments on December 13, 1636.
The Guard, which includes some of the oldest units in the US military, is a reserve component that can be called up on a moment’s notice to respond to domestic emergencies or participate in overseas combat missions.
These 11 stunning photos from the past year show the Guard in action — dealing with fires, hurricanes, volcanoes, and more.
(N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)
A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a C-130 Hercules plane modified for fire-fighting efforts, releases fire retardant over Shasta County, California, during the Carr Fire in early August 2018.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
(Florida National Guard photo by David Sterphone)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
(North Carolina National Guard)
(Florida National Guard)
(Oregon Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
(Photo Composite by SSG Brendan Stephens, NC National Guard Public Affairs)
(Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept. of Defense)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
11. An Idaho Army National Guard sniper, from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, practices his skills during the platoon’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center on June 8, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Because of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard’s perseverance and focus, a platoon was able to hang on during one of the Vietnam War’s fiercest battles.
Two years after earning two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, Jimmie Earl Howard arrived in Vietnam in April 1966, when he was 36 years old. The Burlington, Iowa, native enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 after completing a year at the University of Iowa.
Here’s a look back at GySgt Howard’s career and what he and his platoon managed to accomplish.
June 13, 1966: Staff Sgt. Howard’s platoon, which includes just 15 other Marines and two Navy hospital corpsmen from C Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are helicoptered inside enemy-controlled Hiep Duc Valley in northern Southern Vietnam. Their landing point, Nui Vu Hill, is a 1,500-foot observation point. Known on military maps as Hill 488, it would quickly become rechristened as “Howard’s Hill.”
June 15, 1900: An Army SF team reports that a 300-person North Vietnamese Army battalion is moving toward Hill 488. Darkness is falling, and there’s no time to alert Howard or pull out the platoon.
2100: American personnel shoot a Viet Cong scout just 12 feet from their position, provoking a fire barrage that wounds one Marine. Howard pulls her men into a tight circle just 20 yards in diameter.
A lull in the firefight is short-lived. The NVA returns with reinforced lines that attack Howard and his unit with gunfire, grenades, mortars, and machine guns. Howard moves in between his young Marines, encouraging them, redirecting when necessary, and helping them pinpoint their targets. Despite his advice, every single Marine and both Navy corpsmen are wounded. Two are killed in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The enemy falls back – temporarily.
Howard uses the fall back to radio Lt. Col. Arthur J. Sullivan at nearby Chu Lai. He tells Sullivan, “You have to get us out of here.”
But there was no rescue force that could reach Howard and his men that night.
From deep in the valley comes the voice of the enemy. “Marines, you die in an hour.”
One young Marine looks at Howard and asks if he can respond. Howard tells him to yell anything you like. Soon, the entire platoon is shouting at the enemy with the worst schoolyard taunts. Later Howard would recall that when his unit started laughing at the enemy, something shifted for the NVA soldiers. “I think it had a chilling effect on them,” he recalled.
For five hours, the NVA alternates between small probes and full-on assaults of the entrenched platoon. Howard is hit in the back with grenade fragments and can’t move his legs. He continues to drag himself around the perimeter to encourage his platoon and distribute ammunition.
Soon the grenade supply is gone, so Howard issues one of the most basic military strategies – he tells his Marines to throw rocks at the enemy. The NVA mistake the sound of rocks as grenades and inadvertently expose themselves to single-shot fire.
At 0300, the radio dies. Commanders in Chu Lai fear that Howard and his Marines are gone. Three hours later, Howard sounds Reveille, as if his unit hadn’t been in a firefight all night. Demoralized, the NVA troops begin to fall back.
Dawn comes to the valley, and that’s when, finally, the helicopters start to arrive. By now, the surviving Marines have only eight rounds of ammunition between them, and they’re still under sporadic fire. Howard waves off the first of the rescue aircraft, and one gets shot down. It takes another five hours for a full relief force to fight its way from the hill’s base to where Howard and his Marines are on top. When the rescue arrives, just three Marines can walk without assistance. Six out of the 18 are dead.
Three Marines and one corpsman are awarded Navy Crosses, and 13 Marines receive Silver Stars. A year later, Howard received the Medal of Honor. The ceremony is attended by eleven of the surviving Marines.
Howard retired from the Marines in 1977 after serving 27 years in the Marine Corps. He died on Nov. 12, 1993. In 1998, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton named one of three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard in honor of GySgt. Howard and his courage in Vietnam.
US troops deployed to the US-Mexico border will remain there until at least the end of September 2019, the Pentagon revealed in an emailed statement Jan. 14, 2019.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over for former Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the beginning of 2019 has approved Department of Defense assistance to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Sept. 30, 2019.
The decision was made in response to a DHS request submitted in late December 2018.
The initial deployment, which began in October 2018 as “Operation Faithful Patriot” (since renamed “border support”), was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018. The mission had previously been extended until the end of January 2019.
U.S. Marines with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, walk along the California-Mexico border at the Andrade Point of Entry in Winterhaven, California, Nov.30, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Valetski)
Thousands of active-duty troops, nearly six thousand at the operation’s peak, were sent to positions in California, Texas, and Arizona to harden points of entry, laying miles and miles of concertina wire. The number of troops at the southern border, where thousands of Central American migrants wait in hopes of entering the US, has dropped significantly since the operation began.
The Department of Defense is transitioning the support provided from securing ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection activities, according to the Pentagon’s emailed statement. Troops will offer aviation support, among other services.
Shanahan has also given his approval for deployed troops to put up another 115 miles of razor wire between ports of entry to limit illegal crossings, according to ABC News.
U.S. Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, secure concertina and barbed wire near the California-Mexico border at the Andrade Port of Entry in California, Nov. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Asia J. Sorenson)
The extension of the border mission was expected after a recent Cabinet meeting. “We’re doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we’re providing to Kirstjen and her team,” Shanahan said, making a reference to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Military.com reported early January 2019.
“We’ve been very, very closely coupled with Kirstjen,” he added. “The collaboration has been seamless.”
The cost of the Trump administration’s border mission, condemned by critics as a political stunt, is expected to rise to 2 million by the end of this month, CNN reported recently.
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Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley wish their families goodnight after launching into low-Earth orbit. Screenshot via SpaceX/YouTube
SpaceX released a video on Tuesday that chronicles its Demo-2 mission, the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon spaceship. The mission carried NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the International Space Station, and it went remarkably smoothly – an outcome that felt somewhat out-of-keeping with this turbulent year on Earth.
“We hope it brings a little bit of brightness to a pretty tough 2020,” Hurley says at the end of the video.
The never-before-broadcast footage shows Behnken and Hurley driving to the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After giving thumbs-ups to onlookers, the two astronauts board the Crew Dragon.
“Three…two…one…ignition, liftoff,” Mission Control says. Then SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket ignites.
Once they enter space, Behnken does a backflip as a stuffed sequined dinosaur floats around the capsule. “Tremor the Apatosaurus” was the latest in a long line of stuffed animals that astronauts have brought into space as zero-gravity indicators; when the toys start to float, observers know the ship has entered microgravity.
The video also shows the moments after Crew Dragon docked with the space station, when the astronauts met up with the members of Expedition 63. The montage ends with their return to Earth: A small white capsule shrieks through the atmosphere, then its parachutes deploy, slowing it to a gentle splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
Astronaut Bob Behnken pushes aside a plush dinosaur toy floating around the cabin of the Crew Dragon as it reaches low-Earth orbit, May 30, 2020. NASA TV
Still, the mission wasn’t without snags. For instance, once the Crew Dragon landed, its thrusters began emitting toxic fumes. Throngs of boats carrying tourists and onlookers also ignored commands to keep their distance.
These problems serve as learning opportunities for NASA and SpaceX as they prepare for the next crewed mission in their partnership, Crew-1. That’s scheduled to launch at 2:40 a.m. ET on October 31.
From top left: Shannon Walker, Soichi Noguchi, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins pose with SpaceX founder Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Jim Bridenstine/NASA
That crew includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Hopkins is slated to be the mission’s commander, Glover the pilot, and Walker and Noguchi mission specialists.
The Demo-2 astronauts have already offered some words of wisdom for that group. Hopkins said Hurley warned him about the shocking speed of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
“His comment about entry was, ‘It happens fast,'” Hopkins said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “From the time the de-orbit sequence starts, the entry sequence starts, to when you touch down is very fast.”
“For me, that means I need to make sure that we, as a crew, are ready for it,” Hopkins added. “When things happen fast, you need to be anticipating.”
But minor issues and surprises aside, NASA and SpaceX officials are mostly hoping for a repeat of Demo-2’s success later this fall.
“It will be a great mission if Crew-1 goes exactly the same way,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, said during the Tuesday briefing. “I’m counting on a beautiful mission.”