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This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.


A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.

 

While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.

Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.

They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Colombian Army veterans.

Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.

“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Elon Musk amuses the internet with tweet about flags

Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.

The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.

Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.


According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.

Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.

The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.

Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples

The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.

Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.

Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.

All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.

Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

There will be a special exhibit at the National Mall this Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor will return to the National Mall in Washington D.C., featuring 645,000 poppies — each one representing an American service member who has fallen since World War I.

This year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USAA Poppy Wall will also include a video featuring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.


The red poppy became synonymous with fallen Allies during the First World War when the hardy bloom painted the heroes’ graves red, and it has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

USAA’s poignant exhibit will feature a clear wall stretching 133 feet long and 8.5 feet tall filled with the red bloom, making a striking contrast to the National Mall. From Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, visitors can see the wall on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool — between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.

Also read: This is how the poppy became a symbol for fallen troops

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

In addition to the exhibit in Washington D.C., everyone is invited to dedicate a poppy in tribute to a fallen service member. During a time when many Americans celebrate the beginning of summer with a long weekend, there are those who can never forget the price paid for that freedom.

Related: 7 things you didn’t know about Memorial Day

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army celebrates anniversary of the ‘first successful military jump’

As the national anthem played, the audience held hands over hearts and watched as a U.S. Army parachutist glided down from an unbroken blue sky, pulling a U.S. flag behind him.

So opened the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning’s National Airborne Day observation Aug. 16, 2019, at Fryar Drop Zone at Fort Benning. The first paratrooper test jump took place 79 years ago, Aug. 16, 1940, at Fort Benning.

The first test of a U.S. Army paratrooper drop occurred at Fort Benning Aug. 16, 1940, when Lt. (later Col.) William T. Ryder and Lt. (later Lt. Col.) James A. Bassett led the Airborne Test Platoon. The platoon jumped onto Lawson Field (later Lawson Army Airfield), completing the first successful military parachute jump.


After the national anthem, members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, nicknamed the Golden Knights, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and members of the Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning performed a freefall parachute jump demonstration from a UV18 Viking Twin Otter plane onto Fryar Drop Zone. The Golden Knights jumped in with golden parachutes, and the Silver Wings jumped in with black parachutes.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

An Army Silver Wings parachutist wraps his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting atop the parachute, and a Golden Knight parachutist carries below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The final two parachutists to land — one from the Golden Knights, one from the Silver Wings — came in one literally on top of the other. The Silver Wings parachutist wrapped his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting on the parachute, and the Golden Knight carried below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

“This is where I started jumping out of airplanes, all the way back in 2006,” said Staff Sgt. Houston Creech of the Golden Knights. “Just being here this day, with all the progression I’ve gone through and the skills I’ve gained through the Army’s training — being able to be here on this specific day is a tremendous honor.”

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

A Soldier with the U.S. Army Parachute Team jumps onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

“It’s the pride and history of the unit and the organization,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Porter, on jumping as part of the Silver Wings for National Airborne Day. “Our legacy and our history build the future of what we are right now.”

“We’re celebrating both those that came before us, those that are currently training and defending our nation, and those that come after,” said 199th Infantry Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Young, who jumped as part of the Silver Wings jump team.

The Liberty Jump Team made two jumps of 14 and 16 volunteer parachutists following the Golden Knights and the Silver Wings demonstration. Their members were dressed in period Army uniforms, displaying what soldiers would have worn during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. The team jumped from a restored C-47 Skytrain. The particular plane to drop them over Fryar Drop Zone holds the moniker “Greenland Gopher,” and participated in D-Day and Operation Market Garden during World War II as well as in the Berlin Airlift.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

One round of volunteer parachutists from the Liberty Jump Team jump onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jim Micko, member and senior rigger of the Liberty Jump Team, said his team’s jump was in recognition of the “courage and foresight of the people that took that first step,” referring to the U.S. Army soldiers who pioneered airborne operations before and during World War II.

“The fact that they were able to make it work and make it work in time for the war is a phenomenal thing,” said Micko.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

Two members of the Liberty Jump Team, a commemorative team of volunteer parachutists, jump out of a restored C-47 Skytrain.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The Golden Knights are part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the mission of which is to “recruit America’s best volunteers to enable the Army to win in a complex world.” Creech made a practical recommendation to anyone who aspires to become a U.S. Army paratrooper:

“Run,” he said. “Practice running a lot. You need very strong legs. Do a lot of squats. If you’re going to be jumping out of airplanes, those legs are going to need to be able to support that weight coming.”

To learn more about Airborne School or to see more photos from this event, visit the “Related Links” section on this page.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This fake stealth fighter helped secure the real one

As we all know by now, the F-117 Nighthawk was America’s first combat-capable stealth aircraft. According to an Air Force fact sheet, it entered service in 1983, and was retired in 2008. It had a very effective career, serving in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom.


But one reason the F-117 was effective was because the Americans managed to keep it secret for the first five years it was in operation. As a result, many figured America’s stealth fighter would be named the F-19 – and in two techno-thrillers, the F-19 had major roles.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

It was best-known as the F-19 Ghostrider in Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” In that novel, the planes carry out a daring raid to destroy Soviet Il-76 “Mainstay” radar planes, enabling NATO to secure air superiority in the early stages of the war. One F-19 crew later takes out a Soviet theater commander.

Clancy’s F-19 was very different from the F-117. It had a crew of two, and was capable of breaking Mach 1. It also carried weapons externally, including Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and had a radar. While some sources, like Combat Aircraft Since 1945, credited the F-117 Nighthawk with the ability to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder, most sources claim that the F-117 has no air-to-air capability.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
A three-view graphic of what the F-19 was believed to look like. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

The other appearance of the F-19 was in Dale Brown’s “Silver Tower.” This time, it had the right name, Nighthawk, but it also had a crew of two. Brown didn’t go into the detail of his F-19 that Clancy did in Red Storm Rising. Brown’s F-19s had one notable success, where they bluffed their way in to attack a Soviet base in Iran during Silver Tower. Both planes were shot down and their crews killed.

After the F-117’s public reveal, the speculative F-19s were largely forgotten. But the “F-19” speculation helped keep the F-117 secret – and that secrecy was critical to the battlefield success of America’s first stealth fighter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un seems to be caving to Trump before they meet

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon said on April 19, 2018, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.


According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea — the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.

Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.

“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.

Why that may be too good to be true

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Kim discussing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in an undated photo released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency on September 3, 2017.
(KCNA photo)

For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.

North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.

Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.

Consider the messenger

Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.

With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
President Donald Trump andu00a0President Moon Jae-in.
(Republic of Korea photo)

Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.

While Trump and Moon maintain that their alliance is ironclad and they’re committed to peace, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, has argued extensively in favor of bombing North Korea, rarely mentioning how many South Koreans could die in a counterattack.

Maybe Trump really did nail it

Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Kim Jong Unu00a0meets with South Korea’s Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyangu00a0in discussion of peace talks between the countries.

Kim is also younger than his father, Kim Jong Il, was when he entered talks with the US, and he is possibly more open to changing his country. He has already allowed markets and capitalism to creep into the country, and he recently allowed South Korean pop bands to play a show, which he reportedly loved.

Today, North Korea is under greater sanctions pressure than ever before. Andrea Berger, an expert on North Korean sanctions at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Business Insider it had become virtually impossible to do any business with North Korea that wouldn’t violate international sanctions. Fuel prices are way up in the country, and reports of the people becoming disenchanted with their strict leadership roll in frequently.

Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The big, bad list of Coronavirus cancellations

As government and health officials scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, events around the country are being shut down or modified. Officials, after seeing the spike in cases (and fatalities) in Italy and the subsequent shutdown, are now implementing the same measures to major events in the U.S., whether it be canceling, postponing or barring fans.


This is major news in that sports, entertainment and travel are very important keys to the national economy. The loss of revenue to the teams, leagues, television partners and corporate partners will be big but there are many others too that will have a rough couple of months.

Hotels, airlines, arena workers, concession workers, arena security , front office employees, merchandise vendors, food and beverage companies, Uber and Lyft drivers and local establishments all canceled events….The list goes on.

We Are The Mighty will continue to update this list, but here are major national (and some international for fans) events that so far have been affected by the coronavirus.

A full list of all sports events that have been canceled can be found here. This list is mostly international but gives an idea of the scope of event cancellations.
This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
  • A coronavirus conference in New York was canceled because of the coronavirus.
  • MLB operations suspended indefinitely
  • NHL season suspended
  • NBA season suspended
  • MLS season suspended
  • NCAA Tournament canceled
  • NCAA Women’s Tournament canceled
  • Big Ten Tournament
  • SEC Tournament
  • Pac 12 Tournament
  • Big 12 Tournament
  • ACC Tournament
  • A-10 Tournament
  • Conference USA Tournament
  • MAC Tournament
  • WAC Tournament
  • American Conference Tournament
  • UEFA Champions League (Tuesday matches postponed)
  • Serie A (Italian soccer)
  • La Liga (Spanish soccer)
  • Formula 1 has had the McLaren team withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix this week. Next week the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to be raced with no fans.
  • U.S. Women’s and Men’s friendly matches canceled
  • Coachella postponed until October
  • Stagecoach postponed until October
  • E3 video game concert
  • Miami Open
  • SXSW Conference
  • Pearl Jam tour postponed
  • Adam Sandler tour postponed
  • Indian Wells 2020
This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

Universities have been either moving classes online, telling students to move out of dormitories and postponing spring classes and canceling classes outright in some instances.

Articles

That time a Marine had a live RPG stuck in his leg

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.


A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.

Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.

When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.

“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”

“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Army Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield attempts to remove a rocket-propelled grenade from Lance Cpl. Winder Perez as Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari keeps Perez’s airway stable. (Photo: US Navy)

When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.

Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.

(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why US troops in World War I ditched the bayonet for the shovel

World War I brought a new kind of fighting to the world. Wars were no longer conducted on an open field of battle with colorful uniforms in an effort to outmaneuver the opposing armies. Wars from henceforth would be mechanized factories of wholesale slaughter, fought by men covered in mud, killing each other with any means at their disposal. But in those grim early days, it was a surprise to all involved. Like most troops, however, those fighting the Great War adapted pretty fast.

One of the weapons they adapted saw the development of their entrenching tool as a weapon of war.


This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

They had a lot to work with.

Trench Warfare was not something the troops or planners ever anticipated, so troops were sent into combat with pretty basic weapons and supplies. The primary weapons for American troops were the rifle and bayonet, even though the United States didn’t enter the war until much later. Fighting in the trenches changed the way soldiers fought the war and thought about future conflicts. Clubs and knives became common among all troops, and British troops in particular, brought maces and other medieval devices to the fight. Americans came with all sorts of ready-made weapons, including brass knuckles.

The most terrifying but effective battlefield innovation actually saw soldiers ditching their rifle-mounted bayonets in favor of a more versatile weapon that could be used at close range, over and over, with terrifying effect.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

There was way more to fear than just trench shotguns.

World War I soldiers found that using their bayonets could result in their primary weapon being lodged in the viscera of an enemy troop, leaving that guy dead but them at the mercy of anyone else whose bayonet was not lodged in an enemy. To get around this, some soldiers stopped leading with the bayonet and favoring their entrenching tool as a more effective means of dispatching someone who doesn’t want to leave their own trench.

It turns out the edges of American entrenching tools could be sharpened to an almost razor-fine edge, making it the perfect melee weapon for pouring into the German lines and pouring Germans out of those lines by force. Another great bonus of using an e-tool to entrench enemy troops into their new graves was that it was much shorter than the bayonet, and could be used more effectively in close quarters combat. As the war drug on, however, the armies of the world got the hint and developed better weapons. But soldiers on the front lines in every conflict since have always developed an easier means of killing the enemy with what was at their disposal.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This comic book legend fought Nazi panzers and earned a Bronze Star

Born Jacob Kurtzberg, the most influential comic book artist known to the world as Jack Kirby penned many of the most beloved superheros in today’s society.


The young Kirby found his calling at then Timely Comics, later known as Marvel Comics, by drawing in superheros. He and Joe Simon created a new patriotic hero and drew the iconic cover to what will be synonymous with comics in World War II. Captain America knocking the Hell out of Adolf Hitler in March 1941.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

Duty called Kirby into the U.S. Army on June 7, 1942. He had created an inventory to be published in part of his absence, kissed his wife goodbye, and headed to Camp Stewart for Basic Training.

Being a small Jewish kid from New York, he had met people from across the country. People who had never traveled outside their family farm, Texans who never rode a horse, and everyone from every corner of the country. He did encounter antisemitism, but he credits working and living together as the moment that opened their eyes to how diverse the country really is.

Related: This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ -not brown, black, or white

His unit, the Fifth Infantry Division, landed in Liverpool where he saw the devastation of the German Stukas. He was now ready to land on Omaha Beach ten days after D-Day.

And ready for his Marvel co-creator, Stan Lee, to give one of his best Cameos.General Patton got word that his unit was killed and arrived personally with replacements. Patton was livid when he learned that the outfit had just arrived just fine. The mix-up came about because of an error in the maps, so Kirby’s Lieutenant saw to correcting it. His lieutenant learned his soldier drew Captain America and many other comics and assigned Private Kirby the unenviable task of being a scout to draw the maps.

Kirby would create new maps or draw on existing maps locations of enemy and friendly activity. His markings of Axis’ 88 anti-armor cannons were used to clear the way for troops.

Kirby’s unit crossed much of Northern France and took heavy casualties. Sketching in a notepad was the only thing that could keep his nerves intact while he mapped out enemy locations. His unit even liberated a remote factory, turned concentration camp. This was one of the first provable concentration camps the U.S. came across.

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
Kirby and his wife, Roz, whom he wrote every day.

His maps would play a crucial role in the Battle of Metz, which he also personally fought in. Frozen by Himmler’s Panzers, he still fought them, referring to himself as a “Human Road Block.”

It was the unforgiving winter that sent him home. His feet had become purple with jungle rot and frostbite. It was so bad that he was rushed back to Paris and the doctors considered amputation. He was discharged in 1945, but not before being awarded a Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Star for all that he did in Europe.

Much of the information for this article can be found from The Kirby Museum and Ronin Ro’s Tales to Astonish, Jack Kirby’s Biography.

Articles

Watch this bird strike take out a jet…from the pilot’s POV

What does a bird strike look like from the perspective of a fighter pilot? We actually have that — thanks to cockpit video that was released about a decade ago.


Bird strikes do a lot of damage. Even legends like the B-52 can be brought down by seagulls.

Now, when this video first appeared, it was believed to have been from the cockpit of a F-16. According to FlightGlobal.com, though, the actual plane was a CT-155 Hawk assigned to NATO Flying Training Canada.

 

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War
A Canadian CT-155 Hawk performing a flyby at the Alliance Air Show 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The video below is from a similar plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For a single-engine fighter like the CT-155, this bird strike prove to be very fatal. As heard in the video, the two pilots on board tried to get the engine to re-start. When that fails, there’s only one option left for the pilots: GTFO.

That’s exactly what these pilots did, leaving the stricken Hawk to its fate.

The pilots who ejected, RAF Flight Lieutenant Edward Morris and Captain John Hutt of what was then the Canadian Defense Forces Air Command (now the Royal Canadian Air Force), were both recovered alive and well. It was a close call. You can see that close call from their perspective below.

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