Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Editor’s Note: This interview of Marine and Korean War veteran Charles U. Daly was written by his son, Charlie Daly.

Charles U. Daly led a rifle platoon in Charlie Company, 1/5 Marines through some of the most intense combat of the Korean war.  He received the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He went on to work for President Kennedy and is the last living member of JFK’s West Wing congressional liaison staff. He tells his story in the memoir,Make Peace or Die: a Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares

What are your memories of mail while you were deployed?

I remember the lack of mail hurt some of my Marines. That’s a tough thing when everyone else is receiving mail, and there’s none for you. The guys who didn’t get any were stoic, and they didn’t show that it bothered them. They just turned around and hoped to get some another day, I guess. It was my job to lead them and look after them; I could make sure they had almost anything else they needed. But there was nothing I could do for a guy who hadn’t gotten a letter from home. I’d give those men anything, but I couldn’t give them that. 

Chuck remembers one letter he wrote to his late wife, Mary, in which he joked about single-handedly winning the war. A couple of days after he sent it, the Chinese began the 1951 Spring Offensive, an unsuccessful attempt to win the war in 7 days, during which Chuck’s platoon in 1/5 Marines had to hold a hilltop, totally cut off from friendly forces. 

On the night of April 21, I sent a note to Mary, brimming with overconfidence:

My Darling—

Just a note to say that I’m o.k.—We moved quite a way today & continue on tomorrow—w/any luck we should be north of Hwachon (sic), North Korea tomorrow.

I’m exhausted & will hit the sack—I love you, my wife—take it easy.

—Your mick

(Make Peace or Die, 60)

You got one very special telegram announcing the birth of your first son, Michael. 

I had been anxiously awaiting that news, but I didn’t expect it to reach me the way it did, as a special message, hand-delivered by a runner. That was a note I won’t forget. 

A runner followed Dacy and the replacements up the hill with a telegram for me:

PLEASE PASS TO LT CHARLES U. DALY 050418 X SON MICHAEL WEIGHING 5 POUNDS 12 AND 3/4 OUNCES BORN SATURDAY 19 MAY AT 2:06 PM X A BLACK-HAIRED MICK X MARY AND MICHAEL BOTH FINE X LOVE MARY

(Make Peace or Die, 80)

Pete had received news about a baby daughter two days before. Our platoons were delighted. They said, “we” made a baby. It was good news, and it was tough news. I folded up the telegram and put it in my wallet and thought it’d be nice to have if I made it.

Now that note belongs to Michael’s first daughter, my first grandchild, Sinéad.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea
Charles U. Daly (left) with Pete McCloskey in a valley near Wonju, spring 1951. Pete and Chuck both left pregnant wives at home when they deployed. Chuck’s son and Pete’s daughter were born while their fathers were in combat. (Photo/ Department of Defense)

What was it like trying to do your job as a platoon leader while you were waiting for that big news?

I was trying to concentrate on my responsibility for Marines in combat. When I had time to think, I thought a lot about my wife and my hopes for our family. But I knew that if I didn’t concentrate on the job, I would never get to fulfill those hopes. 

You wrote to your father after the firefight for which you were awarded the Silver Star. 

I wanted him to know I’d done well. In case I didn’t make it, I wanted him to know I had died trying. He had led a platoon in the First World War; I suppose I wanted him to know that I understood something of his experience.  

Shortly after my own war, I asked Dad, “When do the bad memories fade?”

“It will take a long, long time, but finally they will fade.”

As of today, mine have not.

(Make Peace or Die, 23)
Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea
Charles U. Daly, on the day he was awarded the Silver Star (photo/ Department of Defense.)

A few weeks later, you finally got Michael’s picture in the mail.

That was good. I noticed the Heath chocolate bar in the envelope first. The photo was a big surprise. I wish I still had it, but it got ruined by the melted chocolate. 

The platoon sergeant and I laid-up in an abandoned enemy bunker… An attack on our position that night could have doomed us, but it didn’t come. I felt good. Even though I still had little hope of living to hold my son, a picture Mary had sent me of him had arrived in a letter enclosed with a melted Heath bar. Having seen my son Michael’s face, I suddenly had more to lose. 

(Make Peace or Die, 97.) 

Nowadays, a Marine in the field can sometimes send texts or make video calls. Sometimes, you can even get in touch with your family via satellite from the most remote outpost. 

I can’t even imagine that. 

What would be your advice to families writing to a loved one who’s downrange? 

Start with good news. Try to have good news. Bad news can wait, but if you have to pass it on, be delicate about it. Life at home isn’t always going to be all lovely every day, but it helps to let your son or daughter or spouse know that everything’s alright and there’s no need to feel bad about not being home to deal with life’s little challenges. But I don’t think it’s possible to say the wrong thing. No matter what you write, your letter is going to be the bright spot in their day. 

My one suggestion, based on experience: SAVE YOUR LETTERS! When we were working on my book, we managed to find a couple of my letters home, but most were lost to time. I don’t remember what I wrote. 


Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

(Editor’s Note – To commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission, the following is an updated repost of a story with retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders originally published October 3, 2016 and before his death April 9, 2019, he was 103.)

Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.

The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.


Solo Mission

vimeo.com

“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”

Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.

U.S. Air Force

As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the “Doolittle Raid” crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday.

U.S. Air Force

Last of the Raiders

Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.

Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”

Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.

“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”

The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.

“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”

Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.

As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.

Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.

“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

In a photograph found after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the “Doolittle Raid” on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.

U.S. Air Force

Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.

On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.

In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.

“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”

Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.

“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. David Salanitri

Turning point

Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.

The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.

“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.

In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.

“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”

The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.

When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.

“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.

‘Single-engine time’

Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.

“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.

To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.

“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”

Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.

“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.

“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

America’s first fighter plane blinded pilots and lost its wings

When America threw its weight behind the Allies in World War I, optimistic politicians and the writers of the day predicted that, soon, tens of thousands of top-tier planes would pour from American factories to the front lines, blackening the skies over the “Huns.” In reality, American aviation was too-far behind the combatants to catch up, and so American pilots took to the air with French castoffs that gave them diarrhea and nausea, obscured their vision, and would lose its wings during combat.


Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

A pilot in his Nieuport 28 fighter aircraft.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

World War I plane designs relied on a small selection of engines, and most of them were lubricated with castor oil. As the war wore on and the oil was in short supply, Germany did turn to substitutes. But most engines, especially the rotary designs that gave a better power-to-weight ratio crucial for flight, actually burnt castor oil that escaped in the exhaust.

This oil was horrible for the pilot who, in most designs, was left breathing in his plane’s exhaust. Castor oil is used as a laxative, and it can also cause nausea. Pilots were, uh, not into that part of the mission. Worse, the droplets of castor oil would sprinkle on the aviator’s goggles, obscuring their vision with a film that masked the battlefield.

America’s top ace of the war, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was famous around the aerodrome for often running around the corners of buildings after he landed so he could vomit from a combination of airsickness and castor oil exposure. He eventually got control of his stomach and could fly confidently, but it was a significant distraction for a long time.

But the castor oil problem was hard to avoid for aircraft designers. Making engines light and powerful enough to fly required all sorts of compromises, and the castor-lubricated rotary engines were one of the few designs that fit the bill.

But the bigger problem for early American pilots was that the U.S. had to buy French planes, and France kept their best models for their own pilots. So America got planes like the Nieuport 28. The manufacturers had little time to test designs before they had to press them into production and service, and the 28 had one of the worst flaws imaginable.

In rigorous aerial flight, if U.S. pilots took a common but aggressive aerial maneuver, their top wings could break away.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

​American pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 in World War I.

(Public domain)

Yup. They would lose their literal, physical wings.

It was a biplane design, meaning that it had two sets of wings, one above the other. That upper set of wings was attached with a thin spar. It would break if subjected to significant strain.

And World War I pilots attempting to escape a fight gone bad would often trade altitude for speed and distance. They did this by diving a short distance and then pulling up hard. The plane would gain speed during the fall, and the aviator could hopefully get away before the pursuer could get a bead and fire.

But the weak upper wings of the Nieuport 28 couldn’t always take the sudden force of the pull up after the dive, and so an upper wing would snap during the pull up. So the pilot, already in a dire situation, would suddenly have less lift and it would be unequal across the wings, sending the pilot into a spinning fall.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

The Spad XIII didn’t have the drawbacks of the Nieuport 28, but it also had a worse power-to-weight ratio and maneuverability.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Despite these handicaps, American aviators proved themselves faster learners and braver than their allies had expected, leading to a grudging respect from the other pilots.

And, eventually, America would get access to the Spad XIII, an aircraft about as quick as the Nieuport 28 but without the weak wings. But, by that point, not everyone wanted to give up the Nieuport. That was partially because the Nieuport had great handling at high speed as long as the pilot knew how to nurse the engine and not exceed the tolerances for the wings.

The Spad XIII was a little more reliable and stable in normal flight, but some American pilots felt like they couldn’t maneuver as tightly in the new planes, and they actually fought to keep the Nieuport 28s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what you should know about the ‘Aztec Eagles’

Though a select few get most of the credit, a lot of countries were involved in the Allied efforts of World War II. There were so many moving parts that it’s easy to forget that certain groups, including our own U.S. Coast Guard, were actively involved. While we might make jokes about Canadians being overly polite today, we must certainly not forget that they kicked some serious ass in Europe. However, there’s another country that played a significant role in the global conflict that many seem to gloss over outside of discussing the Zimmerman Telegram: Mexico.

There was no real shortage of volunteers during WWII, but more help was always appreciated. That’s where Mexico comes in. Pissed about losing oil ships in the Gulf, Mexico declared war on Axis powers in 1942. Shortly thereafter, Mexico became one of the only Latin American countries to send troops overseas.

The most widely recognized group to deploy was the Mexican Army’s Escuadrón 201 — the Aztec Eagles. Here’s what you should know:


Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

(U.S. Air Force)

The 201st Fighter Squadron was formed in response to German submarines sinking two oil tankers, the SS Potrero del Llano and the SS Faja de Oro. These dudes were obviously pissed and wanted to hop into the war to kick some ass, just like the rest of us. So, they got 30 experienced pilots together with 270 other volunteers to be ground crew. After their formation, they were sent to Texas in July of 1944.

The Aztec Eagles trained at Randolph Field in San Antonio as well as Majors Field in Greenville, Texas. The pilots received months of training in weapons, communication, tactics, as well as advanced combat air tactics, formation flying, and gunnery. They held a graduation ceremony in February, 1945, and received their battle flag, which went down in history as the first time Mexican troops were trained by to fight a war overseas.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

A P-47D sporting insignias of both the Army Air Forces and Mexican Air Force.

(U.S. Army Air Force)

In March, 1945, following their transformation into hardened warriors, the 201st Fighter Squadron was sent to the Philippines attached to the Army Air Force’s own 58th Fighter Group to participate in expelling Japanese control. In June of that same year, they flew two missions per day using U.S. aircraft. By July, they received their own P-47D Thunderbolts, with which they fought plenty.

During their time in the Philippines, the 201st flew at least 90 combat missions and, throughout those, lost eight pilots. They also flew 53 ground support missions for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, four fighter sweeps over Formosa, and dive bombing missions. All the while, they also had no provision for replacements, which made each pilot loss especially painful.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Former 201st Fighter Squadron members salute during a ceremony at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, March 6, 2009.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump)

By the end of it, the 201st had put down 30,000 Japanese troops, destroyed enemy buildings, vehicles, anti-aircraft and machine gun emplacements, and ammunition depots. General Douglas MacArthur gave them recognition, and they were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, complete with rank of Legionnaire, in 2004.

The 201st Fighter Squadron is still around today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only combat jumps US troops have made since 9/11

It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.

Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.


It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.

The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)

Objective Rhino

Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.

There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

​Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.

(U.S. Army)

Objective Serpent

The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.

The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)

Operation Northern Delay

In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.

This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!

(U.S. Army)

Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan

Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.

RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.

This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.

We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highly caffeinated life of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the chain-smoking D-Day mastermind who became president

There are a lot of benefits one can get from drinking coffee. Studies show the right amount of coffee can lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. It also has a protective effect on your liver, whatever that means.

But history shows that drinking the right amount of coffee could also help your ability to mastermind the largest amphibious military operation in history (sorry, Marines), defeat the Axis powers, and reassert federal authority over the states. In the mind of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the “right amount” was as much as 15 to 20 cups of coffee every day, depending on which of those feats was most important.


In just over two years, the brigadier general who’d never seen combat became the supreme Allied commander in Europe — an intense situation for anyone. Throughout the war (and into his presidency), Ike drank up to 20 cups of coffee and smoked four packs of Camels as he worked day and night to win the war in Europe.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

NPG.65.63. PO 3262. Oil on canvas, 1947.

For Eisenhower, the answer was simple; Type 2 diabetes wasn’t occupying Paris, and doing the work necessary to win World War II required a diet of coffee and cigarettes.

There’s a lot to be said about Eisenhower’s service record. For one, Ike never saw combat, and that was never his specialty, even if it grated on him at times. But there’s more to serving in the military than being a hardcore, door-kicking Nazi-killing machine.

Someone has to get the Nazi-killing machines to the Nazis, and that’s where Ike came in.

At the outset of World War II, Eisenhower was a relatively unknown junior officer who had never held command above a battalion level. But as the war continued, his boss, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, came to rely more and more on his logistics and leadership ability.

First up was planning the greater war in the Pacific. Eisenhower needed to send a division of men to reinforce Australia. He requisitioned the British luxury liner RMS Queen Mary to carry 15,000 soldiers from New York to Sydney around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. After the ship departed, the Army learned that Axis U-boats knew about it and would be hunting it every step of the way. Eisenhower paced the floor until the Queen Mary arrived in Sydney.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Ike was fueled entirely on coffee, cigarettes, and a burning desire to win.

That’s the kind of leader Eisenhower was. He didn’t show it, but he was wracked with anxiety over the potential loss of so many Allied soldiers. Chugging coffee, chain-smoking, and pacing was how he dealt with the pressure.

When he was awaiting word on that first troop transport’s arrival in Sydney Harbor, Eisenhower wore the same calm demeanor as he did reviewing the troops preparing to land at Normandy on June 6, 1944. He walked among them and asked questions, speaking with them at ease. He watched as they prepared to mount an invasion that even he wasn’t sure would be a success.

Ike famously wrote two speeches for the D-Day landings — one if they were successful and one in case they failed. He knew he was taking a gamble with all those men’s lives.

In his mind, 75% of them were going to die trying to free Europe on his orders. He had done all he could, drinking cup after cup of coffee, battling insomnia and headaches to give them their best shot at victory.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Trolling his own vice president? Public domain photo.

As June 6 came and went, he paced around a trailer, chain-smoking through the day and into the night. He downed cup after cup of coffee, waiting for reports of the invasion to come in.

Coffee was Eisenhower’s constant companion as he navigated the postwar world of the 1950s, managing the Soviet Union, the end of the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Interstate Highway System, and the use of the US Army to enforce federal laws in the states.

Ike struggled with health issues, especially heart disease, in his post-military career. He suffered at least seven heart attacks and a stroke before his death in 1969. But that wasn’t the coffee’s fault. The supreme Allied commander developed a brain tumor that made him vulnerable to heart attacks.

All that coffee just fueled the end of fascism in Europe and a reboot of the American century.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Three decades later: Was the Gulf War worth it?

Twenty-nine years ago, on Jan. 16, 1991, the United States led the massive offensive coalition Operation Desert Storm, during the Persian Gulf War. The forces of this coalition were made up of 32 different countries, all combining efforts to stop and remove Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait the year prior.


There were over 900,000 coalition troops; 540,000 of them were American.

The U.S. began its invasion with air attacks that would decimate Iraq’s air defenses, taking out communications, weapons and oil refineries. Then, a covert and classified bombing mission began, known as Operation Senior Surprise. Its airmen were known as the Secret Squirrels.

Seven B-52G Stratofortresses took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in La., flying around 14,000 round-trip miles to launch 35 missiles at strategic locations in Iraq. They would require air refueling over the Atlantic, but all made it home safely. At the time, it was a world record for the longest bombing mission.

The world watched live on TV with CNN broadcasting around-the-clock coverage. General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell would go on to become household names in America as citizens watched the war unfold in real-time.

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The battle would intensify when the massive U.S. led ground offense began. Troops on foot would begin the “100-hour ground battle” on Feb. 24, 1991. This attack would lead to a liberated Kuwait in just under four days.

On Feb. 28, 1991, a cease-fire was officially declared, and Iraq pledged to honor future peace terms. One of the terms was that Saddam Hussein would get rid of all weapons of mass destruction. He would go on to refuse weapons inspectors admittance.

The Gulf War was a test in American diplomacy, with President Bush remembering the lessons of the Cold War. The war was backed by public and congressional support when that diplomacy failed. President Bush appeared to struggle greatly over going to war, even writing a letter to his children on New Year’s Eve of 1990 about the decision. It would go on to become the end of this kind of warfare and the beginning of a new era.

The United States lost 382 troops in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimated that it cost the United States billion dollars. The costs to those who served during the conflict were far greater.

Troops returning from the gulf war began getting sick; 250,000 of them.

The illness was called Gulf War Syndrome. A very wide range of chronic symptoms have been reported, including cognitive problems, respiratory disorders, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, rashes and digestive problems. The troops were exposed to dangerous pesticides, and the pills given to them to protect against nerve agents would be proven to be part of the cause.

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The intent of the United States getting involved in the middle east conflict was to prevent Saddam Hussein from gaining control of Kuwait’s oil, which would have led him to having 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This would have greatly impacted not just the United States, but many other countries who depend on oil for their way of life. However, it led to the U.S. becoming even more entangled in foreign politics, which would lead to more war, not less.

The Gulf War didn’t prevent the uprisings in Iraq, and we would end up right back there a decade later, losing another 6,967 troops as of 2019. This time we would attack without congressional approval and the support of the other surrounding Arab nations. We would not have the U.N. Resolution in our pocket or local support.

Nineteen years later, we are still at war. The lessons in the Persian Gulf War seem to have been forgotten. Twenty-nine years after the cease-fire was declared, it begs the question – was it worth it?

Articles

4 weird things armies fight over

You get into a mammoth fight with another country, and you both have to go for every advantage you can get. In some cases, that means fighting for resources that most people may not realize are all that important. While everyone knows that steel and oil can make and break campaigns, it turns out that everything from coal to fish oil to guano can be important too:


4. Coal

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The USS Jupiter was a collier ship that carried coal for other American ships before being converted to America’s first carrier, the USS Langley. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

While it’s usually either loved or hated for its role in making electricity, coal was a major fuel source for military operations during the time of America’s Civil War until a little past World War I. Even today, it’s important for industrial processes like forming steel for tanks and ships. And in World War II, Germany exploited a 1920s discovery that allowed them to turn coal into synthetic fuel and oil.

So, that hopefully explains why the Allies and Germans launched raids against coal reserves in and around Europe, often north of the Arctic Circle. The German war machine desperately needed enough fuel to fight on multiple fronts, especially when they began losing their oil fields in North Africa and the Balkans.

3. Diamonds

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British commandos, like these two in a photo from the St. Nazaire Raid, launched a daring mission to secure Antwerp’s diamonds before the Germans could seize them. (Photo: Public Domain)

Like coal, diamonds are valuable during war for their use in industry. Their physical strength is needed for the manufacture of important items like radar as well as the tools for manufacturing weapons and vehicles.

So, when the Third Reich launched its massive assault through the low countries, Britain sent agents to buy, steal, and capture Dutch diamonds before the Germans could. Most concentrated on buying stockpiles and accepting bags of them from Jewish traders for safekeeping, but one officer actually broke into a massive vault and made away with the jewels just as Nazi paratroopers hit the building.

2. Bat and bird crap

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Guano mines were an important source of saltpeter for munitions production. (Photo: Public Domain)

So, this one is probably the most surprising, but large deposits of bat and bird feces were actually a huge deal from soon after the invention of gunpowder through World War I. That’s because the animals have diets filled with insects and their feces are often filled with saltpeter, one of the key ingredients for gunpowder.

And major countries fought for large crap deposits. Spain invaded Peru and fought an alliance that included Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador over the Chincha Islands in the 1860s. A Confederate regiment had to guard the deposits in Austin, Texas, for use in the Civil War. And one of Japan’s prizes in World War II was Nauru, a crap-soaked island between Hawaii and New Zealand.

1. Fish oil

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British commandos burn fish oil facilities in the Lofoten Islands in World War II. (Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Not the stuff you get in capsules from nature made, we’re talking about huge vats of fish fats. The chemicals in the fish fat included glycerine, a crucial propellant for modern weapons. And that high flammability turns fish oil fires into massive columns of black smoke.

In World War II, this turned Norway and other countries that relied on the fishing industry into targets for the two sides. The Germans captured Norwegian fishing villages but failed to fortify them well, so the British and Canadian militaries sent commandos to trash the facilities and burn them to the ground, robbing the Germans of needed supplies and forcing them to defend far-flung facilities.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The amazing way this Israeli pilot survived a birdstrike

An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.


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Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.

“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”

His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

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This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.

The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.

It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.

The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

Letters in the forgotten war: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

She was the first woman to receive both Purple Heart and Bronze Star

Lt. Col. Cordelia “Betty” Cook was the first woman to earn both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

In an era when women were still protesting to earn the right to vote, Lt. Col. Cook rose through the military ranks to become one of the most highly decorated female service members of WWII. At a time when few women were serving, and those who were serving in active duty positions were segregated into “women’s only” units, her actions in combat highlighted not only her strength and resilience, but her dedication to duty and country. Here’s the story of how she earned both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.


Early life

Born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Cook was the middle of five children. Historical accounts of her early life are sparse, but it’s been suggested by military historians that Cook showed an aptitude for nursing early on. Her family encouraged her to pursue her education, so Cook attended Christ Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied there for three years before becoming a surgical nurse and commissioning with the Army. Immediately after her commission, Cook was sent to Europe to aid and assist the medical corps already in place there.

Italian Bombing

Cook quickly became immersed in her work and was said to refuse time off, even when she was offered leave. She gained a reputation as being a kind and compassionate nurse who would go above and beyond the call of duty.

At the outset of the landing of Allied troops in Italy, the German forces were at a distinct advantage. Battles in the region were fierce and brutal, and the terrain favored the Germans, who used the Apennine Mountains to their advantage.

It was at her first duty station that Lt. Col. Cook’s field hospital where she worked was bombed. Despite the apparent danger to her own life, Cook did everything she could to administer medicine to the wounded.

In 1944, following the bombing of the field hospital where she worked, Cook was transferred to the 11th Field Hospital in the Presenzano sector of the Italian front.

The Presenzano sector’s importance

Allied personnel landed in Italy in September 1943. Within a month, they liberated Naples and crossed the Volturno River, effectively pinning down the German forces. However, by the end of the year, the German Army’s 23 divisions were reinforced and consisted of 215,000 troops in the south and 265,000 in the north. South of Rome, Germany had three major defensive lines: the Barbara Line, which stretched from Monte Massico to Presenzano; the Reinhard Line, forty miles north of Naples; and the Gustav Line, which interlocked defenses and spread along the narrowest point of the country.

Being stationed at the 11th Field Hospital in Presenzano meant that Lt. Col. Cook was at risk every time she reported for duty. Cook was awarded the Bronze Star for her work at the hospital. Shortly after being awarded the Bronze Star, Cook sustained a shrapnel injury from German artillery fire. Even though she was on duty, Cook completed her shift. For this, she earned the Purple Heart.

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​(Wikimedia Commons

First woman to receive both awards

The Purple Heart Medal is presented to service members who have been wounded as a result of enemy actions. Since its creation in 1782, more than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to service members.

Like the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to service members for heroic or meritorious deeds performed while in armed conflict. The Bronze Star dates to WWII and is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive.

After the war

Following the end of WWII, Cook returned to the Midwest, where she settled in Columbus, Ohio. She married Harold E. Fillmore, an Army Captain. Together, they had three children, a daughter and two sons. Lt. Col. Cook worked for almost thirty years as a nurse at Doctors Hospital North in Columbus, Ohio.

Lt. Col. Cook certainly paved the way for women of future generations and has helped inspire female service members across all military branches. The fact that she has been recognized for her valor during a war is a good start in bringing to light the valuable contributions of female service members.


Articles

This cockpit video shows the moment two Navy Tomcats shot down Libyan MiGs

One of the more constant sources of action for the United States Navy in the 1980s was the Gulf of Sidra.


On three occasions, “freedom of navigation” exercises turned into violent encounters, an operational risk that all such exercises have. The 1989 incident where two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32, based on board the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) is very notable – especially since the radio communications and some of the camera footage was released at the time.

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In 1981, two Su-22 Fitters had fired on a pair of Tomcats. The F-14s turned around and blasted the Fitters out of the sky. Five years later, the Navy saw several combat engagements with Libyan navy assets and surface-to-air missile sites.

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In the 1989 incident, the Tomcats made five turns to try to avoid combat, according to TheAviationist.com. The Floggers insisted, and ultimately, the Tomcat crews didn’t wait for hostile fire.

Like Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina, they shot first.

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An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

So, here is the full video of the incident – from the time contact was acquired to when the two Floggers went down.

Articles

Mattis boosts troops’ morale with impromptu epic speech

Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.


Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.

Related: This is proof that Mattis knows exactly how to talk to the troops

Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.

“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”

Also Read: This is what happens when the ‘Mother of Dragons’ channels Mad Dog Mattis

Check out this cell phone video below to hear Mattis’ words that improved the spirit of these deployed service members.


(h/t to U.S. Army W.T.F! moments)