Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

It is 100 years to the day, June 26, 1918, since an obscure wood 50 miles from Paris, the Bois de Belleau, was captured by U.S. forces in a protracted battle of World War I. During those weeks the wood had become a focal point of American military hopes, an early and vital display of the American Expeditionary Force’s capability on the battlefield. The bloody encounter occupies a special place in the annals of U.S. military history. Patrick Gregory looks at what happened there and asks why the battle still stands out.

In late April 2018, a photo opportunity featuring the presidents of the United States and France and their wives planting a tree was beamed across the world. What seemed to attract as much publicity at the time was the fact that the young tree in question was removed soon after the ceremony, taken into temporary quarantine. What achieved less attention was where the sapling had come from or why — Belleau Wood.


As with most such scenes of slaughter of the First World War, the Bois de Belleau is as quiet now as it doubtless was before the fighting which erupted there in June 1918. And that fighting was brutal. What happened there was an important moment in the contribution of the United States in the First World War. It was also an important moment in the development of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
Strong dugouts in holes under huge rocks, in Belleau Woods, France.
(Library of Congress photo )

By May 1918 the U.S. had been a combatant in Europe for over a year; yet American troops, still arriving in France, had to date only played a supporting role. That was all going to change. American Expeditionary Force commander John Pershing had stubbornly resisted Allied efforts to co-opt his men — a regiment here, a regiment there — to add to their own ranks, remaining determined to train and assemble a fully-fledged army of his own.

The moment of truth now arrived to test those men in battle: May 28, 1918, the first full U.S.-led offensive of the war. Led by Pershing’s trusted First Division, the ‘Big Red One’ under Robert Bullard attacked at Cantigny in northern France, 20 miles from Amiens. Of limited strategic value, perhaps, but the three-day battle was a success, demonstrating that the Americans could fight. It was a shot in the arm for the AEF, a much needed psychological boost after all the months’ waiting.

However, of more immediate concern to the Allies was a new and deadly enemy offensive which had been unleashed during this time 50 miles south-east: one cutting easily through Allied lines and driving further south towards the river Marne, leaving German forces within striking distance of Paris.

On May 30 two separate American divisions, the 2nd & 3rd, were ordered into the Marne area, arriving from different directions east and west. A machine gun battalion of the latter secured the south bank of the river at the key bridgehead of Château-Thierry, as other of their number began to take up position.

But the main action of the weeks ahead would lie north-west of the town, involving men of the 2nd Division; in particular, two of their regiments, a brigade of Marines led by Pershing’s old chief of staff James Harbord. It would be their efforts to secure a woodland there that would capture headlines, helped in part by the purple prose of journalist Floyd Gibbons.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
Lt. Col. James Harbord, right, with Gen. John Pershing, 1917.
(Library of Congress photo )

Belleau Wood was barely more than a mile long and half a mile wide, yet it would cost many lives to capture and would be reported across the world. “It was perhaps a small battle in terms of World War I,” says Professor Andrew Wiest of the University of Southern Mississippi, “but it was outsized in historic importance. It was the battle that meant that the U.S. had arrived.”

Yet as operations go — as brave and resolute as the troops were throughout — it was poorly planned and badly commanded, certainly in its opening phases. After adjacent areas were captured on the morning of June 6, the decision was taken to advance on the wood that afternoon from two directions, west and south. The former was led by a battalion of 5th Marines under Benjamin Berry; the southern attack undertaken by Berton Sibley’s battalion of 6th Marines, supported on their right by 23rd Infantry from the division’s other regular army brigade.

But little reconnaissance had been carried out in advance as to what to expect when they got there and only scant artillery fire was laid down beforehand. Inside, German machine gunners had taken up positions in defensive holes, behind rocky outcrops and shielded by dense undergrowth. Worse, the Marines now advanced towards them in rank formation over the exposed ground outside, with Berry’s western advance particularly exposed. They were slaughtered. By nightfall 222 were dead and over 850 wounded.

Bloodied but remaining focused on the task, the men went again the next day. And the one after that. Yet little headway was made. An intense 24-hour artillery barrage was belatedly ordered, followed by yet another assault. Headway was finally made but casualties continued to mount as the German troops clung on in the farthermost reaches of the wood. The 7th Infantry from the neighboring 3rd Division was called in for some days to help lighten the load.

The fighting labored on for three weeks and in its final stages, foot by foot, hand to hand, it intensified in savagery. Artillery shells and guns now gave way to bayonets and “toad-stickers,” 8-inch triangular blades set on knuckle-handles, as the Marines slashed their way through the last of their enemy. But finally word came through on the morning of June 26 from Major Maurice Shearer: “Belleau Wood now US Marine Corps entirely.”

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
In Belleau Wood where Americans gave Germany her first fatal check
(Library of Congress photo )


As the story goes, German officers, in their battle reports, referred to the Marines as Teufelshunde “Devil Dogs”; and journalist Floyd Gibbons also helped, singling out one gunnery sergeant in dispatches as “Devil Dog Dan.” Either way, the name and image stuck and went on to become a celebrated symbol of the Marines.

“It was the day the U.S. Marines went from being a small force few people knew about to personifying elite status in the US. military,” says Andrew Wiest. The corps had roots dating back to the American War of Independence, but from Belleau developed much of the corps’ modern lore and myth.

More significantly, and of strategic importance, their intervention at Belleau and that of their 2nd and 3rd Division colleagues in the surrounding area on the Marne put paid to the German advance, at what was a dangerous moment in the war for the Allies.

The commander of the U.S. First Division Robert Lee Bullard subsequently declared: “The Marines didn’t win the war here. But they saved the Allies from defeat. Had they arrived a few hours later I think that would have been the beginning of the end. France could not have stood the loss of Paris.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: George A. Custer charges into Manassas

Famous Maj. Gen. George A. Custer is probably best known for his exploits after the Civil War, but he graduated from West Point in June 1861, arriving in the regular Army just in time to lead cavalrymen in the First Battle of Bull Run that July. Yeah, Custer rode into combat the month after he graduated college.


Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Cadet George A. Custer at West Point in 1859.

(Public domain)

The First Battle of Bull Run, or the First Battle of Manassas as it was known in the South, focused on the railroad intersection at Manassas. The railroads that intersected there were key to Washington’s ability to send troops and supplies south into Virginia in case of an invasion of the South. Both sides knew this and wanted to control the junction.

The South stationed an army there, but those men largely fell back when 30,000 Union troops assembled nearby in June 1861. Just weeks later, the field commander of the Union Army, Gen. Irvin McDowell, proposed using his 30,000 men to further drive back the Confederate defenders and then advance on Richmond. His goal was to capture the Virginia capital, recently selected as the second capital of the Confederacy.

While the Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard had fallen back when the Union troops showed up, they were obviously not willing to leave the capital undefended. They had to fight the Union at Manassas Junction.

Custer arrived in Washington D.C. on July 20, 1861, the day before the battle broke out. He had been held on West Point’s campus for disciplinary reasons right after he had graduated from the school as the 34th ranked student in a class of 34. Because of his late start after this detainment, he barely reached D.C. in time for the battle.

He reported to the Adjutant-General’s office and was told that he had been assigned as an officer in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. (This was an auspicious assignment. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee had commanded the unit until January 1861.)

But after giving Custer his orders, the adjutant offered to introduce Custer to Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott. At the time, Scott was the Commanding General of the United States Army. Custer gave his assent, and Scott asked Custer if he would rather spend the following weeks training recruits or if he desired “something more active?”

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

A Union artillery battery is overran at the First Battle of Bull Run.

(Sidney King, public domain via Good Free Photos)

Custer said he wanted more active work, and Scott ordered him to procure a horse and report back by 7 p.m. to carry dispatches to McDowell, the field commander. Custer did so, introduced himself to the general and his staff, and then reported to his regiment.

Because of West Point’s detaining him, Scott had managed to ingratiate himself with the Army’s top commander and its top field commander mere hours before its first engagement, a fight he would now ride in. It was a pretty great start for a bottom-of-his-class West Pointer.

But when the actual battle touched off, Custer was present and in the saddle, but did not see serious action. The Union commanders had seven cavalry troops on the field, but largely used them attached to infantry brigades where they would, at most, protect the infantry’s flanks or do a little reconnaissance.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Custer, on the right, as a captain after he captured one of his West Point classmates.

(Library of Congress)

Still, he made himself present and provided warnings to commanders, leading to a citation in reports from the battle and impressing George C. McClellan. The battle went badly for the Union, and McDowell was removed from command. That might seem like a problem for the cavalry officer who had just impressed McDowell, but McDowell was replaced by McClellan.

As McClellan re-organized and re-trained the Union military, he kept an eye on Custer who was quickly impressing others, largely through brash actions. During the Peninsula Campaign, he saw a debate about whether it was safe to ford a river and ended the argument by riding into the middle of it and reporting that, yeah, he wasn’t dead. It was probably fine.

His bravado earned him fans, and his connections to top officers got him looked at for commands that a young officer likely wouldn’t have gotten looked at for. In fact, he rose so quickly that he received a brevet promotion to brigadier general of volunteers at the tender age of 23.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese military deploys armored vehicles to Germany for the first time

The Chinese military has deployed military personnel and armored medical vehicles to Germany for joint drills, a first for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as it attempts to forge closer ties with Europe.

The joint exercise — Combined Aid 2019 — is focused on preparing troops with the medical service units of the Chinese and German armed forces to respond to humanitarian crises, such as mass casualty incidents and serious disease outbreaks, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported.

The exercise follows a cooperative military medical training exercise in 2016 in Chongqing, where the PLA and the German Bundeswehr practiced responding to an imaginary earthquake scenario.


“We’ve seen China increasing its participation in these kinds of activities. It provides a low risk means to demonstrate its commitment to global governance, which may help reduce anxiety about its growing military capabilities,” China watcher Matthew Funaiole, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told INSIDER.

“Training exercises also help improve its coordination and logistics, which is helpful for the modernization process,” he added.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Chinese troops in Germany.

(German military)

The PLA’s paramedical forces have been stepping up their participation in this type of cooperative training. These troops have even been deployed to humanitarian crisis zones, such as the Ebola outbreak in certain parts of Africa.

Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that there may be more to the Chinese military’s activities than preparing for crises.

“The PLA in the future will need to go abroad to protect China’s overseas interests in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative,” he explained. “If there could be some basic mutual trust and understanding with NATO forces, the risk of potential conflict could be greatly mitigated.”

The Belt and Road Initiative refers to a massive Chinese-led project designed to position China at the heart of a vast, far-reaching global trade network.

Wany Yiwei, a European studies expert at Renmin University of China, stressed that uncertainty as a result of the Trump administration’s “America First” policy has created new opportunities for China and Europe.

“As the leader of the EU, Germany has said that Europe should take charge of its own security,” he told the Hong Kong-based SCMP. “It is also a brand new world security situation now, as both China and Europe would want to hedge their risks in dealing with the US.”

Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, told Stars and Stripes that “the presence of the Chinese military in Germany for this exercise creates very bad optics for Germany, NATO and the US and is a cheap propaganda victory for China.”

Last year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) conducted its first combined exercise with the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) in waters near China’s new military base in Djibouti. It marked an unprecedented level of cooperation at that time.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 cool photos of the Coast Guard escorting tall ships

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, holds an annual sailing festival that features all sorts of ships and boats making their way up the Piscataqua River. One of the big attractions at the festival, when they come, are “tall ships,” full-rigged sailing vessels reminiscent of the days of European colonialism — and the pirates who preyed on them.


Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

Of course, with so many ships moving through coastal waters and into river waters, the Coast Guard has a role in ensuring that everyone passes through safely. Coast Guard vessels escort the tall ships for parts of their journeys.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The ships spend a lot of their time providing educational programs to local students and residents, even training selected high school students in crewing the ships.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The fun isn’t just reserved for the students. For between and 0, you can buy a ticket to ride for a short distance and enjoy a few drinks while aboard — you’ll also be treated to the antics of an on-board pirate actor.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The actors playing pirates also do a bit of educating while on shore, but there’s nothing quite like learning about piracy while slightly buzzed on a classic tall ship.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

Of course, if the pirates get too crazy, the Coast Guard is always there. Sure, the Revenue Cutter Service didn’t have a perfect record against real-world pirates, and that ship is significantly smaller than the tall ships, but the tall ships lack the cannons of their forebears. If necessary, you can always jump over the side to reach Coasties and safety.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng)

Quick bonus photo of the Coast Guard’s own tall ship, the USCGC Eagle. Here are some fun facts for you: This 295-foot sailing vessel was commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 of the stupidest wars ever fought in world history

There are a lot of good reasons humans have gone to war in the past few centuries, believe it or not. Halting or preventing genocides, declaring independence to give oppressed people a homeland, and of course, defending ones homeland from an invader would all be good reasons to take up arms against another country.

These wars were none of those things, and are presented in no particular order.


Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

It is, admittedly, a nice bucket.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

While the War of the Oaken Bucket sounds more like a college gameday rivalry, it was really a 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, that killed 2,000 people. It was really a proxy war between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and before I get too far into the details here, what you really need to know is that it was started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well.

Even dumber is lopsided victory the Modenese won in defending that bucket. At the Battle of Zappolino, some 32,000 Bolognese marched on 7,000 Modenese – and were chased from the battlefield.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Surprisingly unrelated to the ongoing debate over Canadian bacon being real bacon.

The Pig War

This is a war that could have devolved into a much larger conflict, which makes it even stupider than it sounds. On San Juan Island, between the mainland United States and Canada’s Vancouver Island, was shared by both American settlers and British employees of the Hudson Bay Company. While the island was “shared” in practice, both countries had a claim to the northwestern island and it created a lot of tensions in the region. Those tensions boiled over in June 1859 when an American farmer shot a British boar for tearing up his potato crop. Arguments ensued and the farmer was almost arrested by the British.

The U.S. Army got wind of the situation and sent Capt. George Pickett (later of Pickett’s Charge fame) with a company of soldiers, who promptly declared the island American property. Of course the British responded by sending in its trump card, the Royal Navy. For weeks, it appeared the standoff would spark a greater war between the two powers, but cooler heads prevailed and the sides took joint custody of the island.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Adwarable.

War of the Stray Dog

Another war that is exactly what it sounds like, except this one really did cause a number of deaths, as well as a 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog, even though it ran across the Greek border with Bulgaria. Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, of course shot him.

The Greeks then began an invasion of Bulgaria, occupying border towns and preparing to shell and take the city off Petrich before the League of Nations intervened, negotiating a cease fire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

In 1964, country music star Johnny Cash released an unconventional album. It was called Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, and it was a radical departure from Cash’s previous release five months prior, “I Walk the Line.” The album was a concept album and was entirely dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Native Americans.


The lead single of the album was called “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Most Americans at the point had either forgotten who he was or had no idea who he was to begin with. But everyone in the United States and most people around the world had definitely seen his picture. He was in one of the most famous photographs in world history.

Ira Hayes
Ira Hayes
Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Ira Hayes was one of six Marines that were photographed by Joe Rosenthal on the summit of Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was part of a group that was ordered to take down the first flag raised and replace it with a bigger flag so that it would be seen better. As the flag went up, Rosenthal took a couple of snaps (he almost missed the flag raising looking for rocks to use as a stand) and had the pictures flown out to Guam. When the film was developed, the photo editor of the AP claimed it was “one for all ages” and had it sent to New York. It was immediately sent around the world 17 hours after it was taken. It won the Pulitzer Prize that year and became one of the most iconic photographs ever taken. And it was about to push into the limelight a young man who had always tried to avoid it.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

www.history.navy.mil

Gather ’round me people
There’s a story I would tell
‘Bout a brave young Indian
You should remember well
From the land of the Pima Indian
A proud and noble band
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley
In Arizona land
Down the ditches a thousand years
The waters grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
‘Til the white man stole their water rights
And the sparkling water stopped
Now, Ira’s folks were hungry
And their land grew crops of weeds
When war came, Ira volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed

Ira Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Community, a reservation in Arizona. He was the son of a World War I vet and was the eldest of six children, of which two died in infancy, and two died in their 20s. Life on the reservation was hard. His father was a farmer but farmed on land that was almost unsuitable for farming big crops. He was only able to grow enough to sustain the family. Hayes was a Pima Indian, who were traditionally famers. However, the U.S. government moved the Pima to an area around the Gila River where the land was not too agreeable with an agricultural lifestyle. An effort to build a dam that would send water to the community instead flowed toward a nearby white community, which led many Pima to think the government was trying to kill them off. Hayes grew up as one of the few kids that could speak English and learned to read and write. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was one of the millions of kids that went to join the military.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
There they battled up Iwo Jima hill
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived
To walk back down again
And when the fight was over
And Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes

Hayes graduated from boot camp in San Diego and was designated a Paramarine (this was a shortlived MOS that was essentially an airborne Marine). He earned his wings and went off to fight in Bouganville in the South Pacific. He then was assigned to 5th Marine Division and started training for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima.

Hayes landed with his unit at the base of Mt Suribachi 75 years ago. On February 23, the was to accompany his Sergeant, Mike Strank up Mt Suribachi to replace the smaller American flag that had just been raised with a bigger one. One of the Marines that joined him was his friend, Harlan Block. After they raised the flag, they continued on to fight for another five weeks. The battle was much more ferocious than expected with the Japanese fighting to the last man while trying to inflict as many casualites. The Marines fought bravely but endured a terrible toll in taking the island. Hayes himself watched his friend, Block die as well as Sergeant Strank.

At the end of the battle, Hayes emerged physically unscathed, but the mental and emotional toll was heavy. In his platoon of 45 men, only 5 were left when the battle was over.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated through the land
He was wined and speeched and honored
Everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian
No water, no home, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when did the Indians dance
Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Within two weeks of leaving Iwo, Hayes and the two other living flag raisers, Rene Gagnon and James Bradley were put on a plane and flown to Washington, D.C. Before he died, Franklin Roosevelt wanted them to be paraded around the country to raise money for war bonds. The war in Japan still needed to be won, and the loss of American life so far had not sat well with the public that wanted their boys home. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman knew the flag raisers would be instrumental in raising money for the war. Raising the Iwo Jima flag over the U.S. Capitol, they then went to New York and around the country. For Hayes, there were a few things bothering him. First, he knew that his friend Harlan Block was one of the flag raisers and somehow was misidentified as someone else. He told officers at Headquarters Marine Corps what happened, and they told him the names were released, and it was too late. He was ordered to keep quiet. The second was he was suffering from what we now know as survivors guilt and PTSD. He just wanted to head back to his unit and be with his friends. He was able to leave the tour early and headed back and was part of the occupation force of Japan.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Then Ira started drinking hard
Jail was often his home
They let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone
He died drunk early one morning
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water and a lonely ditch
Was a grave for Ira Hayes

After the war, Ira Hayes had a few years as a minor celebrity. People would stop by the reservation to say hi, he recreated his role in a John Wayne movie, and attended ceremonies honoring his role in the flag raising. He tried to make things right and hitchhiked 1,300 miles to see the family of Harlan Block. He told them their son was one of the flag raisers and wrote a letter they could present in which he gave details on how to prove it (the boots Block and Hayes wore were Paratrooper boots and different than the other Marines). But the guilt and trauma that Hayes endured were too much. He also dealt with the racism Native Americans faced when he traveled. Once he went to visit a war buddy and wasn’t allowed on the property because he was Indian. He had to wait on the road until his friend arrived home. He couldn’t hold a job and became an alcoholic. When he was back in Arizona, things got worse. Farming was impossible, there were few resources, and there was nothing to do but drink. He was arrested over 50 times for public intoxication. When asked about his drinking he said, “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.”

Hayes died on Jan. 24, 1955. He was found next to an abandoned hut on the reservation, dead of exposure and alcohol poisoning. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

live.staticflickr.com

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died
A decade later, Johnny Cash decided he would create an album about how Native Americans were treated in the USA. Cash at the time, believed he was part Cherokee and took up a cause that few cared or even knew about. For his Bitter Tears album, he used several songs from his friend, songwriter and Korean veteran Peter LaFarge. One of the songs was a song, LaFarge had written about Hayes.

In the lead up to its release the album proved controversial. Radio stations and fans balked at the political nature of the song, and stations refused to play it. Cash was so angered he took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine in which he called out those who were boycotting the song and album seen here.

The song would end up being a hit, rising up to #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles.

For Ira Hayes, his heroism and tragic life would be immortalized forever not, just by a photograph but also a song.

popular

The top 6 drinking games to keep troops entertained over a weekend

The military has a multitude of traditions involving alcohol that one generation passes onto the next. The Marine Corps has a tradition called Mess Night, which is essentially a unit wide drinking game in our dress blues. It gets messy, ridiculous and fun. However, you don’t have to dress like a Marine to drink like one. Here are 6 drinking games to keep troops entertained over a weekend at the barracks.

1. Movies

Play with a group of three or greater sitting in a circle. The second player is the person sitting to the first player’s right. The first player says a movie title, the second player says a movie title that starts with the same letter the previous title ends with (example: First player says ‘Jurassic Park,’ second player has to say a movie that starts with ‘K’). The third player does the same until someone can’t think of a movie title and drinks. Movies that start with ‘the’ in the title will instead start with the first letter of first actual word in the title. If a title starts and ends with the same letter the rotation reverses. Players can only name a movie title once per round. When a player loses, the round resets and all titles are fair game again. If a player needs time to think they can drink their beer until it is finished and lose.

2. Never have I ever

The first player states ‘Never have I ever..’ and finishes the sentence with something they have never done but will cause the most amount of players to drink. The next player does the same until all drinks are gone. For hardcore mode, each player holds up three fingers and puts one down when they have done the act that’s mentioned and takes a shot instead.

3. Most Likely

Similar to Never Have I Ever, players sit in a circle and say something that is most likely someone in the group would do. The group counts down from three and everyone points to whomever is the person most likely to do what the player said. That person drinks and it becomes their turn to say something. If there is a tie both players play rock, paper, scissors and the loser drinks instead.

4. Paranoia

This is a great for parties as an ongoing drinking game during the evening. A random player whispers something to another in the form of a question. The receiving player points to a person playing the game and shouts their name. If the person who is being pointed at wants to know the question that was asked they must drink to hear it.

5. Beer Pong

drinking game

I had to include this staple drinking game because it is as American as apple pie. Two teams, single or doubles, face off across a table with cups of water shaped into a cone. Set aside beers equal to the number of cups. Each team must shoot a ping pong ball into the other team’s cups and if they make it an opponent must drink a beer. The side with no cups loses and must drink the other the other teams remaining beers.

Note: House rules vary, it is important to declare them before the match starts. The host is in charge of stating the rules before playing. Rules could be: if reracks are allowed and how many, what happens when a ball double bounces and makes it, if an auto loss happens when a player is holding a cup and another ball is thrown into that cup, etc.

6. Kings Cup – Marine Corps Version

There are several variations for the set up of Kings cup, also known as ‘Kings’. The Marine Corps version has a deck of 52 cards placed in a circle around a can of beer. Players sit in a circle and take turns picking up a card. Each card has a rule that must be followed. When that player’s turn is over they place the spent card under the tab of the beer can. If the seal is broken before the end of the game the player who broke the seal must chug the can. The following are the most common rules for each card in the game.

Ace: ‘Waterfall’ The player who reveals the card declares ‘Waterfall’ and all players drink in order starting from the left until the circle is complete. No one can stop drinking until the first player stops and others stop in turn. If the player before you does not stop you cannot stop either.
Two: ‘You’ Pick two people to drink. You can also pick one person and make them drink twice.
Three: ‘Me’ Take a drink.
Four: ‘Floor’ last person to touch the floor drinks.
Five: ‘Thumbs’ Also known as ‘Thumb Master’ the player who picks this card can place their thumb on the table. When other players see the thumb on the table, they must also place it on the table. The last person to place their thumb drinks. The next player to pick a five is the new ‘Thumb Master’.
Six: ‘chicks/males’ All males drink. If females are playing, their card is ‘four’ instead of ‘floor’.
Seven: ‘Heaven’ The last person to place their hand in the air drinks.
Eight: ‘Mate’ – Pick someone in the group, whenever you drink they drink until someone picks up another eight.
Nine: ‘Rhyme’ Choose a word, and the person to your left has to think of a word that rhymes with it. Repeat until someone uses a word that was already used or hesitates. That person loses and drinks.
Ten: ‘Categories’ pick a category, and everyone must go round the circle taking it in turns to name something within that category. If someone hesitates or repeats a word already used they drink.
Jack: ‘Rule’ Make up rule that is followed for the rest of the game.
Queen: ‘Question’ Just like Thumbs, you ask a question and if a person answers they must drink. This is an ongoing role until someone else picks up a queen. The key is to ask nonchalantly so they have their guard down and you get them to drink.
King: ‘Pour/Drink’ – The player who reveals the last King card must drink the beer in the center.

Articles

19 of the coolest military unit mottos

Just about every military unit has a motto of sorts, but some are way cooler than others.


From “get some” to “fire from the clouds,” we looked around the world for some of the military’s best mottos. Here’s what we found:

1. “Whatever It Takes”

1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor — the first for the battalion.

2. “Get Some”

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.

3. “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”

US Navy SEALs: SEAL training isn’t easy, and neither is the day-to-day job. While individual SEAL Teams, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Coronado, Calif., and Little Creek, Va., have their own mottos and phrases, the community’s feeling about hard work is summed up in this motto.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
Photo: US Navy

4. “Balls of the Corps”

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps.

5. “Peace Through Strength”

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76): Commissioned in 2003, the Ronald Reagan is a nuclear-powered supercarrier homeported in Coronado, Calif. Named after the 40th president, the “Gipper” takes its motto from a mantra Reagan adopted while countering the Soviet Union.

6. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
U.S. Marines with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit run on the beach during an amphibious assault demonstration conducted as part of Exercise Bright Star 2009 in Alexandria, Egypt, on Oct. 12, 2009. The multinational exercise is designed to improve readiness and interoperability and strengthen the military and professional relationships among U.S., Egyptian and other participating forces. Bright Star is conducted by U.S. Central Command and held every two years. DoD photo by Cpl. Theodore W. Ritchie, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

7. “Retreat Hell”

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.

8. “Molon Labe” (Greek for “Come and take them”)

I Army Corps (Greece): This former Greek Army unit (disbanded in 2013) had the Spartans’ King Leonidas to thank for its awesome motto. When the Persians told them to lay down their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas defiantly responded in the most badass way possible.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

9. “Better to die than to be a coward”

The Royal Gurkha Rifles (United Kingdom): The Gurkha Rifles are a very unique regiment of the British Army, since its members are recruited from Nepal. Known as the “bravest of the brave,” the battlefield heroics of the Gurkhas made international headlines in 2010, with the actions of Cpl. Dipprasad Pun.

While alone at a Helmand checkpoint that became surrounded by 12 to 30 Taliban fighters, Pun shot more than 400 rounds, chucked 17 grenades, set off a Claymore mine, and even threw his tripod from his machine gun at a bad guy. He received the second highest military award for his heroics, The Daily Mail reported.

10. “Facta Non Verba” (Latin for “Deeds, Not Words”)

Joint Task Force 2 (Canada): Based out of Ottawa, Canada, JTF 2 is an elite special operations force. It’s basically Canada’s version of Navy SEAL Team 6. The unit has deployed all over the world, although most of its actions remain secret.

11. “Mors Ab Alto” (Latin for “Death from Above”)

7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

12. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”

2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”

13. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin for “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”)

Royal Navy (United Kingdom): The Royal Navy’s motto is a lot like the USS Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” except a bit more badass. The latin phrase comes from Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a Roman author who penned the Iron Age version of a military technical manual.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
HMS Vanguard (Photo: Defence Imagery)

14. “Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen!” (German for “learn to suffer without complaining!”)

Kampfschwimmer (Germany): This elite unit from Germany wants its members to know they should just suck it up. Which makes sense, since the Kampfschwimmers of the German Navy are that country’s version of US Navy SEALs. Like most other special operations forces, its size and operations are classified.

15. “De Oppresso Liber” (Latin for “To liberate the oppressed”)

U.S. Army Special Forces: Created in 1952, Special Forces is known for producing elite warriors, with a primary focus on unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. With those tasks, many soldiers have lived up to the motto, by going to both friendly and un-friendly nations to train and support militaries, rebel groups, and engaged in combat around the world.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
ODA 525 team picture taken shortly before infiltration in Iraq, February 1991 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

16. “Semper Malus” (Latin for “Always Ugly”)

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.

17. “Fire From The Clouds”

33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.

18. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood
Photo: Lance Cpl Asia J. Sorenson/USMC

19. “Make Peace or Die”

1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”

DON’T MISS: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

MIGHTY CULTURE

Frosted Misery: A Navy SEAL in SERE school

SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.

I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.


To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)

The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.

SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)

The Snow and the Cold

My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.

In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.

The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Hunger

Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.

In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

The Slap

So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.

Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.

Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

The Almost-Meal

As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.

This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.

And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.

Looking back on the 100-year-old Battle of Belleau Wood

The End

Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.

Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.

Good times.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Israeli Air Force just won the Tetris Challenge

Since Sept. 1, 2019, when Zurich police published a photo on social media of two officers lying on the ground, surrounded by the contents of their car, laid out in a geometric pattern and pictured from above, police departments, firefighters, first responders as well as air force squadrons and other military units from all around the world have joined in, photographing their work equipment (and even service members) in this peculiar way.


The Tetris Challenge has since then conquered the Internet, making the rounds across all the social networks. The challenge is inspired by “knolling.” a term that dates back to 1987, and it involves organizing objects and tools on the floor at right angles, allowing you to see every item clearly in a photograph. This has often been done ahead of travels, by photographers and journalists, collecting all their stuff in the same place to organize the trip. In the last few weeks, Tetris Challenge has become a way to showcase all the pieces of hardware (and personnel) that make up a service or system.

יום ניקיונות בחצרים שהפך לאתגר הטטריס הגדול ביותר

www.youtube.com

If you google “Tetris Challenge”, you will find many examples of interesting shots taken from the above. Here you can find an interesting post by our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone.

But, the Challenge, when it deals with military aviation stuff, has probably a brand new winner: the Israeli Air Force.

The IAF has published on Twitter a shot taken by Rotem Rogovsky and Daniel Levatovsky from SKYPRO at Hatzerim Air Base with a Tetris Challenge image that gathers the F-15I Ra’am of the 69 Sq; the F-16I Sufa of the 107 Sq, the M-346 Lavi of the 102 Sq, as well as the G-120A Snunit, the OH-58B Saifan and the T-6A Efroni of the Flight Training Shool. Not only are the aircraft worth a look, but also their accompanying weapons, including the Israeli-developed, SPICE 2000 EO/GPS-guided bombs. Interestingly, even the only airworthy PT-17 (Stearman Model 75) of the Israeli Air Force maintained at the museum in Hatzerim can be seen in the photo.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information