This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Standing among the greatest warriors are the troops who go above and beyond the call of duty for their comrades when the odds are at their slimmest. This is the story of Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au.

Herbert K. Pilila’au was a native Hawaiian, born and raised on the island of O’ahu. Those who knew him growing up would describe him as a gentle kid who would spend much of his time reading the Bible and listening to classical music.


He was drafted into the Korean War at the age of 22 and attended Basic Training at Fort Shafter. His peers were in awe as they watched the stillest, quietest soldier in their company turn out to be the most physically fit and strong of the recruits. Despite being the most talked-about soldier, he remained humble and continually wrote home.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
A home not too far from the Pilila’au Army Rec Center, lateru00a0named in his honor.
(Photo courtesy of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation – Hawaii)

Very shortly after basic training, he was attached to Charlie Company of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and entered the fray in Gangwon Province, Korea. He volunteered to be the squad’s automatic rifleman saying, “someone had to do it.”

He first showed his prowess in battle alongside the rest of the 23rd Infantry Regiment as they fought at the Battle of Bloody Ridge in August of 1951. This victory lead United Nations troops to march on what is now known as the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
The battle for these hills would end up costing the lives of 3,700 American and French GIs.
(Courtesy of the National Archives)

Pilila’au would meet his destiny on September 17th, 1951, when his platoon was tasked with protecting the ridge-line of Hill 931. After suffering a barrage of North Korean artillery strikes on their position, his platoon was forced to retreat. As they started to rejoin the rest of the unit, North Korean infantrymen descended on their position.

Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au volunteered himself to cover the retreat of the rest of his platoon with his Browning Automatic Rifle. He laid fire into every North Korean that came his way until he ran out of bullets. He then switched to throwing every grenade he had with him. When the grenades were gone, he pulled out his trench knife and carved into any attacker he could while punching them with his free hand. It was only after his platoon was safe that he would be surrounded and, finally, fall to an enemy bayonet.

When his platoon retook the position the next day, they discovered the bodies of forty North Koreans around his. He was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. On June 18th, 1952, Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and became the first Native Hawaiian to receive the United States Military’s highest decoration.

Articles

That time a parachuting airman shot down a Zero with nothing but a handgun

If you take a peek at a list of pilots who were considered flying aces during WW2, you’ll notice that the top of the list is dominated by Luftwaffe pilots, some of whom scored hundreds of aerial victories during the war. While their skill and prowess in the air is undeniable, it’s arguable that the finest display in aerial combat during WW2 was achieved, mostly by luck, by an American B-24 co-pilot when he scored a single enemy kill with nothing but a handgun, at about 4,000-5,000 feet (about 1.3 km) in altitude, and without a plane. This is the story of Owen Baggett.


Born in 1920 in Texas, after finishing high school, Baggett moved to the city of Abilene to enroll in Hardin–Simmons University. While we were unable to discern what Baggett studied from the sparse amount of information available about his early life, the fact that he went to work at Johnson and Company Investment Securities in New York after graduating suggests he studied finance, business, or another similar subject.

Whatever the case, while still working at the investment firm in New York in December of 1941, Baggett volunteered for the Army Air Corps and reported for basic pilot training at the New Columbus Army Flying School.

After graduating from basic training, Baggett reported for duty in India, just a stone’s throw away from Japanese occupied Burma with the Tenth Air Force. Baggett eventually became a co-pilot for a B-24 bomber in the 7th Bomb Group based in Pandaveswar and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. During his time with the 7th Bomb Group, Baggett’s duties mainly consisted of flying bombing runs into Burma and helping defend allied supply routes between India and China.

Baggett’s career was mostly uneventful, or at least as uneventful as it could be given the circumstances, for around a year until he was called upon to take part in a bombing run on March 31, 1943. The mission itself was fairly simple- Baggett and the rest of the 7th Bomb Group were to fly into Burma and destroy a small, but vital railroad bridge near the logging town of Pyinmana.

However, shortly after taking off, the (unescorted) bombers of the 7th Bomb Group were attacked by a few dozen Japanese Zero fighters. During the ensuing dogfight, the plane’s emergency oxygen tanks were hit, severely damaging the craft. Ultimately, 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen gave the order for the crew to bailout. Baggett relayed the order to the crew using hand signals (since their intercom had also been destroyed) and leapt from the aircraft with the rest of the surviving crew.

Not long after the crew bailed out, the attacking Japanese Zeros began training their guns on the now-defenceless crewman lazily floating towards the ground.

Baggett would later recall seeing some of his crewmates being torn to pieces by gunfire (in total 5 of the 9 aboard the downed bomber were killed). As for himself, a bullet grazed his arm, but he was otherwise fine. In a desperate bid to stay that way, after being shot in the arm, Baggett played possum, hanging limp in his parachute’s harness.

According to a 1996 article published in Air Force Magazine, this is when Baggett spotted an enemy pilot lazily flying along almost vertically in mid-air to come check out whether Baggett was dead or not, including having his canopy open to get a better look at Baggett. When the near-stalling plane came within range, Baggett ceased to play dead and pulled out his M1911 from its holster, aimed it at the pilot, and squeezed the trigger four times. The plane soon stalled out and Baggett didn’t notice what happened after, thinking little of the incident, being more concerned with the other fighters taking pot shots at he and his crew.

After safely reaching the ground, Baggett regrouped with Lt Jensen and one of the bomber’s surviving gunners. Shortly thereafter, all three were captured, at which point Baggett soon found himself being interrogated. After telling the events leading up to his capture to Major General Arimura, commander of the Southeast Asia POW camps, very oddly (as no one else in his little group was given the opportunity), Baggett was given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri (an offer he refused).

Later, while still a POW, Baggett had a chance encounter with one Col. Harry Melton. Melton informed him that the plane that Baggett had shot at had crashed directly after stalling out near him and (supposedly) the pilot’s body had been thrown from the wreckage. When it was recovered, he appeared to have been killed, or at least seriously injured, via having been shot, at least according to Colonel Melton.

Despite the fact that the plane had crashed after his encounter with it, Baggett was still skeptical that one (or more) of his shots actually landed and figured something else must have happened to cause the crash. Nevertheless, it was speculated by his compatriots that this must have been the reason Baggett alone had been given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri after being interrogated.

Baggett never really talked about his impressive feat after the fact, remaining skeptical that he’d scored such a lucky shot. He uneventfully served the rest of his time in the war as a POW, dropping from a hearty 180 pounds and change to just over 90 during the near two years he was kept prisoner. The camp he was in was finally liberated on September 7, 1945 by the OSS and he continued to serve in the military for several years after WW2, reaching the rank of colonel.

The full details of his lucky shot were only dug up in 1996 by John L Frisbee of Air Force Magazine. After combing the records looking to verify or disprove the tale, it turned out that while Col. Harry Melton’s assertion that the pilot in question had been found with a .45 caliber bullet wound could not be verified by any documented evidence, it was ultimately determined that Baggett must have managed to hit the pilot. You see, the plane in question appears to have stalled at approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet (so an amazing amount of time for the pilot to have recovered from the stall had he been physically able) and, based on official mission reports by survivors, there were no Allied fighters in the vicinity to have downed the fighter and no references of anyone seeing any friendly fire at the slow moving plane before its ultimately demise. Further, even with some sort of random engine failure, the pilot should have still had some control of the plane, instead of reportedly more or less heading straight down and crashing after the stall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 badass women who served

It’s Women’s History Month, and we’d be wrong if we didn’t highlight some of the most badass women to serve within the military’s ranks. Throughout American history, the stories of heroes who are women have often been told as if they were asterisks to everyday heroes. They’re not.

They have always been smart and strong leaders. Unfortunately, they weren’t always given opportunities to prove themselves worthy. But boy, have times changed.


There are women in the infantry, Ranger corps, Cav Scouts and Marine combat units. Can you believe that prior to 2013, there was a ban on women serving in direct combat roles? These old regs are revised, and women are climbing to glory!

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

1. Ollie Josephine B. Bennett

Ollie Josephine B. Bennett was one of the first female medical officers in the U.S. Army and one of the few practicing anesthetists in America. She served during World War I. As a female doctor in the early 1900s, she experienced many firsts. She designed her military uniform because there wasn’t a designated uniform for female surgeons when she served. Of course, that wasn’t her plan. Yet, she used the opportunity to be innovative and inventive. Lt. B. Bennett was a leader. She instructed many soldiers to perform anesthesia at Fort McClellan. After the service, she went on to marry, have a child and live a life of service. She died in 1957 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

2. Marcelite Jordan Harris

Marcelite Jordan Harris, another woman of many firsts, retired from the Air Force in 1997. She became the first African American female brigadier general in the Air Force in 1991, at a time when Black women in America were earning less than ,000 a year. Harris was also the first female aircraft maintenance officer. She received a Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was appointed as a member of the Board of Visitors for the Air Force by President Obama. Prior to that, Harris served as an aide during Carter’s Presidency. She embodied the definition of a true patriot. She too, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

3. Molly Pitcher

Today, female service members are continuing the tradition of firsts. The pitchers of water they were once only entrusted to carry and serve, now cools them in the heat of battle. Do you see what I did there? If you don’t know, check out the story of one of the baddest females in battle, Molly Pitcher.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

4. Ayla Chase

Ayla Chase, a Captain, currently serving as a signal officer in the U.S. Army, was one of the first females in an infantry class for the Army. She also completed training for civil affairs. Although she was not selected, she continues to train and prepare for another opportunity to prove herself. Chase is committed to strengthening the physical capabilities of America’s armed forces. She conducts routine late-night ruck marches with her troops during her off time, mentors them and helps cultivate leadership skills within the ranks of her unit. She leads from the front. This woman is so badass, she took on a 100-mile race without training. Who does that and survives on their first go-round?

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

5. Janina Simmons

Speaking of first-time go-rounds, Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons was the first African American female to complete Army Ranger school. This accomplishment is colossal not only for Simmons but for Ranger candidates as a whole. A large percentage of soldiers do not successfully complete the Ranger’s course on their first try. Even Fort Jackson’s Commander Brig. Gen. Beagle was impressed by her work, and he’s not easily impressed. He congratulated her, saying, “Outstanding work by one of the best (non-commissioned officers) on Fort Jackson, and now earning the title of U.S. Army Ranger. Always leading the way.” Simmons earned her way to the top as she put her yes on the table, and went for it all. #Goals.

These women have all faced various obstacles in their military careers. But, they chose to jump, climb, crawl and fight their way to being known as the best. Since the first woman enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1917, women have continued to break barriers and shatter ceilings at every turn. We see you ladies. Keep kicking ass and taking names.

A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink. -Gina Carey
MIGHTY SPORTS

Former Army Ranger crushes world record for pullups in a day

When one pushes their body to its most extreme limit, they find that they are simultaneously pushing their mind and spirit. Few are more familiar with this feeling than Brandon Tucker — a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who climbed his way to becoming a squad leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. When he was medically discharged due to inflammatory bowel disease, his sense of purpose and drive was not deterred. He dove headfirst into the fitness and business world by managing Uncommon Athlete in Columbus, Georgia, while also serving as a personal trainer and fitness instructor there.

As a testament to his dedication to fitness, on Oct. 26, 2019, Tucker surpassed the world record for number of pullups in a day. The feat is currently undergoing the verification process with Guinness World Records. Tucker completed 7,715 pullups in the span of 24 hours, beating the previous record of 7,600 by a significant margin.


Coffee or Die recently spoke to Tucker about his achievement.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Tucker served in D Co, 3/75 from 2011 to 2018.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

“I was so glad to be done — I was having doubts when I had around 5,000 pullups because up to that point, I had only done 4,300 in my training. That took me 14 hours,” Tucker said. “Once I hit 5,000 on game day, I started having all these doubts. It was new ground — I didn’t know if I was going to hit a wall, hit a second wind … I wasn’t sure. My muscles were failing, my hands were blistered … it was painful, man. I had two pairs of gloves on, and I had on these leather cowhide pieces under those. My hands still felt like I had stuck them on a stovetop … But I just had to stay on course.”

Tucker said he repeated a mantra to himself for motivation: “Three pullups every 30 seconds. Three pullups every 30 seconds.” If he felt good, he would try for four every 30 seconds to create a buffer.

“Your body is amazing when you have the mind to work it and push it,” he said.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

In training, Tucker would do over 1,000 pull ups a day.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

Tucker’s road to the pullup bar was not an easy one. Prior to being medically discharged, Tucker’s mother was killed in a car accident. This hit Tucker hard, but she remained a source of inspiration for him after her passing, just as she had been when she was alive.

“My mom saw so much potential in me, and I never really saw it myself. I used her faith in me to literally pull myself upward,” Tucker said. “We’re so quick to be victims of our circumstances. We naturally want to find all these excuses as to why we can’t do something, instead of just saying, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go do this.’ I’ve never trained for something like I trained for these pullups. I’ve never put this amount of discipline into training, recovery, all of that.”

On most training days, Tucker would do 1,000 pullups. He found himself truly understanding the value of recovery and discovered the need to be disciplined in that regard just as he was disciplined in every other area of his training.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

During the event, Tucker repeated the mantra “Three pullups every 30 seconds, three pullups every 30 seconds.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Technically speaking, Tucker’s pullup record is still filed as an “attempt.” He is currently in the verification process with the Guiness Book of World Records, a process that is now past the submission stage and into the verification stage.

This is not a straightforward process; Guinness requires a host of verifications, witnesses, and documentation to qualify. Prior to the day of the event, Tucker’s mind had to be honed and focused on the training portion — he needed help with the logistics of the event itself.

This is where Tucker’s military family stepped in — particularly Mary Kubik, Gold Star sister of fallen Army Ranger Ronald Kubik (KIA April 2010). Not only did she help him find someone to set up the two verification cameras, coordinate the witnesses, and keep log sheets, she also helped him come up with a list of charities they felt were worthy of support.

Tucker’s GoFundMe donations will help support Rescue 22, Warrior Fortitude, Darby’s Warrior Support, Warrior Outreach Inc., Achilles International – Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, and Higher Ground USA.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

“This is what I’m passionate about. It’s what I like to do.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Three days before Tucker attempted to break the world record, he reached out to the previous world record holder, John Orth. Tucker had heard Orth on a podcast, and he had found it incredibly motivating. He wasn’t sure how Orth would take being contacted by the person trying to break his record, but Tucker sent him a message on Instagram anyway.

Not only was Orth receptive, but he was eager to give Tucker encouragement and some practical tips as well. At the time, Tucker was planning on moving forward with a single pair of gloves. Orth immediately told him to have 10 pairs of gloves and make sure they were kept dry.

“Had I not reached out to him, I probably would have failed,” Tucker said. “He’s an awesome guy, he was all about helping me.”

That spirit inspired a similar attitude in Tucker. “Now that I’ve done it, I’m not worried about someone breaking [the record],” he said. “I want someone to break it.”

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Tucker left the military as a Ranger squad leader.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

When asked what his plans are after the verification process is complete, Tucker said he plans to continue focusing on his health and fitness.

“I am sick,” Tucker said. “I do have this disease that I get treated for every eight weeks. I struggled after I got out [of the Army], but now this thing has lit a fire inside me. I don’t know what’s next, but I want to see what I’m capable of with this body and my mind. If it’s fitness related and I can’t do it, it’s my own fault. I’m surrounded by the coaches, the gyms, the nutrition coaches — I have all the tools.”

He also expressed a desire to continue to see Uncommon Athlete grow and thrive. The “multipurpose fitness training facility,” as their website describes, has operated just outside of Fort Benning, Georgia, since 2011.

“I think we all have a calling,” Tucker said. “We all have that voice that whispers to us. For me, I’ve always had this voice about fitness and competing. My mom would always say it and I’d always tell myself — but I’d be too scared to act on it and really put myself out there.

“Listen to that voice, and just try it. If it doesn’t work, then just move on to the next objective. Don’t get stuck because you don’t know where to go. You know where to go — listen to the voice in your head. Life is all about choices. You can either settle, or you can continue to fight and go for what you want.”

This Is What It’s Like to Run the Darby Queen Obstacle Course

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways parenting changes when your child joins the Army

I held on to my son until it was time for him to go. My heart felt empty as he walked through the departure gates on his way to Army Basic Combat Training (BCT.)

Although I was happy for him as he left to live his lifelong dream of serving our great nation, I felt lost with an emptiness that filled my heart. Despite the tears that streamed down my face, I was proud to see my son started his journey with strength and determination.

It’s far from easy to watch as your child embarks on a journey aimed at transforming them from civilian to soldier; where you won’t hear from them and don’t know what they’re doing.

As your child goes on this journey, you go on a journey too.


You may not have planned for this or even wanted it, and yet here you are, transitioning to becoming the parent of a soldier.

Parenting changes in unexpected ways when your child joins the army. Instead of feeling stranded in a place of sadness, let your child’s hard work, dedication, and patriotism, inspire you to be your best. Here are some ways that parenting changes when your child joins the army.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart/Released

1. You’re no longer in control.

Parenting never stops, but when your child joins the army a new set of challenges emerges. After spending 18+ years preparing them for life and protecting them, a parental shift happens.

One day they’re home with you, the next day they’re thousands of miles away with little communication.

The casual calls, endless chore reminders, and days spent together are sweet memories of another season of life.

Take a step back and realize how your role is different now. Instead of taking the wheel for them, your role may be to just be there for them, to support their decision to join the Army or to help keep them moving forward.

You may not hear from your Soldier as often as you like but that’s part of your new normal.

Instead of resisting it, lean into it. It can be truly wonderful if you let it. Just think: you raised a child with the passion, courage, and grit to do one of the most important jobs in our nation. Make sure your child knows that you have confidence in them as a soldier and defender of freedom.

Transition takes great effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Know how you are changing as a parent. Put your feelings to paper where you can look back in a few months or a year and see how far you’ve come on this incredible military parenting journey.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

2. You learn resilience.

Awful thoughts will undoubtedly run rampant through your mind. At some point, your Soldier will transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or may deploy somewhere in the world.

I wasn’t as excited as my son when he deployed; he thought of it all as a big adventure while I cringed at the thought of him flying high in his helicopter over the Afghanistan Mountains.

Holding on to his enthusiasm through my range of emotions, and looking at this as an adventure was my first step to building resilience.

Embracing change and learning to adapt as a parent of a Soldier is one way to build resilience and manage your emotions. Resilience gives you the ability to cope with stressful situations (there will be some) and carry on with your life. You can’t change the fact that your child is now a Soldier, one of the few who chose to defend our country. Nor can you change where they go next. But you can learn resilience, become more confident in your ability to deal with tough emotions, and find joy in your journey.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Photo courtesy of 2nd Cavalry Regiment

3. You find new ways to enjoy the holidays.

Christmas brings with it sweet memories, family gatherings, and lots of food. It’s always a happy occasion, except for that first year my son joined the Army. He would be celebrating at his first duty station in Germany, while we all missed him terribly at home.

In subsequent years, we found new ways to celebrate. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas tree, gifts, and holiday decorations in the middle of November or birthdays celebrated a month before or after the event.

Don’t forget technology, which creates new ways to enjoy your Soldier. You can engage with your loved one, whether it’s a text message, phone call, or video and open up communications in a positive way.

Is it the day that is more important or the gathering of loved ones to celebrate events? Learning to enjoy celebrations on days other than the event is a unique way to celebrate. After all, any time you can gather with your Soldier is time for celebration!

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

4. Oh, the places you’ll go.

That first 9 weeks of basic training seemed like forever. With over 2,000 miles between us, how would I ever see my son? As the years passed, the miles expanded as his duty stations took him to Germany, South Korea, and far-flung states.

Let the adventure begin! With passport in hand, I visited my Soldier son in every country and state he lived in. We traveled through Europe and had a grand time experiencing new places and cultures.

Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your Soldier. The best part is your child can be your tour guide as you trek off together with enthusiasm and curiosity, creating new grown-up memories.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart

5. You see your child in a different light.

When my son left for basic training, I clung to our past relationship where I was the mom and protector. Clearly that wasn’t going to work.

As time progressed, it dawned on me one day that my son is a Soldier. He spoke to me about his passion for defending our freedoms and how much it meant to him. As I slowly began to understand him as a grown man and Soldier, I began to see, appreciate, and respect this side of him.

You may not realize it but your Army Soldier is a skilled and highly-trained warrior, ready to defend our nation on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to take in but it’s true.

No matter how much you want your child to be five years old again, they’re not. They left their childhood behind and went out into the world armed with all the loving ingredients you instilled in them. When you look at them as grown-up, you give way for a new relationship to blossom—one that includes the sweet memories of yesteryear and new adventures of today.

New Beginnings

Throughout a successful 15-year Army career, my son’s story isn’t finished and neither is mine. Every “see ya later” hug at an airport is another building block towards mental toughness and staying ready for the changes ahead (and there will be many.)

When your child joins the Army, your parent-child relationship adapts and grows as both your lives change over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing about being the mom of my Soldier son. From the people I’ve met, to the things I’ve learned, and the places I’ve been, this army mom life has been amazing.

You control your journey or your journey controls you. Enjoy the adventure!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Philippines is worried the US will drag it into a war with China

Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.

The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.


“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.

“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.

The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.

“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.

On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.

“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.

But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.

“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.

The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.

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

Articles

How the Battle of the Bulge would have gone if GIs had the Javelin

Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”


Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.

The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.

But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.

According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Photo: Wikimedia

Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.

But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.

That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.

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5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

While on active duty, service to country and others is given but once the uniform comes off it can be much harder to find meaning and impactful way to help others. Members of the organizations listed below don’t have that problem. There are many nonprofits that support active-duty, veterans and their families and we have identified five organizations that are finding new and innovative ways to help our community.


Here are 5 organizations that should be on your radar in 2020.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Activities at the VFWC.

Veteran Family Wellness Center

UCLA Veteran Family Wellness Center

Located on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, CA, the Veteran Family Wellness Center is a partnership between the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. It offers family-focused services to all veterans and their families, no matter what, whether that means helping couples reconnect or guiding families to reach their goals as they navigate the unique situations of veteran life.

Whatever a veteran’s or family situation, they have the resources to take care of them and assist them in overcoming their circumstances, providing the tools they need to move forward. Plus, by bringing in the rest of the family—whether it’s kids who are caught up in the difficulty of transition (going from the military brat lifestyle back to civilian can be tough too!) or a spouse taking on a caregiver role—VFWC is able to create the best environment for vets and their families.

And their team is a combination of veterans and skilled counseling personnel, so they bring a unique knowledge of both difficulties veteran families can face as well as how to improve them. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can even request a free Lyft ride to visit the center.
This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Green Beret Foundation

Green Beret Foundation

Specific to the Army, the Green Beret Foundation assists the Green Beret community and its families, giving them support during transition, injury, or difficulties sustained from numerous deployments. When a Green Beret is injured, the Foundation is there to support him monetarily, physically, and emotionally, and they stay there through his recovery and beyond.

Additionally, they are there to assist their families as well, which they consider to be the foundation of the community. This ranges from supporting Gold Star families, to the wives and caregivers of surviving Green Berets, to offering scholarships to their dependents. And once a Green Beret chooses to transition from active duty, the Green Beret Foundation is there to offer personalized assistance, understanding that no two Green Berets are alike.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White visiting with elementary school students.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

The nonprofit arm of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Foundation focuses on educating the American public about the meaning of the Medal: courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment. Those who receive the Medal of Honor embody these values, and the Foundation is committed to making sure those they served understand what they did to wear it.

It’s an important task for other reasons; the history surrounding the actions of Medal of Honor recipients is a significant part of American history, and the Medal of Honor Foundation works to make sure none of it is lost, capturing these stories in writing and through interviews with the recipients. They also bring recipients to speak at elementary schools, teaching the next generation of Americans about the values that the Medal represents. This captured history is then exhibited at kiosks in museums around the country so that no one has to travel too far to learn about these values and actions.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

A Force Blue volunteer carries a piece of coral for conservation.

Force Blue

Force Blue

On the surface, Force Blue is about helping veterans through marine conservation, but just like diving, there’s a lot more below the surface. When Special Operations vets transition out of service, they can find themselves without a purpose—their missions are over. Force Blue gives them a new mission, which creates a different sense or purpose; former combat divers can now put their toolset in that area to use in the area of underwater conservation.

A common complaint from veterans is losing their feeling of service, but Force Blue transforms service into an atmosphere of “caring, cooperation and positive change with the power to restore lives and restore the planet.” In addition, they’ve also offered response services after hurricanes. Plus, diving in paradise—their missions involve coral reefs and sea turtle populations, in locations like the Cayman Islands and the Gulf Coast—is therapeutic all by itself.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

The Darby Project

Darby Project

Like Green Berets, Army Rangers are a unique and tightknit community of service members, and the Darby Project—named for the first commander of the newly formed 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942, Colonel William O. Darby. The Darby Project maintains the principles that Colonel Darby established within the Battalion: high standards and discipline, which the Darby Project strives to uphold within its own services.

These services supports Rangers all the way through their transition to veteran life. Their primary focus is facilitating Rangers creating civilian lifestyles filled with hope and purpose, which they achieve through fitness programs and other events, as well as maintaining their sense of community among one another. Since a primary aspect of being an Army Ranger is leadership within the military, the Darby Project empowers Ranger veterans to lead within their communities as civilians as well.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this ‘Silent Farmer’ earned the Medal of Honor in WWII

Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.

Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.

Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.

His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.


Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.

The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.

Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.

Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.

Quiet Farmer

When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.

“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”

After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner


Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.

For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.

During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.

The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.

Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.

Old Kentucky home

A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.

Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.

Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Fellow soldiers trusted Garlin Conner to lead them through difficult circumstances on the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, whose career extended over three wars, called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen.

He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.

Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.

Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”

In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.

For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.

When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”

Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.

Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.

“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”

Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.

He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.

As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.

But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.

The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.

“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.

Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.

A hero’s welcome

On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.

The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.

Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.

Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Pauline Conner, an 89-year-old resident of Clinton County, Kentucky, holds the photo of her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner.



Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.

“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.

When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.

“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”

But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.

Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.

“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”

“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”

Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.

He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.

Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.

At any cost

On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.

As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.

As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.

Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Garlin Murl Conner lived a quiet life on a farm in Southern Kentucky. His neighbors and even his family did not know the extent of his valorous acts during World War II until years after his death.



Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.

Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.

Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.

Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”

Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.

“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”

While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.

Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.

“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”

At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.

“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”

Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.

Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.

Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.

Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.

He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.

There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.

“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”

The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.

Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.

Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.

“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.

With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.

“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”

The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.

“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.

Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.

“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”

Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.

Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”

New beginning

In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.

Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.

The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Garlin Conner sits with his wife, Pauline, during the early years of their marriage.


“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.

But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.

Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.

That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.

Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.

Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.

Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.

Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.

As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.

“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”

Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.

“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”

Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.

Lifetime bond

“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”

Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.

Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Army veteran Garlin Conner (left) retreated to working on a tobacco farm following his military service in World War II.



Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.

In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.

Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.

“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”

At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.

“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”

Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.

Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.

A final plea

Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.

New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Garlin Conner took joy taking care of animals and working on his farm in southern Kentucky.


After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.

But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.

But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.

Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.

“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”

Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.

Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge
Garlin Conner’s grave sits in Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky.


The following Monday the phone rang.

“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.

“I go by Pauline,” she said.

“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.

“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.

“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.

“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.

“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.

“I am,” she confirmed.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”

The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.

A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.

“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”

Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.

Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.

“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”

“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”

The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.

Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.

“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”

Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.

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

Articles

How an airman shot down a Japanese fighter from the cockpit over the Himalayas

One of the most dangerous missions for an Army Air Forces pilot during World War II was a trip flying over “The Hump” – a flight between India and China over the Himalayas. This was true for any aircraft of the era, whether it was a fighter, bomber or transport plane. 

More than a thousand airmen aboard more than 600 planes went down in the Himalayas during World War II, but that’s just an estimate. So many were lost flying over the top of the world, the Army Air Forces couldn’t count them all. 

If a plane did go down in the Himalayas, rescue was uncertain at best. Search and rescue missions were described at worst as “spasmodic,” and at best, “negative.” The presence of Japanese fighters only made it more dangerous

One transport-pilot was so determined not to get shot down in the Himalayas that he shoved a machine gun out his cockpit window and shot an enemy fighter down.

Gen. George C. Marshall hated the The Hump, claiming it bled the Army of its necessary transport planes and may have prolonged the war in the Pacific by nearly a year. He had every right to be skeptical. 

High Command, Left to right: Gen. George C. Marshall, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols. USAF photo.

The primary dangers associated with “Flying the Hump” didn’t even register a loss to the enemy. The air up there was just so bad and the flights so long that any pilot – even an experienced one – risked their lives just to fly it. So when an actual enemy fighter did show up, it was bad news for the Air Transport Command. 

That’s what happened to Capt. Wally A. Gayda during one flight over the Himalayas. Gayda was a C-46 Commando transport plane pilot in the USAAF Air Transport Command flying from India to China. He was on his way to Chunking to drop off supplies for Chinese Nationalists fighting the Japanese.

Curtiss C-46, just out of overhaul and painting in August 1948. One of 157 delivered by air to Nationalist China. Creative Commons license.

His trip was already hazardous for the reasons mentioned above but the weather soon turned harsh, the winds picked up and his crew had trouble operating the aircraft. The Curtiss C-46 was already a whale of a plane. At the time, it was the largest transport aircraft in the world and many pilots wanted nothing to do with it. 

Curtiss’ behemoth transport plane also had a snag for wartime pilots: it was unarmed. So when Capt. Gayda saw a Japanese Nakajima Ki.43 Oscar fighter out the side of his cockpit window, he needed to do something about it in a hurry. Luckily, he had a Browning Automatic Rifle handy.

The BAR in the cockpit of his C-46 was the same kind used by the Army infantry in small formations. The Browning Automatic Rifle was a compact light machine gun that could be used by just one soldier, as it was designed to be fired from the hip, while walking. That was all the pilot needed. Gayda stuck the BAR out of his cockpit window and shot the enemy pilot, downing the plane immediately. 

It was the first air-to-air kill by the C-46 in World War II. The C-46 would go on to have a long and mixed career in the U.S. Air Force and elsewhere, no matter what pilots thought about it. 

Featured image: A C-46 tackles its most famous challenge, the “Hump” route through the Himalayan between India and China. (National Archives)

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Matrix 4’ confirmed with Keanu Reeves returning as Neo

“I know why you’re here. I know what you’ve been doing. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did:”

Will there be another Matrix film?

Looks like the answer is yes, fellow cyberpunk warriors. Yes, you bet your pleather-clad ass there will be.


This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

I know, right?

There have been rumors for years, but Warner Bros. just announced that Lana Wachowski is officially set to write and direct a fourth film, starring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in their dynamic and ground-breaking roles of Neo and Trinity.

“We could not be more excited to be re-entering The Matrix with Lana,” said Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich. “Lana is a true visionary — a singular and original creative filmmaker — and we are thrilled that she is writing, directing, and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe.”

The Matrix 4 script was also written by Aleksandar Hemon (Sense8) and David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas).

Also read: Watch Keanu Reeves get some tactical training for ‘John Wick 3’

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of The Matrix, which garnered four Academy Awards and birthed a franchise that has earned over id=”listicle-2639941881″.6 billion in the global box office. It is still considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time — as well it should be. Have you watched it lately? It totally holds up.

It also doesn’t hurt that Keanu Reeves’ box office and cult followings are higher than ever.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Keanu dodging haters since 1984.

Production is set to begin in 2020, with no official release date.

No plot details have been shared, but of course the internet is full of theories:

Matrix 4 will confirm @JohnWickMovie was all a simulation :Ppic.twitter.com/y7pIGWkX6u

twitter.com

In the meantime, fans can enjoy special screenings of The Matrix in theaters starting August 30th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a dishonorable discharge can ruin your life

A dishonorable discharge is, plainly, something nobody serving wants to get. It comes with a lot of adverse consequences that will follow you long into your civilian life and it’ll also will cost you any service-related benefits you may have acquired, including a military funeral, VA loans for a house, and medical care from the VA. If that wasn’t enough, you also lose out on the right to keep and bear arms.

The good news? There’s only one way to get this type of discharge that absolutely, positively, ruins your life. You need to be convicted in a general court-martial of violating any of a number of provisions outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

These include, but are not limited to: Striking a warrant officer (Article 91), failure to obey an order or regulation (Article 92), unlawful detention (Article 97), misbehavior before the enemy (Article 99), falsifying official statements (Article 107), and misbehavior of a sentinel or lookout (Article 113).


So, how often does this sort of thing happen? Well, during the shortest month of this year, Navy courts-martial, as summarized in this release, resulted in four sailors earning themselves dishonorable discharges.

Now, before we get started, know that commissioned officers cannot get discharges of any type. The officer equivalent of a dishonorable discharge is a dismissal from the service. Whether dismissed or dishonorably discharged, that service member forfeits all benefits.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

These troops hold their honorable discharges – the complete opposite of a dishonorable discharge.

(DOD)

The Manual for Courts-Martial has a detailed breakdown of what can earn you the dreaded dishonorable discharge. One way to get that life-ruining piece of paper is described on page II-134,

“A dishonorable discharge should be reserved for those who should be separated under conditions of dishonor, after having been convicted of offenses usually recognized in civilian jurisdictions as felonies, or of offenses of a military nature requiring severe punishment.”

Another way, however, is called the “four strike rule.” If you’ve been repeatedly court-martialed and convicted of three offenses, your fourth will net you a dishonorable discharge. Described on page II-136 of the Manual for Courts-Martial,

“If an accused is found guilty of an offense or offenses for none of which a dishonorable discharge is otherwise authorized, proof of three or more previous convictions adjudged by a court-martial during the year next preceding the commission of any offense of which the accused stands convicted shall authorize a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances and, if the confinement otherwise authorized is less than 1 year, confinement for 1 year.”

A third way is to get a death sentence for an offense, according to page II-139 (190 on the PDF). The manual states,

“A sentence of death includes a dishonorable discharge or dismissal as appropriate.”

This is, in a sense, kicking you while you’re down. For all intents and purposes, you’re already dead, and they then stick your corpse with bad paper.

Perhaps the most notorious dishonorable discharge in recent memory is that of Bowe Bergdahl, who left his unit in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. He received a dishonorable discharge for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. As a result, he forfeited any and all benefits he would’ve earned from service.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

A dishonorable discharge takes away all of your benefits, including a your right to funeral with military honors.

(US Navy)

Often, when someone messes up, they’re more likely to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. This discharge doesn’t require a court-martial — it just takes a commanding officer. That gets you kicked out of the military, but has a much lesser effect than a dishonorable discharge.

According to GIJobs.com, an OTH discharge costs a departing military member a good portion of their post-service benefits, and generally precludes re-enlistment in another branch. To get a bad-conduct discharge, you need to be convicted by a special court-martial — this is a streamlined version of a general court-martial and comes with lesser penalties. You lose out on virtually all your benefits, though.

None of these “bad papers” are good to get. So, before you try something that could get you in trouble, think it through.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s anti-missile launch just worsened problematic space-trash

On March 27, 2019, India launched a missile toward space, struck an Earth-orbiting satellite, and destroyed the spacecraft.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a televised address shortly after the launch to declare the anti-satellite, or ASAT, test a success. He praised the maneuver, called “Mission Shakti,” as “an unprecedented achievement” that registers India as “a space power.” Modi also clarified that the satellite was one of India’s own, according to Reuters.

“Our scientists shot down a live satellite. They achieved it in just three minutes,” he said during the broadcast, adding: “Until now, only US, Russia, and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”


While Modi and his supporters may hail the event as an epic achievement, India’s ASAT test represents an escalation toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to crucial regions of the space around Earth.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


That’s because destroying the satellite created debris that’s now floating in space. Those pieces have the potential to collide with, damage, and possibly destroy other spacecraft.

The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles above Earth. That’s about 65 miles higher than the 185-mile altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.

Two astronauts are scheduled to conduct a spacewalk on March 29, 2019, (it was going to be the first all-female spacewalk, but that’s no longer the case) to make upgrades to the orbiting laboratory’s batteries. Spokespeople at NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for information about the risk posed by this new debris field.

Regardless of what happens next, tracking the debris is essential.

“The Department of Defense is aware of the Indian ASAT launch,” a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and catalogs objects in space, told Business Insider in an email. “US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is actively tracking and monitoring the situation.”

The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites only scratches the surface of larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.

Space debris begets more space debris

Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph. That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.

At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT explosives.

This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

A space-debris hit to the space shuttle Endeavour’s radiator found after one of its missions. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large.

(NASA)

The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. In such a situation, one collision in space would create a cloud of debris that leads to other collisions, which in turn would generate even more debris, leading to a runaway effect called a “collision cascade.”

So much high-speed space junk could surround Earth, Kessler calculated, that it might make it too risky for anyone to attempt launching spacecraft until most of the garbage slowed down in the outer fringes of our planet’s atmosphere, fell toward the ground, and burned up.

“The orbital-debris problem is a classic tragedy of the commons problem, but on a global scale,” Kessler said in a 2012 mini-documentary.

Given the thousands of satellites in space today, a collision cascade could play out over hundreds of years and get increasingly worse over time, perhaps indefinitely, unless technologies are developed to vaporize or deorbit space junk.

A launch in the wrong direction

An ASAT test that China conducted in January 2007 showed how much of a headache the debris from these shoot downs can become.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

An illustration of the space-debris cloud created by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

(CSSI)

As with India’s test, China launched a missile armed with a “kinetic kill vehicle” on top. The kill vehicle — essentially a giant bullet-like slug — pulverized a 1,650-pound weather satellite, in the process creating a cloud of more than 2,300 trackable chunks of debris the size of golf balls or larger. It also left behind 35,000 pieces larger than a fingernail and perhaps 150,000 bits smaller than that, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) and BBC.

The CSSI called the test “the largest debris-generating event in history, far surpassing the previous record set in 1996.”

Years later, satellite operators and NASA are still dodging the fallout with their spacecraft.

Even without missiles, plenty of space debris is created regularly. Each launch of a rocket deposits some trash up there, and older satellites that have no deorbiting systems or aren’t “parked” in a safe orbit can collide with other satellites.

Such a crash happened on Feb. 10, 2009: A deactivated Russian communications satellite slammed into a US communications satellite at a combined speed of about 26,000 mph. The collision created thousands of pieces of new debris, many of which are still in orbit.

There are more productive ways to use rockets

To be clear, India’s Mission Shakti test likely was not as dangerous as these other debris-creating events.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

However, the forces involved a space-based crash can accelerate debris into higher and different orbits. So obliterating any satellite is not a step in the right direction. Nor is creating a capability that could one day, either intentionally or accidentally, spark a Kessler syndrome event.

Much like the idea of deterrence with nuclear weapons — “if you attack me, I’ll attack you with more devastating force” — deterrence with anti-satellite weapons is extremely risky. With either, an accident or miscalculation could lead to devastating and lasting problems that would harm the entire world for generations.

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Image made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

As a global society, it’d behoove us not to cheer the achievement of a weapons capability that edges the world closer to a frightening brink. Instead, we should rebuke such tests and instead demand from our leaders peaceful cooperation in space, including the development of means to control our already spiraling space-debris problem.

“If we don’t change the way we operate in space,” Kessler said in 2012, we are facing down an “exponentially increasing amount of debris, until all objects are reduced to a cloud of orbiting fragments.”

Rather than individual countries investing in missile-based weaponry, perhaps we should call on our leaders to spend that human and financial capital on our world’s most dire and pressing problems — or even work toward returning people to the moon and rocketing the first crews to Mars.

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

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