How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Navy SEAL Lt. Thomas “Tommy” Norris and South Vietnamese naval commando Nguyễn Văn Kiệt pushed off from the shore in an abandoned sampan while dressed as Vietnamese fishermen. The pair were on an impossible mission to find Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, a US Air Force navigator who was shot down over Quang Tri Province and had been on the run from more than 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.

All previous rescue attempts had been failures — eight aircraft were shot down, 14 Americans killed, two of the rescue team captured, and two more missing in action. The largest search and rescue effort of the entire Vietnam War had dwindled down to the efforts of a handful of Navy commandos.


Two nights prior to their risky undercover paddle, Norris led a five-man patrol to rescue Lt. Mark Clark, a forward air controller who was shot down while searching for Hambleton.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Lt. Thomas Norris stands in the background at center as Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton (on stretcher) is taken to a waiting M113 armored personnel carrier to be evacuated. Photo courtesy of the US Department of Defense.

Clark had received a cryptic message that instructed him to float down the Cam Lo River: “When the moon goes over the mountains, make like Esther Williams and get in the Snake and float to Boston.” He needed to go to the river and head east.

As Norris moved toward the riverbank, he heard Clark’s heavy breathing before he spotted the downed pilot floating in the river. However, a North Vietnamese Army patrol was crossing the same area, forcing Norris to maintain cover and helplessly watch Clark float by. For the next two hours Norris searched the water for any signs of the missing aviator. At dawn — and 2,000 meters behind enemy lines — Norris and his team rendezvoused with the American pilot and brought him safely back to a forward operating base. That protection lasted only hours as they were hit with mortars and rockets that decimated their South Vietnamese partners, cutting down the force by nearly half.

Hambelton had called airstrikes on NVA supply lines from his emergency radio while simultaneously evading capture. Hambelton’s health was fading fast after more than a week’s time on the run with little food and contaminated water in his stomach. After a forward air controller informed Norris that Hambelton was not hitting his calls on a time schedule and when he did he barely could talk, Norris asked for volunteers. The only other commando that would join him on the one-way rescue mission was Kiệt. They were determined to not let Hambleton fall into the enemy’s hands.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Lt. Thomas R. Norris in Vietnam with Nguyen Van Kiet, the Vietnamese Sea Commando who accompanied him on the rescues of Clark and Hambleton. Kiet was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in this operation, the highest award the Navy can give to a foreign national. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.

Hambleton, a navigator by trade, was an avid golfer and could envision the layouts of golf courses in his mind. Knowing the NVA were monitoring their radios, the rescue planners ingeniously relayed cryptic messages as they had with Clark, but used navigation points of Hambleton’s favorite golf courses this time.

“You’re going to play 18 holes and you’re going to get in the Suwannee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna,” Hambelton said in an interview. “The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National.”

The No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards southeast, information only he would know, and he traveled that distance through enemy minefields to the river. Seeing the precise locations of the the water hazards or the fairways of his favorite golf courses in his mind acted as a mental compass through the jungles of Vietnam — and led him to a banana tree grove that provided some sustenance to his malnourished body.

Hambleton hugged the bank of the river for three long days and nights. Clinging to life, Hambleton saw two men paddling quietly up the river, both carrying AK-47s and dressed as fishermen. As the most-wanted man in the region, his first thought was to be afraid. And then his delirious focus noticed Norris’ eyes — an American. After 11 days on the run, Hambleton was helped into the bottom of the sampan and was covered in bamboo with instructions to lay motionless. Norris and Kiệt feared waiting until nightfall would worsen his condition, so they returned back the way they came.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Officials dedicated a 10-foot statue depicting Lt. Thornton carrying Lt. Norris on his shoulders during the facility’s 28th annual Muster reunion at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. The sculptor is Paul Moore of Norman, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.

They passed numerous NVA positions, tilting their heads away from the enemy’s menacing glares. When a suspected enemy machine gun position opened up on their boat, Kiệt pulled the sampan to the shore to conceal it behind some vegetation. Norris called in close air support, hoping to pin down the enemy and allow to get the rest of the way back to the FOB. The plan worked.

Norris had successfully rescued both Clark and Hambleton and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions between April 10 and April 13, 1972. Kiệt was one of two South Vietnamese soldiers to be awarded the Navy Cross during the war. The rescue even garnered Hollywood’s attention, and Gene Hackman took the role starring as Hambleton in the movie Bat*21.

Norris continued his military service in Vietnam and participated in a historic reconnaissance operation where he was shot in the head and eventually lost an eye while providing suppressive fire while his SEAL element retreated to the water for exfiltration. When Norris became too wounded to escape the ambush, another Navy SEAL named Mike Thornton, who later became a founding member of SEAL Team 6, charged through the onslaught of enemy fire back to Norris’s position and rescued him. This was only the third time in US military history that a Medal of Honor recipient rescued another Medal of Honor recipient.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.


After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.

Related: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Commander Dudley “Mush” Morton, last commanding officer of USS Wahoo (SS-238). (Wikimedia Commons)

Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.

Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.

The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.

Over the next to two patrols, Morton and the Wahoo destroyed nine merchant ships, including a 15,000-ton seaplane tender, and began earning a name for himself racking up legendary numbers.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
USS Wahoo (SS 238) from US government source, public domain image. (Wikimedia Commons)

After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.

It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.

Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.

Also Read: This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Check out the Smithsonian channel video below honoring Morton as a fallen American hero.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The XQ-58A Valkyrie completes second successful flight

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight, June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March 2019.

The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.


“The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy,” said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.

US Air Force Releases Video of New Combat Drone: XQ-58A Valkyrie

www.youtube.com

There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why 3 naval battles can claim to be history’s largest

There are a lot of articles that talk about the “largest naval battle,” but they don’t always agree on what battle that is. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, with nearly 200,000 participants and 285 ships, comes up often, but that isn’t the largest number of participants or ships that have clashed at a single point in history. So what’s really the largest naval battle?


The big issue is that it’s hard to define what, exactly, is the proper metric for determining the size of a battle. While land engagements are nearly always measured by the number of troops involved, naval battles can be measured by the number of ships, the size of the ships, the number of sailors, total number of vehicles and vessels, or even the size of the battlefield.

Here are three naval battles with a decent claim to “history’s largest.” One by troops involved, one by ship tonnage and area that was fought over, and one by most ships that fought.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

A French map of the movements involved in the Battle of the Red Cliffs.

(Sémhur, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Battle of the Red Cliffs—850,000 troops clashed on river and land

The Battle of the Red Cliffs is likely the largest amphibious battle of all time with estimates of the troops involved going up to 880,000 with up to 800,000 marching under the Chinese General Cao Cao. Liu Bei and Sun Quan stood up a small navy and army opposition that numbered around 50-80,000. The whole fight took place in 208 AD.

If it sounds like the allied force would get railroaded, realize that they were the ones with better ships and they had hometown advantage. They sailed their ships through the rivers, likely the Han and Yangtze, set them on fire, and managed to crash them into Cao Cao’s fleet. Cao Cao’s men on the river and in camp burned.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

A Japanese destroyer withdraws from the Battle of Leyte Gulf while under attack from U.S. bombers.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

Battle of Leyte Gulf—285 ships clash over 100,000 square miles

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is what usually pops up as the top Google search for history’s largest, and it’s easy to see why. The fighting took place over 100,000 square miles of ocean, one of the largest battleships in history sunk, and 285 naval vessels and 1,800 aircraft took part. Of the ships, 24 were aircraft carriers.

It was also a key battle strategically, allowing the U.S. to re-take the Philippines and further tipping the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II in favor of the U.S. and its allies.

One odd note about Leyte Gulf, though, is that it’s often accepted as its own battle, it’s actually a term that encompasses four smaller battles, the battles of Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait, Cape Engano, and the Battle off Samar.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Painting depicts the Battle of Salamis where outnumbered Greek ships annihilated a Persian fleet.

(Wilhelm von Kaulbach, public domain)

Battle of Salamis—over 1,000 ships

At the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars, the Persian fleet of 800 galleys had penned 370 Greek triremes into the small Saronic Gulf. The Greek commander managed to draw the Persian fleet into the gulf, and the more agile Greek ships rammed their way through the Persian vessels.

The Persians lost 300 ships and only sank 40 Greek ones, forcing them to abandon planned offensives on land.

(Note that there are conflicting reports as to just how many ships took part in the battle with estimates ranging up to 1,207 Persian ships and 371 Greeks, but even on the lower end, the Battle of Salamis was the largest by number of ships engaged.)

If you had a battle in mind that didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily out of the running. The Battle of Yamen saw over 1,000 ships clash and allowed the Mongol Yuan Dynasty to overtake the Song Dynasty. At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 902 American aircraft fought 750 Japanese planes. The Battle of Jutland, the only major battleship clash of World War I, makes many people’s lists as well.

Hell, Wikipedia has a page that lists nine naval battles as potential contenders for world’s largest.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The USSR won an advanced jet engine from Rolls-Royce in a bet

The MiG-15 was the jet fighter that shook the West out of its delusion of automatic air superiority. Before the MiG-15, B-29 bombers could raid North Korean cities at will — in broad daylight. After the introduction of the MiG-15, the bomber fleet was grounded because the Air Force’s F-80 Shooting Stars were too slow to protect them.


A strange, new plane was strafing American aircraft in the skies over the Korean War, and it was 100 mph faster than anything the United Nations forces had in the air. It was also killing dozens of UN pilots and planes — and it had to be stopped.

It might be hard to believe, but the source of the Russians’ new fighter’s monstrous speed was a Rolls-Royce design, which was pretty much supplied by the British themselves.

It wasn’t very often that anyone pulled the wool over the eyes of the British during the Cold War. The Soviets were a clever bunch, though.

In 1946, the Soviets were invited to a Rolls-Royce factory. The delegation in attendance included Artem Mikoyan (the man who put the ‘Mi’ in ‘MiG’) himself. Mikoyan was then invited to visit the house of a Rolls-Royce executive, where they played billiards.

Artem Mikoyan was great at billiards. In fact, he may have used a textbook shark move, losing the first game and then raising the stakes on the second. Here’s the bet he made: If the Russian wins, Rolls-Royce will have to sell jet engines to the Soviets. Find out who won at around 9:00 in the video below.

If it sounds surprising that the deal was made over a bet or that the British would supply the Russians with Rolls-Royce engines, you’re not alone. Stalin himself was incredulous, reportedly saying, “what idiot would sell us their jet engines?”

The Russians agreed to use the acquired engines for non-military purposes exclusively, which they did… until they were able to make a Russian copy of the Rolls-Royce engines, then called the Klimov RD-45. The engine was fitted into the MiG-15 and was fully operational in time for the Korean War, taking to the skies with weaponry designed to take down B-29 Superfortress bombers.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

A B-29 Bomber in the gunsights of a MiG-15.

It was the dominant fighter over Korea until the introduction of the American F-86 Sabre. The Sabre was more than a match for the new MiG, garnering a 10-to-1 combat victory ratio in the war. It was also the plane flown by all 39 United Nations fighter aces.

Sabres and MiG-15s would be at each other’s throats for the duration of the Korean War. The last Sabre was retired from the U.S. military in 1956 whereas the MiG-15 saw service around the world throughout the 1960s. In fact, the plane is still flying with the North Korean People’s Air Force to this day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 signs you grew up as a military brat

Military culture is something you definitely have to be a part of to understand. Bob from accounting trying to relate to the strictness of your Drill Sergeant dad’s rules and regulations from a civilian perspective boils your red-hot American blood faster than anything else.

Sure, growing up a military brat separates you from the rest of the world, but also gains you entrance into the greatest 1% club out there. Here are the signs you might have grown up a military brat.


1. You have no idea how to answer, “Where are you from?”

Well, that depends. Do you mean where I lived the longest? Where I was born? Where I spent my best years? To be perfectly honest, you have no idea, so you just throw a random state (or country) out there and hope it makes you sound as cool as you look.

2. You’ve visited more countries than most adults 

In most cases, a 16 year old reminiscing of skiing the Alps on holiday or discussing the economic impact of buying American grocery staples abroad would sound like a big fat lie. But not for you, you cultured darling. You spent your three-day weekends on a multi-country European tour instead of grabbing burgers and a movie.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jesse Smith. (DVIDS)

3. You have to explain why you were born in another country but aren’t from there

No, I wasn’t born in America. No, I’m not a foreign citizen. No, I do not have a family heritage from that country either; I was just born there. Yes, it’s very annoying to explain this to people dozens of times.

4. You know your Social Security Number

You don’t need to call mom to ask her your personal information, you’ve got that on lock along with your service member parent’s as well.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Rick Hurtado / Released. (DVIDS)

5. You can’t stand civilians freaking out over moving…down the street

You’re crying over the sentimental loss of moving two blocks down in the same neighborhood while keeping the same circle of friends, same zip code and same schools? Please, do explain to me how sympathetic I should be toward you (eye roll).

6. You know the metric system

Amid a long list of random knowledge nuggets that you possess, growing internationally meant exposure to a system the entire world works within…except America.

7. Being late is a crime you’ll never commit

If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time, the Captain will likely treat it as if you just committed a crime against time itself. Ten minutes early is precisely on time in your book.

8. Bowling is your party trick

A weird yet common pastime in military culture…bowling. Nearly every duty station had a bowling alley and you’ve likely spent an unhealthy amount of time practicing your spins.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Sherba, 8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. (DVIDS)

9. You’ve ridden on an airplane next to a Humvee in the cargo hold

Space-A flights are something else. There are no peanuts, no TVs in the headrests and zero chance you’ll snag a window seat.

10. You were “hella” cool with your ID card

Don’t even try to deny it. You thought you were crazy important toting around that ID card as a kid.

11. Getting up early is the standard operating procedure

Sleeping until 0700 hours sounds like a vacation after growing up a military child. Your entire neighborhood believed exercise was best before the sun rose each day.

12. Your parents take respect to a whole new level

Preparing your less than lazy friends for a stay at your house may have required an entire operation in itself.

13. When you were raised among Rangers, nothing scares you

“Your parents scare me,” might be a phrase you’ve heard a time or 20. But whether you were raised by Seals, Rangers or Green Berets, 200 pounds of American fighting muscle looks like your favorite uncle, not a death sentence.

popular

5 of the worst things to put in a burn pit

If you’ve ever deployed to the Middle East, then you’ve probably experienced a few explosions here and there, heard a firefight once or twice, and smelled some pretty nasty sh*t burning nearby.


Well, that burning sh*t is either the bad guys torching tires as a signal to warn others that allied forces are in the area, or it’s the smell of a burn pit coming from a military base.

For years, troops serving on the frontlines have burned their unwanted trash, either in barrels or in large burn pits, set ablaze with diesel fuel.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Since burn pits are the primary avenue through which troops discard their waste products, plenty of items get thrown into the pits that shouldn’t be near an open flame — like the following.

1. Unspent rounds

It’s common for troops to experience a misfire when discharging their weapons for various reasons. After they clear the chamber, they either let the unspent round fall to the ground or, sometimes, they get tossed into a burn pit.

That’s a bad idea. Bullet projection is based on igniting the gunpowder inside the shell as a propellant. No one wants to get shot by a burn pit.

Just because the primer was struck and nothing happened doesn’t mean the round is dead — it’s still alive. Sort of like a zombie.

2. Human remains

This is just nasty. Who wants to smell a bad guy’s leg roasting over an open flame in the burn pit? On second thought, please don’t answer that.

3. Batteries

Various types of batteries will explode if exposed to intense heat. No troop wants to get hit with shrapnel during a firefight, let alone get blasted by battery fragments while inside the wire.

(Mr. Thinker | YouTube)

4. Miscut detonation cord

Occasionally, small amounts of det cord get improperly cut, resulting in some unwanted wire that gets tossed away. No bueno.

If certain det cords come in contact with an accelerant, the heat from the fire can cause an explosion. Being too close to that blast can result in injury — and no one wants that.

(MyXplosionTV | YouTube)

Also Read: 4 of the worst things about getting promoted

5. Unexploded ordnance

This is pretty obvious, right? It’s amazing what gets thrown into a burn pit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are rules for Tyndall personnel checking out their housing

Phase 2 is to get you back into your homes and dorms to inspect and collect your belongings, and it has begun.

We are opening the gates for limited access for five days from Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, through Sunday Oct. 21, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Military members, military dependents, civilians, civilian dependents, and nonappropriated fund employees may voluntarily go to Tyndall Air Force Base and the surrounding area to evaluate their personal property. No reimbursement is authorized for voluntary travel performed. This evaluation may only be accomplished between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on the previously mentioned days.


We must emphasize the importance of following the established guidelines set in-place for this limited access. There are restrictions in-place for a multitude of reasons, safety being a top concern. Force Protection measures will be in place to ensure everyone travels directly to their home and exits the gate in an orderly fashion.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a catastrophic Category 4 close to Tyndall Air Force Base in the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

All residents entering Tyndall AFB will abide by the following rules:

  • Personnel will proceed through a check point for all housing and dorm areas. Emergency contact information will be provided since the local 911 emergency system is inoperative.
  • Dorm residents will enter through the Louisiana Gate entrance, the eastern most gate on 98.
  • Housing residents south of 98 will enter through the Sabre Gate, the gate across from the Visitor’s Center.
  • Shoal Point and Bayview residents will check in at the Visitors Center across from the Sabre Gate.
  • Access is restricted to housing areas and dorms.
  • You must be self-sufficient. Ensure you have enough water and food. Personal protective equipment is highly recommended and should include at a minimum safety glasses, gloves and a hard hat. Gas is in limited supply in the local area; fill vehicles outside approximately 70 miles from the Tyndall AFB local area. A tire plug kit is recommended due to the potential for debris.
  • No pets will be allowed on base.
  • I strongly recommend you refrain from bringing children, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
  • This temporary suspension of the evacuation applies to both off-base and on-base housing.
  • You will NOT be able to stay. All must depart the base, and surrounding area to include Shoal Point and Bayview, not later than 3 p.m. Central Standard Time to ensure you comply with mandated curfew requirements.
  • All Tyndall AFB personnel remain under the previously mandated evacuation order.
  • You are welcome to collect your belongings during the aforementioned days.
  • You will be permitted to bring moving vehicles to transport your belongings and store them outside the evacuation area at your own expense.
  • You will be permitted to remove vehicles left on base, as long as moving them is safe and the vehicles are drivable.
  • Staying overnight anywhere in the evacuation area will void your evacuation benefits.
Mental health representatives, chaplains and additional points of contact will be available to provide the best support possible during this difficult time.
How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Hurricane Michael created significant structural damage to the majority of the Tyndall Air Force Base and surrounding areas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

Please understand that our base and local area remain dangerous. We are still cleaning roads, power lines and debris. This has been a major undertaking but we are getting better each day.

We continue working a long term plan of action but we simply aren’t there yet, as we are concentrating on the short term day-to-day recovery actions.

Q: What if I cannot return to Tyndall AFB within the five-day period? Will I have another opportunity to gather my belongings?
A: A long term plan of action is being formed. More information will be available in the coming days.

Q: Am I able to bring a non-military member with me since my spouse is deployed?
A: Yes, you are.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The evolution of women’s service in the military

Women have been serving in the military in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War; Molly Pitcher cooled down canons during that time. However, it wasn’t until World War II that women gained recognition as full-fledged members of the military. WWII was a turning point for women in military service. This was the time when we saw the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs), Women’s Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.


WWII saw nearly half a million women in uniform in both theaters of conflict during that time. The valuable role women played during the war, along with President Truman’s determination to make changes within the military, led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. With this act, for the first time, women were recognized as full members of the Armed Services. This meant they could finally claim the same benefits as their male counterparts. This also made it so those women who chose to do so, could make a career in the Army or Navy.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, there were tens of thousands of women who volunteered for service. Many of them were nurses. However, they also made great strides among all of the military branches, donning both Marine and Air Force uniforms to serve alongside those already serving in the Army and Navy.

During the 1960s in Post-Vietnam America, great social changes were made throughout the nation. Many of those changes were driven and led by women. The Women’s Rights Movement not only fought for equality in the workplace, carved out places for women in the political arena, and opened up new opportunities in higher education, but it also led to changes for women in the military. One of the biggest changes in the treatment of women in the military during this time was giving them the opportunity to attend the service academies. Opening these academies to women was pivotal for the treatment of women in the military because, for the first time, they were allowed to obtain officer status in the ranks. This then placed them in positions of leadership and authority throughout all the branches.

The 1990s began with the Gulf War. During this time, female military members distinguished themselves. For the first time, women won the right to serve as combat pilots during the war. By the end of the decade, women were serving on combat ships and flying warplanes from carrier ships. However, in 1994, these female service members did suffer a bit of a setback when the Secretary of Defense refused to allow them to serve in units whose primary mission was ground combat.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

www.army.mil

With the 21st century, women saw even greater strides in their opportunities in service. Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, and women in the Army and Marines began to edge closer to being able to serve in full combat duty. In 2013 the ban on women in combat was finally lifted, and the branches were given two years to comply with full integration. By 2015 two women completed Army Ranger school, which led to the decree that all combat duties should be open to women as well.

The past few years have seen women gaining advancement to some of the highest levels of authority in the military. They have also been given the opportunity to complete elite training courses, along with Ranger school, women have been allowed to enter the ever difficult Navy SEAL officer training courses. One thing is for certain, women in the military have come a long way since World War II, and it is definite that they will continue to be seen and heard in their ever growing-roles in all of the branches of the U.S. military.

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The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

In September 1961, the Irish Army under the United Nations flag was engaged in operations against Katanga, a breakaway region in Congo. Some 155 Irish troops were stationed at a little base near Jadotville in order to protect the citizens of the small mining town. But the locals in Jadotville wanted nothing to do with the Irish, believing the U.N. had taken sides in the conflict between the Congolese government and Katanga.

For five days, the 155 Irish fought for their lives against as many as 4,000 mercenaries and rebels who tried to take them captive.


How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Commandant Pat Quinlan, leader of the Irish Defence Forces led a team that was not prepared for the battle ahead.

The enemy came at the Irish in the middle of a Catholic Mass. Luckily for the Irish, one of their sentries, Pvt. Billy Ready (seriously, his name was “Ready”), fired the shots that alerted the Irishmen to their enemy. What they saw when they went to their posts was 3,000-5,000 hired guns ready to take down their position – the Irish numbered just 155. The mercs brought with them not only heavy machine guns, but also artillery and heavy mortars. They also had air cover in the form of an armed trainer aircraft. It didn’t rattle the Irish one bit, as they later radioed U.N. headquarters:

“We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Fouga Magister similar to the one used by the Katangese during the siege (Wikimedia Commons)

As far as weapons go, the Irish had only light machine guns and 60 mm mortars to defend their position. But in a testament to warfighting fundamentals, the Irishmen were able to shut down their enemy’s mortar and artillery capabilities using just accurate mortars and small arms. It was the pinpoint accuracy of the U.N. troops that would sufficiently level the playing field. This exchange lasted four days. Now, down to 2,000 men, the Katangese asked the Irish for a cease-fire.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
“And that’s when they asked us to stop killing them for a few minutes. Damndest thing.”

 

Meanwhile, a U.N. relief force of Swedes and Indian Army Gurkhas were making a move on the Katangese positions from the other side. They were held down at a bridgehead on the road from the main U.N. base at Elisabethville and despite inflicting heavy losses on the defending Katanga fighters, they could not breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Irishmen could not break out. They were running out of water and ammunition. With no help forthcoming, they were forced to surrender.

Luckily, the mercenaries didn’t slaughter the Irishmen, despite the brutality of the fighting. They were taken prisoner and held captive to extort the United Nations for favorable cease-fire terms. They were released after a month and returned to their Elisabethville base and eventually sent home. The Irish surrender was considered a black eye to the Irish Defence Forces, despite Commandant Pat Quinlan’s brilliant defensive perimeter tactics, which are now taught in military textbooks worldwide. Quinlan also ensured each of his men survived and came home.

Articles

This Marine batted the enemy’s grenades back at them

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Hector Cafferata, Jr. was a semi-professional football player serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He received just two weeks of additional training before being shipped overseas.


Assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines just days before landing at Inchon, he, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division, battled his way into North Korea. By November 1950, Cafferata and the Marines were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir.

As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir began, the Marines of Fox Company were defending the Toktong pass. On the night of Nov. 28, the Chinese attacked to dislodge them.

What happened next is a legendary story in the Marine Corps — and Cafferata had a large role to play in that.

The Marines of Fox Company had been unable to properly dig in due to the frozen ground and instead cut and gathered tree branches and whatever else they could find to provide cover and concealment.

Due to an intelligence failure, the Marines were unaware that the entire Chinese 9th Army was advancing on their position. That night they crawled into their sleeping bags with minimal security on watch.

At around 0130, the Marines of Fox Company were awoken to a terrible surprise as all hell broke loose around their position. An entire Chinese division, the 59th, were attacking into the Toktong pass to cut off the 1st Marine Division.

The only things standing in their way were Cafferata and the rest of Fox Company.

Hearing the sounds of the attack, Cafferata sprung from his sleeping bag and hurried into the firing line. In his rush to get into the action, he left behind his boots and heavy coat.

In the opening minutes, most of Cafferata’s squad became casualties so he rushed from position to position gathering ammo and pouring fire into the attacking Chinese.

This video is an animation produced by Veterans Expeditionary Media that depicts the battle conditions that night.

He was joined by another Marine, Kenneth Benson, who was temporarily blinded after a grenade explosion had ripped his glasses right off his face. Together they made their way to a small depression and set up to make their stand against the Chinese onslaught.

As the Chinese pressed forward, Cafferata, a crack shot with his M-1 Garand, would empty his clip into the advancing infantry — eight shots, eight communists down.

He would then hand the weapon to Benson to reload while he threw grenades. When the Chinese attacked with their own grenades, he threw them back.

At one point he picked up his entrenching tool and batted the enemy’s grenades right back at them. According to a 2001 interview, Cafferata said he “must have whacked a dozen grenades that night.”

As the Chinese continued to advance, threatening to breakthrough his thinly held portion of the line, he gave them everything he had. He fired his weapon so much he had to pack snow on it to cool it off.

Eventually, Cafferata’s luck began to run out. As he hurled back yet another Chinese grenade, it went off just after leaving his hand. The explosion severed part of his finger and severely damaged his right hand and arm.

Though he was injured, Cafferata’s quick reaction saved several of his comrades.

Despite his wounds, he fought on. The Chinese couldn’t get past him.

Finally, just after daybreak, Cafferata was wounded by a sniper’s bullet and evacuated from the line. When the medics brought him to the aid station, they realized he was suffering from frostbite after fighting in subzero temperatures in his socks all night.

Despite Cafferata being out of action, the rest of Fox Company and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir still had quite a fight on their hands.

According to the Medal of Honor citation for Capt. William Barber, Fox Company’s commander, his 220 Marines held out “5 days and 6 nights against repeated onslaughts by fanatical aggressors.”

And of those 220 Marines, only 82 “were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds.” They carried their wounded out with them, including Cafferata and Barber who were both wounded on the first day of fighting.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Cafferata receives his Medal of Honor. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Cafferata’s wounds earned him 18 months of recovery in various hospitals. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.

The day after Cafferata’s amazing stand, the Marines “counted approximately one hundred Chinese dead around the ditch where he fought that night,” but according to one source, they “decided not to put that figure in their report because they thought no one would believe it.”

Cafferata was officially credited with fifteen enemy kills.

Cafferata, always humble, would later state, “I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”

Hector Cafferata, Jr. passed away on April 12, 2016 at the age of 86.

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I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive. 


Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.

The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.

In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.

After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.

The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”

The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.

 

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
Thanks, Time Magazine.

Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.

The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
(Photo Credit: BJ Small, Mechanicsburg, PA)

As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.

The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.

Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bug-out bag that allows you to be ready for anything

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that’s perfect for getting out of dodge in a hurry.

We don’t know what you’re preparing for. Maybe you’ve found yourself in hot water with a local gang, maybe you’re convinced that the rise of automation will lead to SkyNet, or perhaps you have the very real concern that molemen will come out of the internal layers of the earth and demand large segments of surface world (an attack to which we are vulnerable thanks to everyone poo-pooing Capt. John Symmes’ expedition to the center of the Earth).


Regardless, our friends over at Propper want to help you prepare. For our illustrative case, we’re going to use a possible zombie outbreak model, because that’s fun for us and something all patriotic Americans should prepare for.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

PROPPER® Expandable Backpack (.99)

There you are, quietly typing away on your newest article (You’re all internet writers, right? No? Some of you have real jobs that produce actual value for the economy? Well, aren’t you fancy) when, suddenly, a news alert pops up on your phone:

CDC confirms that new variation of flu virus has spread in America. Small town near you on lockdown. Read more: https://bit.ly/2TVioLq

Sure, there’s a chance it’s nothing, just like there was a chance that alerts on December 7, 1941 were nothing, or that Iraqi forces would never cross into Kuwait in 1990. You didn’t make it to your ripe current age by assuming that potential threats were nothing.

So it’s time to bug out for a little while, get away from population centers, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. And you need to reach your spot before that virus spreads.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

PROPPER® Bail Out Bag (.99)

Luckily, you know a pretty good spot in the hills where you’ve got a little water cached, and you’ve got two bags ready to go with all your immediate needs. You head home, get your dog into the car, and grab your PROPPER® Bail Out Bag and Expandable Backpack from the hall closet.

You’re out the door and on the road in under a minute. Medical supplies, ruggedized laptop, water, some old MRE components, and more supplies are already packed away in your trusty bag.

You drive towards your spot, but the ominous rain reaches you on the road, and you’re left driving slow with the wipers on max. Unfortunately, a driver headed the other way isn’t being so conscientious, and they’re flying down the road. You try to slow down and shift to the shoulder, but the other guy is coming too fast and swerves towards you, forcing you to ditch the road entirely to avoid a collision.

The car tumbles down the shoulder and ends driver-side down. You take a quick stock of yourself. Nothing seems broken, and the cut over your eye could be much worse. You take a moment for your mutt.

“Hey, good dog. How are you feeling?”

You hear a quick whine, but then feel a tongue licking your face, so you look over your right shoulder and see a healthy dog. Shaken, but they don’t appear to be favoring a leg. So, that’s great news.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Propper® Packable Waterproof Jacket (.99)

Carefully, you position your boot against the windshield. You rear back and let loose a quick, calculated kick, cracking the windshield. Two more hits and the glass breaks. You slowly disentangle yourself from the wreck, and free yourself into a cool, consistent drizzle.

The dog runs out with you, and you reach back in to pull out your bags. Before you get too wet, you pull on your Propper® Packable Waterproof Jacket to keep the rain off.

It’s not super late yet, but with the storm clouds overhead, you know it’ll be hard to see anything outside the range of your headlights. You take a quick chance to check out the hound and are happy to find no serious injuries. You also slap a quick bandage on yourself and dig out your Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light (4.99)

It’s charged, so you’ve got a while. And you can always swap in your spare button batteries if you need. You step past the headlights and give a quick scan of the road. You can’t see the car that nearly hit you, but you still want to get moving. Erratic drivers in a potential zombie outbreak area is a horrible sign.

So it’s time to start moving overland to your hideaway. You clip the flashlight to the D-ring on the backpack and dig out the map and compass, taking a quick second to mark your car’s location on the map. The backpack goes on your back, the bailout bag goes over your shoulder, and you step off.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo & Solar Powered Radio (.99)

As you do, you switch on the HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo Solar Powered Radio and leave the volume on low. You can always crank the dynamo if it runs low on juice, and you can open the solar panel on it come morning. In the meantime, it will help you stay connected to the rest of the world long after you lose cell signal.

As the miles start to crunch away under your boots, you remember that you went offroad a good distance from where you planned, meaning it’s going to take way longer to reach your secret spot and its supply of water. You’re going to need an interim solution.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Katadyn Vario Filter (.95)

But hey, you’re clearly nothing if not well-prepared. You double check the map for the little blue lines and pools that denote water, and alter your course to take you past a nearby creek.

Once you hear the trickle of water over the rocks, you beeline to it. Out here, the water looks pure and clear, but you know that even rainwater this close to the city can be contaminated, and rivers and streams can pick up all sorts of pollutants from its path and bacteria from the local wildlife.

So you pull out your Katadyn Vario Filter and plunge the hose into the water. In a pinch, it can clean and bottle two liters of water in a minute, passing the water through three filters. Activated charcoal eliminates most scents in the water too. But since you’re not in that big of a hurry, you set it to one-liter a minute, reducing wear and tear.

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

GOSO Starter 24 Piece Lock Pick Set with Sturdy All Weather Zip Case (.99)

Refreshed and once again moving to your cache, you start to whistle. You’ve got your dog, you’ve got your supplies, you’re hiking in the rain. As long as the city doesn’t descend into a zombie apocalypse tonight, life could be a whole lot worse. And if it does, well, at least you’re prepared.

And, hey, you’ve even got a GOSO Starter 24-Piece Lock Pick Set in your pocket, so if the worst has come to pass, at least you can break into all sorts of old bases, libraries, whatever, and explore them wasteland-style.

“Let’s go, Mutt.”

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.

To make sure you’re prepared for any mission, check out the other Propper Mission Kits.

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