The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

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


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

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

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

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

www.history.navy.mil

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated through the land
He was wined and speeched and honored
Everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian
No water, no home, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when did the Indians dance
The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

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

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

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

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

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

live.staticflickr.com

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

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

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

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

popular

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

The Special Air Service is the longest active special missions unit in existence and has remained one of the best. Staffed with the toughest and most resourceful enlisted and commissioned soldiers the United Kingdom has to offer, the SAS only accepts the cream of the crop. Of all candidates who try to earn the coveted beige beret and the title of “Blade,” only the very best make it through.


In order to thin out the herd, the SAS holds one of the most arduous and rigorous selection and training programs in the modern special operations community. Timed cross-country marches, treks through jungles, and a mountain climb are just a few of the challenges that make joining the SAS an extreme task.

Typically, the SAS runs two selection periods every year, one in summer and the other in winter. While any fully-trained member of the British Armed Forces may apply for selection, the bulk of candidates tend to come from light infantry, airborne, and commando units.

Selection lasts around five months and consists of multiple phases, each designed to break down every candidate and push them to their limits and beyond. That’s probably why the program has an astonishing 90% fail rate. Many drop out due to stress or injury — those who remain must meet and exceed the high standards set by the selection cadre.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
The dreaded Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons

It all begins with physical testing designed to ensure that each candidate meets the minimum requirements to join the SAS. Selection then moves forward with a series of forced marches in the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range in South Wales. Candidates are issued rifles, weighted rucks, and rations and are then sent packing. Their ultimate test in the first phase is navigating themselves across Pen y Fan, the highest peak of the Brecon Beacons, alone and within a 20 hour time limit.

This segment, called officially “Endurance,” but popularly known as the “Fan Dance,” holds a special (if not dreaded) place in the hearts of all candidates. It’s such an excruciating and dangerous trek that some have even perished over the years in attempts.

After completing Endurance, all surviving candidates are given weeks of instruction on weapons, tactics, and procedures. This is their first real introduction to the shadowy world in which the SAS generally operates. Lessons on tradecraft, medical care, and hand-to-hand combat are also included. This segment is run in the hot, dense jungles of Brunei, Belize, or Malaysia.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
An L85 rifle, similar to those used during SAS selction, are standard issue of the British Armed Forces.
(US Marine Corps)

Upon passing the jungle phase, candidates return to the United Kingdom to Hereford, home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, where they receive further specialized instruction and undergo testing on their trade. Their marksmanship abilities are honed and developed, their combat driving abilities are refined, and their proficiency with foreign weapons and vehicles is enhanced.

Candidates are also put through airborne school, learning how to conduct static line and freefall jumps, and are committed to a grueling combat survival and resistance program, similar to the US military’s SERE school. After a one week-test during which candidates are hunted down and brutally interrogated, they are finally on their way to joining the active SAS.

By the end of SAS selection, an initial batch of around 200 candidates will have dwindled down to roughly 25. These candidates are sent to operational squadrons for further training and eventual deployment. They represent the finest the British Armed Forces have to offer, and are thus awarded their beige berets and the SAS badge — the winged dagger.

They have earned the right to call themselves “Blades.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 tips for making the most of a military ball

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.


In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.

Choose an outfit you love

First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.

You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Be friendly

No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!

Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.

media.defense.gov

Take part in the festivities

Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!

Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.

Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Don’t come starving

While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!

Make a day of it

Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Show off your date!

As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.

Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!

What’s your best military ball tip?

MIGHTY HISTORY

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

The Marines will be the first to tell you they have “fought in every clime and place” from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” The history of the Corps is steeped in legendary heroism and ferocious battles. From Chapultepec to Belleau Wood to Fallujah, the Marines have made a name for themselves throughout our country’s history.

But there is one battle that stands out.

Iwo Jima.


Ask any Marine about Iwo Jima, and you will see instant reverence in their eyes. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” was the phrase used to describe the spirit of the men that fought that battle.

The landing on Iwo Jima took place 75 years ago today. Located about 750 miles from mainland Japan, Iwo Jima was a volcanic rock that both sides viewed as an important objective of the American’s island-hopping campaign. For the Americans, the airfields there meant both easier and shorter routes to mainland Japan as well as helping clear the air of fighters that would intercept such bombers.

The Japanese simply knew that the capture of Iwo put the Americans one step closer to their homeland.

What followed next was one of the most ferocious battles man has ever waged.

Much has been written about the battle and its effect on history. Here are some of the more interesting things about the battle of Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima was first discovered by Spanish explorers. 

In 1543, a ship located the island and landed to explore the newly found land. They gave it the name “Sulphur Island.” When translated roughly to Japanese, it was called Io To, or Iwo Jima. The Japanese didn’t arrive at the island until the end of the 16th century.

The Japanese knew they were going to lose the battle. 

As historians poured over Japanese war records after the war was over, they found that the Japanese knew the battle was a sure loss. The Japanese Imperial Navy was all but vanquished in the Pacific. The Japanese Air Force was almost obliterated as well. The Japanese had lost quite a few planes and had to keep as many as close to their mainland as possible. Even worse than the lack of planes was a shortage of pilots. The Americans would send experienced pilots back home to train more pilots. The Japanese didn’t do that. They kept their experienced pilots out, and as they suffered heavy losses, there was a shortfall in experience and numbers.

As a result, the Japanese changed the strategy of the defense of the island to be one of attrition. They figured the Americans would win. They just wanted to make them pay dearly for it. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan, summoned Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi to his office and told him to defend Iwo Jima to the last man as a means to buy time. Kuribayashi, who came from a Samurai family, accepted the mission and set off for the island to set up a unique defense that the Americans had not seen yet.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

The Japanese wanted to dissuade the Americans from attacking the mainland.

Kuribayashi changed the way the island would be defended. Instead of fighting the Americans on the beaches, he would allow them to land uncontested on the island. He knew the black volcanic sand, which had dunes up to 15 feet tall, could bog down the Americans, so he figured to let them all on before opening fire. He had the beach zeroed in by artillery and mortars to the last inch. On the island’s interior, he set up defensive positions in a new way. The fortifications and tunnels allowed the Japanese soldiers to retake positions that had already been overrun. On an island that was just eight square miles, there were over 11 miles of tunnels the Japanese could use.

The intended effect was to inflict as much damage as possible to the American forces. By dragging out this conflict and inflicting casualties, the Japanese hoped that the carnage would dissuade the U.S. from attacking the Japanese mainland.

The US thought the battle would last only a week.

It’s not that the Americans thought less of the Japanese. It was at this point they thought they knew what they were going to do. After victories through the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to the Philippines, the U.S. military thought they had a winning plan. Start with a devastating naval bombardment, get the men on the beach, provide them with close air support, and take the airfields quickly. They did that but realized way too soon that the naval bombardment didn’t do much damage, the Japanese actually wanted the Americans to land, and that they had to fight for every square inch of the island. The initial weeklong projection turned out to be five weeks of some of the worst fighting the Americans had seen to that point.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

The beach was hell on earth.

After taking the naval and air bombardment, the Japanese allowed the Marines to congregate on the beach. Many thought that the Japanese were killed in the immense bombardment, but unfortunately, they were wrong. Kuribayashi told his troops to wait one hour before opening fire. When the Marines were massed on the beach and started to move forward slowly through the volcanic ash, they were shocked to learn the hard way that the Japanese had every inch of the beach sighted in and had to race off the beach while under intense artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire.

One account from the beach …

Within a minute a mortar shell exploded among the group … his left foot and ankle hung from his leg, held on by a ribbon of flesh … Within minutes a second round landed near him and fragments tore into his other leg. For nearly an hour he wondered where the next shell would land. He was soon to find out as a shell burst almost on top of him, wounding him for the third time in the shoulder. Almost at once another explosion bounced him several feet into the air and hot shards ripped into both thighs … as he lifted his arm to look at his watch a mortar shell exploded only feet away and blasted the watch from his wrist and tore a large jagged hole in his forearm: “I was beginning to know what it must be like to be crucified,” he was later to say.

By the end of the first day, over 30,000 Marines had landed, and the island was cut into two. However, upon seeing the initial casualty lists from the day’s carnage, General Howlin’ Mad Smith remarked, “I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese general running this show is one smart bastard.”

For the only time in the war, the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese.

The Marines went into Iwo Jima with a 3:1 advantage in terms of troops. At the end of the five-week battle, they would have 26,000 casualties versus 18,000 for the Japanese. One of the men killed on the beach was Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. Basilone was a hero on Guadalcanal who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions there. As the intense bombardment came down, Basilone was last seen yelling for men to move off the beach. He was among the many killed that day. By the end of the battle, many more would die. While the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese, they had about one third less killed. Of the 18,000 Japanese soldiers who fought on the island, only 221 were captured. Most of the captured were either knocked unconscious or incapacitated.

There were few banzai charges so the Americans improvised.

The Americans factored in banzai or human wave attacks when they did their initial estimate of the length of the battle. In fact, the Japanese general prohibited such attacks as he knew that they didn’t work. He wanted his men to fight to the death, but he wanted to take as many Americans out as they could.

The Americans wouldn’t deal with that. Realizing quickly that firearms and close air support weren’t cutting it, the Marines adapted on the fly as they have throughout their history. They started using flamethrowers, (badass men as well as on modified tanks) to eradicate the Japanese. Once they realized the tunnel system allowed the enemy to reoccupy positions that had been overtaken, they just started flame-throwing everything that they saw… over and over again.

It worked. The Japanese tunnel system ended up becoming the graves of countless Japanese soldiers. Only toward the end, when food and supplies were low, did Kuribayashi allow banzai charges so his men would die “with honor.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Americans at home thought the battle was over fast.

The iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal, which showed Marines hoisting the flag on Mt. Suribachi, was the American people’s first view of the battle. It was taken on February 23, four days after the initial assault. The picture was released by the AP two days later, where it was published by virtually every newspaper in the free world. In an age, before social media, television, and satellite feeds, many assumed the battle was over based on the picture. It wasn’t.

As the battle raged on and the casualties mounted, Americans at home wondered why so many boys had to die for a small piece of rock.

How important was Iwo Jima and the effect of the battle?

Even before the battle’s conclusion, the U.S. military started using the airfields on Iwo Jima for bombing runs on Japan. Planes that were damaged during their runs now had a shorter trip to base, so they had a better chance of surviving. Fighters could now use the base to refuel, and accompany their bombers to Japan. However, people wondered if the same things could have happened had the Americans attacked elsewhere. The Americans also found out that the radar used by the Japanese on Iwo was not really beneficial as the Japanese already had other radar installations that did the same job. The battle’s need was a contentious matter as early as the end of hostilities on Iwo Jima.

One effect the battle did have was on the end of the war. After Iwo Jima, another horrible battle took place on Okinawa. By this point, the Japanese realized that Kuribayashi’s strategy worked. They could inflict major losses on the Americans and turn public opinion against the war. The Americans learned too and proceeded to unleash longer more devastating bombardments on Okinawa in the lead-up and more aggressive use of flamethrowers and incendiary devices on Japanese soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire, to horrific results.

When the final obstacle to the Japanese mainland fell, Americans looked at other ways to end the war and avoid the bloodbath that Iwo Jima and Okinawa wrought.

They found it in recently developed atomic weapons.

Uncommon valor was a common virtue.

Regardless of if Iwo Jima was strategically worth it, the Marines still viewed the battle as a badge of honor. They were not part of the planning or strategy but were told to take the island. They did.

They asked for a 10-day bombardment and got three. They adapted to a terrible situation and came out ahead. They looked death in the face and, as Marines usually do, didn’t even get fazed.

Eighty-two Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines during World War II. Twenty-two of them (28%) were earned on Iwo Jima alone. There is only one awardee alive today, Woody Williams, who earned the medal for using his flamethrower to wipe out numerous enemy emplacements.

On this 75th anniversary, to those who fought in that terrible battle and to the families left behind, We Are the Mighty salutes you.

Semper Fidelis

Podcast

6 military movies you need to watch in 2018


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, the crew discusses what military movies veterans need to see in 2018.

Since all veterans have their own idea of what makes a good military movie, Blake, Tim, and even the new WATM contributor, Sean chime in what they think makes a solid war film.

Is having a war film based on a true story more important than having epic explosions? Or a movie where the real heroes of the day play themselves make for a better cinematic experience?

Related: This is why it’s so damn hard to play a veteran, according to an actor

1. 12 Strong

Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the film chronicles one of the first Special Forces teams to deploy to Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11. The SF team joins forces with the Afghan Northern Alliance and rides into battle against the Taliban on horseback.

12 Strong brilliantly captures how difficult it is for ground troops to work and fight alongside Afghan freedom fighters against the insurgents due to the language and cultural barrier.

The film stars WATM friend Rob Riggle, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena, and Michael Shannon.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A partner has formed. (Screenshot from Warner Brother’s 12 Strong)

2. The 15:17 to Paris

Directed by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, the film focuses on the American soldiers who discover a terrorist plot on a train headed to Paris.

Interesting enough, the three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack play themselves in the film alongside actress Jenna Fischer — and we like Jenna Fischer. 

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

3. Tough As They Come

Starring and directed by Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone, the film tracks Travis Mills (played by Marine veteran Adam Driver), a quadriplegic soldier returning from Afghanistan after his horrific injury.

Back in the U.S., Mills has to reconcile with his stepfather while coping with his new life using prosthetic legs and arms.

You may recall that Mills’ book was a New York Times bestseller.

4. The Last Full Measure

Directed by Todd Robinson, the film showcases a Pentagon investigator who teams up with a few veterans of “Operation Abilene” to persuade Congress to award deceased Air Force medic, William Pitsenbarger, the Medal of Honor 35 years later.

Pitsenbarger is accredited with saving over 60 ambushed service members in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam War.

The film stars Sebastian Stan, William Hurt, and Samual L. Jackson.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) speaks with Tulley (William Hurt) Airman William H. Pitsenbarger Jr. heroics. (Screenshot from Warner’s Brothers The Last Full Measure).

5. Ruin

Directed by Justin Kurzel, the film chronicles a nameless ex-Nazi captain who navigates the ruins of post-WWII Germany to atone for the crimes he committed during the war by hunting the surviving members of his former SS Death Squad.

Gal Gadot is rumored to have a role, but additional information hasn’t been released.

6. The 34th Battalion

Directed and produced by Luke Sparke, the film follows four friends from Maitland, New South Wales who join the 34th Battalion to serve on the Western Front. The film depicts the experiences of the unit, which was recruited in 1916.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
The first teaser poster The 34th Battalion. (IMDB)

Also Read: This Green Beret will change what you know about action movies

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Guest: Former Marine Chef and WATM Contributor Sean Dodds

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how far Mario ran and swam to save the Princess

Now you can do the Mario saves Princess Peach workout on a daily basis, thanks to Boston-based computer programmer Ian Albert and Mental Floss magazine. After a reader asked the magazine how many miles the Italian duo had to run, jump, and swim to get to the Princess, they were actually able to calculate it using some simple standard measurements.

There are some ground pounders out there who probably do harder workouts for fun.


The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Not to take anything away from your childhood or anything.

Mental Floss’ Nick Green took the maps created through Ian Alberts screenshots of the game, calculated how large Mario and Luigi would be as normal human beings – that is, using their pre-mushroom growth hormone size – a human with their feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, an average of 26 inches.

Then, using no bonus areas or warp tunnels, Green calculated the distance from Mario’s starting point to saving the princess, relative to that 26 inches between his feet. The final tally comes to 17,835 feet – 3.4 miles. Barely more than running a 5K fun run, though this number increases to 3.7 miles if you also calculate running all the bonus areas.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Super Mario PT will not be coming to your console anytime soon.

If we were going to make this a partial triathlon, then calculating the swimming distance would be 371 feet, roughly eight laps in an Olympic-sized pool, and another 344 feet with the bonus areas, so around 15 laps.

Keep in mind this is just running and swimming straight through, without calculating the physical toll of jumping, climbing stairs, crawling in tubes, and murdering birds and turtles or of running in a lava-filled enclosed castle. There’s no doubt that rescuing the princess would be a little more difficult than we’re making it out to be, but the Princess Rescue Workout would still be short work for many military members.

Articles

5 reasons why Rip It is the go-to for infantrymen

Bullets, frags, and a bayonet are just a few pieces of heavy gear infantrymen haul on patrol while in a combat zone. But there’s one thing that most grunts carry with them that is equally as important and essential — the Rip It!


Yes, the freakin’ energy drink!

Rip It has been a military staple for years because of these five epic reasons.

Related: 7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

1. They come in small sizes

A grunt typically carries 80 – 150 pounds of gear when they’re hunting down the bad guys. So the last thing anyone wants to haul is a bulky energy drink can in their cargo pocket. Rip It comes in 8 fluid ounce cans for easy storage.

How awesome is that, right?

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Go ahead, take a moment to look at their beauty.

2. Increased physical performance

Ground pounders need to be as athletic as possible when they’re running from compound-to-compound taking down ISIS fighters. Rip It comes with Vitamin C, Guarana Seed Extract, and a sh*t ton of caffeine to make any infantryman extra motivated while they’re kicking down doors.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
These Marines conduct sprinting drills while wearing their flak jackets to pack on the extra resistance. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

3. You get mad focus

There’s nothing more important to a grunts than mental focus while engaging targets. The super-charged energy drink will have anyone grunt seeing through ISIS’ lies and their fortified position in no time (experiences may vary, but you’re pretty damn focused).

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A Marine carrying his full-combat load and is mentally dialed in.

4. They’re freakin’ delicious

Although drinking water is critical, that sh*t can get boring real quick. Rip It comes in a variety of flavors like “3-way,” “G-Force,” and the “Bomb.” Each flavor could be paired nicely with your favorite MRE. That’s what we call good eatin’.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Just some delicious Rip It variety.

Also Read: How this Marine special operator became the Corps’ top ‘tactical’ athlete — twice

5. Intimidation and a pre-workout

From personal experience, the enemy often becomes terrified of their American enemy when aggressively pursued. Rip It is commonly used as a pre-workout drink for when infantrymen are looking to get those deployment gains.

A jacked Marine or soldier going up against a skinny ISIS fighter = easy freakin’ day.

‘Merica!

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how San Francisco wound up with a self-proclaimed ’emperor’

The United States has been very proud to call itself a constitutional republic that is led by citizen-elected representatives. America is and has been, historically, very much opposed to monarchies. That is, until 1859, when a legitimately crazy guy wrote into a newspaper, proclaiming himself the “Emperor of these United States.”

Of course, he had absolutely no legal authority and no one truly believed his claim. In fact, “Emperor” Joshua Norton was actually a homeless man dressed in nice clothes. He ended up being a major tourist attraction for the city, however, so the locals just gave him a collective, “sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”

And so, an empire was born.


The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

That’s enough to drive anyone flippin’ crazy…

Before his nosedive straight into the deep-end of crazy town, Joshua Norton was a highly successful businessman. He bought real estate outside of goldmines just before the Gold Rush really boomed. He would sell all of his holdings to invest in rice in 1852. The Chinese rice industry had been struck with a famine that barred the export of rice, which drastically raised the price of rice in San Francisco to 25 cents per pound.

Norton, being the savvy businessman that he was, found a source for Peruvian rice, which was being sold for 12 cents per pound. His idea was to spend all of his money on rice from Peru and resell it in the U.S. at the swelled rate of Chinese rice. As soon as the sale was finalized, however, the per-pound price of Peruvian rice dropped to 3 cents and would be sold at near cost. In short, Norton blew everything he had on rice he couldn’t sell.

By 1858, the once-powerful businessman was bankrupt, penniless, forced into a boarding home, and forgotten by his elite former peers.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

He would also declare himself a pope, but that was more or less for the funeral for a stray dog.

Not much is known about his downward spiral into insanity but it was during that transition that he decided he couldn’t have been the son of regular English parents, but was rather a child of the House of Bourbon (despite the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette twenty five years before he was born.) This was confirmed in his mind by the fact that his first name was ‘Joshua’ — his logic was that his parents gave him a common name to hide his royal lineage.

He took his ramblings to the San Francisco Bulletin on September 18th, 1859. It’s remains unclear why the newspaper allowed it to run, but the audiences found it hilarious. In his editorial, he declared himself Emperor of these United States, decreed that Congress be abolished, and called for his “subjects” to gather at the city’s Musical Hall the following February 1st.

Congress was not abolished due to the whims of some random homeless guy — obviously. He ordered General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Union Armies, to clear the halls, but didn’t — obviously. Readers of the Bulletin did gather in droves at his call — likely because they figured it’d be funny. The doors were locked, but the crowds embraced the joke nonetheless.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

He even printed out worthless “Norton-bucks” that San Franciscans embraced and used because that’s exactly how fiat money works.

By 1861, the legend of “Emperor” Norton I had spread around the country and was fully embraced by San Franciscans. Among his many decrees, he demanded that…

  • …the unpopular California State Supreme Court would be abolished.
  • …anyone using the word ‘Frisco’ in reference to San Francisco would be exiled.
  • …a bridge be built between Oakland and San Francisco (which was impossible at the time).
  • …and that Governor Henry Wise of Virginia be fired for hanging the abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame.

These were all things locals agreed with before the Civil War.

“Emperor” Norton I became so popular that even politicians and business owners would placate him in order to not upset the townsfolk. Officers at the U.S. Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco offered him an elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulets to keep the joke going, because you know, it was still kind of funny.

In 1876, the actual Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II, would visit San Francisco on an official trip — only to be greeted by Norton I. They met for an hour at the Palace Hotel and enjoyed what we can only assumed was an awkward conversation.

“Emperor” Norton I passed on January 8th, 1880. His funeral saw the attendance of 10,000 people who mourned their local celebrity. Many years after his death, the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge was completed and many called for it to be renamed “The Emperor’s Bridge” in honor of the goofy homeless guy who jokingly became an emperor.

Remember, if you fall on hard times and feel your sanity start slipping… lean hard into that crazy and you could just wind up becoming a legend.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the US military’s only search-and-rescue dog

In 2010, airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Port-au-Prince, the capital and most populous city of Haiti, in response to a magnitude 7 earthquake that impacted millions.

“With the destroyed airfields, it was difficult for many government organizations to land aircraft and provide assistance,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, a pararescueman with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The airmen were able to get on the ground and assist in clearing the airfield thanks to their special capabilities, but they soon faced more complications.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons said.


“A team of special tactics airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.”

“It had been a couple days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives,” Parsons continued.

“It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Callie, a search and rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

In response to scenarios like the Haitian earthquake, Parsons spearheaded a new approach, developing the squadron’s Search and Rescue K-9 program. The effort, launched in 2018, is designed to increase the capabilities of disaster response teams in locating and recovering personnel through the use of specially trained canines.

After several months of preparation, the unit acquired its newest member, Callie, a 26-month-old Dutch shepherd, making her the first search-and-rescue dog in the Department of Defense.

She has now earned multiple qualifications to accommodate the specific skillset of the 123rd STS, including helicopter exfiltration and infiltration, mountain rescue (rappelling plus ice, snow and alpine maneuvers), static line and freefall parachute insertion.

“Callie is trained in live-find,” Parsons said. “She goes into wilderness, collapsed-structure or disaster situations. She’s trained to detect living people, find them, and alert me when she’s located them. We react accordingly, mark the spot and begin the extraction of those people.

“The unique function that we can provide by developing Callie is that we can get her to places that nobody else can get to,” Parsons added. “That’s the biggest benefit that we really saw value in. In the situation like the earthquake in Haiti, we can get her in there, and those days in difference could be the difference in somebody’s life.”

Before Callie’s introduction to the unit, the method of search and rescue in urban settings involved probing and digging with drills and cameras. According to Parsons, this slow and sometimes unreliable method only added tools, weight and difficulty to the process.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov.29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, complete a parachute insertion into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, during an exercise, July 16, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 15, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, alerts Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, her handler, after locating a simulated casualty during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Tech Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, rappel down a cliffside at Louisville, Kentucky, as part of Callie’s familiarization training, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The 123rd SAR K-9 program was funded by the Air National Guard innovation program, meant to enable Airmen to make positive, meaningful change and drive a culture shift toward innovation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States moves to block its oil exports, the Foreign Ministry says.

“If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the government news agency IRNA on July 24, 2018.

The United States has told countries that they must stop buying Iranian oil or face consequences.



The warning came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

The deal with six world powers provided Iran with some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rohani’s suggestion that Iran may block oil exports from the Persian Gulf if its own exports are stopped.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

President Hassan Rohani

Tensions have increased between the two countries in past days.

Trump warned Rohani on Twitter earlier this week to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The tweet appeared to be in response to Rohani saying any conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”

Tehran dismissed Trump’s warning on Twitter, which he wrote in capital letters.

Mimicking Trump’s tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied, “UNIMPRESSED … We’ve been around for millennia seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Speaking on July 24, 2018, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump’s tweet did not deserve a response, saying his comments were “undiplomatic and demagogic.”

“The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Larijani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

A Marine designed this killer new ‘Call of Duty’ theme

If you’ve never heard of Max Uriarte, you’re in for a treat. He’s the Marine, writer, and artist best known for his comic Terminal Lance, which pokes fun at the Marine Corps from a grunt’s point of view. Now he’s teamed up with The Call of Duty Endowment to create the Call of Duty: “Night Raid” PlayStation 4 Dynamic Theme.

The Call of Duty Endowment “helps veterans find high quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets bring to the workplace.”

All proceeds from the sale of the Night Raid theme ($2.99) go directly to the endowment to help vets get jobs after service. The Call of Duty Endowment has placed over 57,000 veterans thus far. Their new goal is placing 100,000 veterans into high quality jobs by 2024.

Check out some of the awesome artwork below:


Call of duty Endowment night raid dynamic theme tier 3

www.youtube.com

See “Night Raid” in action

Uriarte deployed to Iraq twice with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. In 2007 he operated as a turret gunner out of Fallujah and in 2009 he was a combat photographer out of al Asad. His second deployment left a lasting impact on his civilian career as an artist — or, to be more specific, a Combat Artist.

“Combat Art is the act of capturing beauty in places you wouldn’t normally find it. It…exists solely for the purpose of creating art on the battlefield. When events are filtered through an artist’s eye, they capture things that maybe a camera does not, such as the feelings and emotion of the place or subjects. A photograph is objective — it shows reality. A sketch or a painting is subjective, it shows what the artist interpreted and what the artist saw that maybe no one else did (or could),” Uriarte told Fletcher Black of Activision.

Also read: Top 10 ‘Terminal Lance’ comics from last year

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

U.S. Marine Max Uriarte (left); ‘Terminal Lance’ Marines Abe Garcia (right)

‘Terminal Lance’ strikes true with Marines — and vets from all branches — who’ve dealt with some of the…color…military service has to offer. The comic makes light of the tedium and nonsense that come with the job.

But Uriarte also has a serious side. His graphic novel, The White Donkey, was based on his combat deployment in Fallujah. His upcoming graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, promises to be a visceral examination of the effects of war on an Afghanistan province.

Who better to design art for the Call of Duty Endowment than a combat-experienced Marine with an artist’s eye and a creator’s hand?

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4: C.O.D.E. Jump Pack

You can also support veterans by grabbing the new Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4 – C.O.D.E. Jump Pack, which includes a special wingsuit, parachute, and trail. 100% of the proceeds will go directly toward helping veterans get jobs after their military service.

Check out both the Jump Pack and the “Night Raid” Dynamic Theme on your PlayStation!

Articles

How a deadly insurgent sniper in Iraq taunted his pursuers

It was a huge morale boost for the battle-weary soldiers living at Patrol Base Murray the morning they got a visit from the Army’s top general. They couldn’t have imagined that anyone of that importance would come to their dusty, dangerous slice of the combat zone.


It felt good, but less than an hour after he and his entourage went wheels up, five of their fellow soldiers would be dead, the victims of a cunning sniper who sucked them into his web with ruthlessly primitive tactics.

Also read: This is what goes through a sniper’s mind before the shot

The first victim was Spc. William Edwards. On a patrol outside the wire during the four-star general’s visit, he cautiously popped his Bradley’s driver hatch open three-quarters of the way to peer outside, and was shot high on his back squarely between the shoulders.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
A soldier scans the terrain through the hatch of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It was on a vehicle like this one that Spc. William Edwards was targeted by a deadly insurgent sniper. (Photo from Department of Defense)

“It was a great sniper shot,” then-Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, said of the clean hit, which Edwards’ platoon immediately knew had come from a three-story house about 200 meters away.

As the medics and docs in the aid station worked to save Edwards’ life, the rest of his buddies from Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon went into reaction mode and headed straight for the house to find the sniper.

The battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was on mission in the region of Arab Jabour about six miles southeast of the Baghdad, a lush agrarian area where magnificent houses that once belonged to the ruling Sunni elite grace the banks of the Tigris River.

It was now teeming with al-Qaeda operatives and their hired help. The troops called it “IED Alley” — aptly named as the division’s tally of men lost after a year in combat was more than 150, mostly to buried bombs. But the sniper threat was a constant.

The presumed sniper house was on a ribbon of land between a one-lane hardball road and the river less than a mile south of Patrol Base Murray, and 2nd Platoon had surrounded it within 15 minutes of the incident with Edwards.

Four soldiers – Sgt. Scott Kirkpatrick, Spc. Justin Penrod, Sgt. Andrew Lancaster and Staff Sgt. William Scates – went into the house to clear it. They entered through the back door.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
It was in a house much like this on in Arab Jabour that the soldiers pursuing Spc. Edwards’ killer met their grim fate. (DOD photo)

“There was a trip wire deep in the house at the end of the hallway going into the living room. A pressure sensitive wire, something under the carpet,” Adgie said.

Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the house was booby trapped with as many as four 155 mm artillery rounds enhanced with homemade explosives and when the first soldier stepped on the trigger, it tripped a circuit and detonated the charge, blowing everyone up in a fiery explosion.

The soldiers were killed, a heavy toll that raised to five the number of soldiers the battalion lost that day, all within 30 minutes.

“The explosion was huge,” Adgie said. “Structurally the house stood, but it caught fire then burned for six hours. We had to wait for it to go out and the Navy EOD guys to go in and make sure it was safe before we could get one of the bodies out.”

Early that evening, with the scope of the tragedy barely having sunk in yet, the company commander and platoon leader went back to the house with an interpreter and climbed an inside stairway to the third floor to see if they could find a clue about the sniper.

On the wall, in Arabic, was a hateful taunt from the sniper himself, a message that read, roughly, “This is where the sniper got your guys.”

But the sniper was long gone and had left nothing behind but the note.

Infuriated by the deadly “gotcha” they had found, the unit’s human intelligence collection team went to work immediately, plying every source in every corner of their battle space to find out who the sniper was.

One of their best resources was a small team of Iraqis the battalion called their “Bird Dogs,” three men – former insurgents – who lived with the unit at Patrol Base Murray and ran a cell phone operation to reach out to a network of sympathetic friends in Arab Jabour.

The sniper, it turns out, was already famous in the Al Qaeda-friendly area for his highly successful and prominent ambush and a short 48 hours later, the U.S. soldiers, with the help of the Bird Dogs, had a name and a description.

He was Mohamed Uthman, a 5-foot, 2-inch tall foot soldier for Al Qaeda who had a reputation for being a murderous criminal. And, no surprise, he was already known as a “high value target” on a list the Americans had of their most wanted.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
When Army units identified the name of the sniper who killed five soldiers in one day, they launched an operation to fix and destroy the sharpshooter who taunted them. (DOD photo)

“Word on the street was, this is the guy who did it, and he kept on working after that. He was a cold blooded killer and he killed more Iraqis than he did Americans,” Adgie said.

The mean little sniper eluded capture for months, until one night when he made the decision to go out and kill people with the wrong insurgent mortar team.

It was December 11, 2007, four months to the day he had snuffed out the lives of the five soldiers, and Adgie cleared an Air Force F-16 hot to drop a bomb on the mortar team, unaware that Uthman was one of the teammates.

They found out after a site exploitation team identified one of the dead as the diminutive sniper.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
Soldier targeted the taunting sniper with a bomb dropped from coalition aircraft. (DOD video via GifBrewery)

“When Adgie lost those soldiers in that house borne IED, I flew in and we were on our knees praying and crying like babies,” said then-Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd ID. “We learned, but we learned the hard way. If something looked like it might be rigged with explosives, we just blew it up. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to go in there again because we’d already lost four.”

The tiny killer was gone, but insurgent snipers continued to bedevil the troops, said Lynch, who recalled the death of a soldier in an Abrams M1A1 tank, who, like Edwards in the Bradley, opened his hatch while the tank was on the move and was shot by a sniper from a range they estimated at about 1,000 meters.

“He’s a thinking, adaptive enemy,” Lynch said. “They watched our movements and based on their training they could pace their engagement on the rate of movement of the vehicle.”

Lynch pointed out that the division’s brigade and battalion commanders under his command had all been to Iraq at least once before and had come to know the value of having well trained and equipped sniper teams.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes
After crawling through grass and brush toward their target, a sniper team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, set their sights on their target during a two-week training school where U.S. Soldiers trained Iraqi army special forces at the Al Kindi Iraqi army base in Mosul, Iraq.

In Arab Jabour the sniper teams were used consistently to overwatch IED hot spots and other things like long range cameras placed on elevated platforms. The cameras provided overwatch as well, but the snipers came into play and could shoot from concealed locations if anyone messed with those cameras.

“There’s clearly a continuing role for our snipers. They found their niche on the battlefield,” Lynch said.

Gina Cavallaro is the author of Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Valley Forge: The bootcamp that turned around the American Revolution

After years of growing tension between Great Britain and the 13 North American colonies, war officially broke out between the British troops and the colonial militia in the Massachusetts battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. That June, the revolutionary rebels were gaining traction, and the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to vote in favor of forming the Continental Army, which would be fronted by George Washington as the commander in chief. However, British Redcoats soon descended in the tens of thousands upon Washington’s humble forces, and a series of losses at battles such as Brandywine and Paoli brought the Continental Army to the brink of collapse.


General George Washington and his ramshackle army arrived in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777. As the British had taken the rebel capital of Philadelphia, the Valley Forge camp sat roughly twenty miles northwest in a wide open agricultural landscape. The six months that the General and his men spent there would turn out to be some of the most demoralizing—and revitalizing—periods of the Revolutionary War.

Around 12,000 people including soldiers, artificers, women, and children set up camp at Valley Forge. They constructed small wooden huts that would be inhabited by a dozen soldiers at once. Inside the cramped quarters, the soldiers used straw for their bedding and went without the comfort of blankets.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fimages%3Fq%3Dtbn%3AANd9GcQBFSMrXEppuEOckyWgFl560MjSbvGGe6cmM56MkqOLP7kJc5Jx&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fencrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com&s=892&h=f532a1f7868218dc7e7ed09dd8165e5a36822c48229c898d2e59d32b113bd1f6&size=980x&c=994763871 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9GcQBFSMrXEppuEOckyWgFl560MjSbvGGe6cmM56MkqOLP7kJc5Jx%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com%26s%3D892%26h%3Df532a1f7868218dc7e7ed09dd8165e5a36822c48229c898d2e59d32b113bd1f6%26size%3D980x%26c%3D994763871%22%7D” expand=1]

Though the winter of 1777 to 1778 wasn’t particularly harsh, the typical conditions overwhelmed the poorly supplied soldiers. Many of Washington’s men lacked proper attire—boots in particular—which rendered them unfit for service. As the men froze, their limbs would blacken. Often, there was no choice but to submit to amputations.

Worse yet, food stocks were quickly depleting, and there were stretches of time where troops went without meat for days. Diseases like influenza, typhoid, and dysentery ravaged the camp, thanks in part to poor hygiene practices, reportedly resulting in the death of one in six soldiers. Conditions were so bad, and the efforts of the troops so pitiable that George Washington was almost relieved of his command.

However, despite the distressed conditions that Washington’s army was experiencing, their time at Valley Forge would soon prove to be an incredible tactical opportunity with the assistance of one immigrant.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, often called Baron von Steuben, had been a military officer in the Prussian army since the age of 17. The Prussian army was a force widely considered one of the most formidable in Europe at the time, and von Steuben had made the most of his time with the army. The baron was a well-trained soldier with a clever mind for military strategy. On February 23, 1776, he rode into Valley Forge to turn the tides of war.

Upon his arrival, General George Washington was quick to appoint von Steuben as a temporary inspector general. Thanks to his impressive experience overseas, von Steuben was knowledgeable not just in drills, but also in maintaining a sanitary camp. He began redirecting the latrines to a location far away from the kitchens—and facing downhill.

More notably, Steuben was also appointed as the chief drillmaster for Washington’s Continental Army, even though he knew very little English upon his arrival. The main problem with the Continental Army was that, while they had first-hand combat experience, most of its members had never been formally trained. What training the soldiers had received at this point varied based on which militia or regiment they originated from, resulting in little to no uniformity during battle. Steuben was resolved to remedy this.

Steuben began to run the troops through a series of strict Prussian drills. He taught them how to quickly and efficiently load and fire their weapons, and they practiced volley fire as well as skirmish operations. Steuben then tackled their issues with maneuverability by standardizing their marching paces and organizing them into tight four-man columns as opposed to the endless single file lines they’d been trudging into battle. He also taught the soldiers how to proficiently charge with bayonets.

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

The impact made by Steuben’s efforts was not contained merely to those soldiers who spent six months at Valley Forge. The drillmaster was instrumental in the creation of an American military manual, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”, often simply referred to as the “Blue Book”. This work would stand as the official training resource for the U.S. Army for decades to come.

The Continental Army was in fighting form like never before. Not only were they armed with expert combat skills, but Steuben’s training had effected a sharp incline in morale across the camp. It was with this sharpened tactics and heightened confidence that General George Washington’s troops would face the British again in the thaw of 1778.

Not long before Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, the French had signed a treaty with colonial forces. The Franco-American alliance eventually shook the nerve of British officers, and fearing that they would be set upon by the French naval force if they remained in Philadelphia, the British marched on to New York City on June 18, 1778. George Washington and his reformed soldiers followed bravely after the Redcoats the very next day.

As the British made their way through New Jersey, they decimated property and pillaged supplies from civilians. In response, the local militia set about exhausting the British soldiers with small scale confrontations. On June 28, the Continental Army and the British troops finally came together in the Battle of Monmouth.

The battle in the sweltering summer heat lasted five long hours. Though many historians consider this first great clash after Valley Forge to have been a stalemate between the forces, it was still pivotal in the Continental Army’s rise. They had proven themselves a cohesive and impressive unit. The changes made at the once-grim Valley Forge camp would propel them forward to eventually win their independence from Britain.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information