This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators - We Are The Mighty
Articles

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.

The 13-boat movement was part of Operation Silver Mace II, which was put into action to break up Viet Cong operations in that section of Vietnam. The boats were to drop off the ground forces and then provide support from the river. The first five boats reached the insertion points for their marines and completed their mission without incident.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Riverine craft make their way up a narrow river in Vietnam. PCF-23 was one of the craft involved in Operation Silver Mace II. (Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.

But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.

A short time later, everything went sideways. The eight boats were proceeding upriver when PCF-5, the lead boat, was suddenly hit with a claymore mine from the riverbank. More claymores, rockets, and machine gun fire rained down on the boats.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.

The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.

That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.

As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.

The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.

The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.

Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.

Yost was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the fight. In 1986, he became the 18th Commandant of the Coast Guard.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This sea battle claimed the lives of 5 brothers in World War II

On November 13, 1942, the USS Juneau went down in the Pacific Ocean after being struck by a Japanese torpedo in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Only 10 members of the over 700-man crew survived. Onboard were the five Sullivan brothers. They all perished in the battle.


George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert Sullivan joined the U.S. Navy out of Waterloo, Iowa in January 1942. George and Francis were prior service enlistees, serving on the USS Hover before the war. During the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the brothers lost five friends in combat.

 

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The Sullivan brothers pose on the USS Juneau. Photo: US Navy

George and Francis immediately began preparations to rejoin the Navy and convinced their brothers and two friends from a motorcycle club to enlist with them. They wrote a letter to the secretary of the Navy asking to be allowed to train and serve together.

The boys went through training together and the Sullivans were later assigned to the USS Juneau, an Atlanta-class light cruiser completed in October 1941. Meanwhile, back home, the Sullivans bonded with each other and the Navy. Albert’s wife and son lived with the Sullivan parents and Alleta Sullivan, their mother, sponsored a ship for the Navy, the USS Tawasa.

As the U.S. Navy tried to halt Japanese advances in the Pacific and began pushing them back, modern cruisers like the Juneau were needed to protect carrier groups from air attack as well as bombard shore positions. The Juneau saw action first in the Atlantic but was sent to the Pacific where it protected the USS Wasp, USS Hornet, and USS Enterprise in fierce combat against the Japanese.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The USS Juneau in 1942. Photo: US Navy

The Juneau was tasked with protecting reinforcements being ferried ashore to Guadalcanal on November 12, 1942. In the early afternoon, 30 Japanese planes attacked the ships and the Juneau went into action. The gunners picked off six torpedo planes and helped drive off the Japanese attacks.

The American ships prepared for a surface attack. The next day, 18-20 Japanese ships bore down on the small U.S. force. Juneau and the USS Atlanta teamed up and successfully brought down a Japanese ship but the Juneau was struck by an enemy torpedo shortly after. The Juneau withdrew with the damaged USS San Francisco but was engaged again by Japanese torpedoes.

A Japanese sub fired a three-torpedo spread and the Juneau avoided two of them, but the third either passed through the earlier damage into the center of the ship or struck in almost the same spot.

Witnesses described a massive explosion that nearly disintegrated the center of the ship. The two remaining pieces sank in only twenty seconds while the captain and most of the crew, including at least two of the brothers, were killed.

Around 100 sailors made it to the life rafts, including George Sullivan and possibly two other Sullivans. Over the next eight days, sailors died as sharks, exhaustion, and dehydration claimed them. According to a survivor on the same raft as George, he fell into the ocean and was claimed by the sharks.

Only 10 survivors were found and rescued from the USS Juneau and none of the Sullivan brothers were among them. Back home, rumors of the Juneau’s sinking had reached Waterloo and Alleta was desperate to learn whether or not her sons had survived. She wrote to the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
National Archives and Records Administration

Only days later, she received a personal letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that expressed his condolences for her sudden loss.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
National Archives and Records Administration

 

The Sullivan Brothers were survived by both of their parents. Albert also left behind a wife, Katherine, and a son, Jim.

Alleta Sullivan continued to be a friend to the Navy after the death of her sons, christening the USS Tawasa as promised but also participating in war bonds drives, encouraging ship builders, and volunteering with the USO to make service members’ lives easier.

 

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
USS The Sullivans fires a Standard Missile-2 during a training exercise. Photo by US Navy Information Specialist 1st Class Steven Martel

The Navy was since named two ships for the Sullivan brothers. USS The Sullivans (DD 537) was a destroyer that now serves as a museum in Buffalo, New York. USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) is an Aegis-class guided missile destroyer that served in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Articles

Disbanded Israeli commando unit returns for counter-terrorism mission

Israel is reestablishing a storied commando unit disbanded in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War to help the country battle today’s terrorist enemies.


According to a report in ShephardMedia.com, the unit is already in operation, and has returned to help bolster units capable of specialized counter-terrorism missions. In this case, the operations may be centering on the Gaza Strip, currently controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Officers with the Kfir Brigade practice fighting in built-up areas. (IDF photo)

“The IDF has a need for a special unit capable of operating in Palestinian areas,” Capt. Ben Eichenthal, the unit’s deputy commander, told ShephardMedia.com.

IsraelHayom.com reports that the unit will specialize in military operations in urban terrain and also in “subterranean operations.” Israel has been trying to locate tunnels dug in order to facilitate smuggling into the Gaza Strip. On June 1, two such tunnels were discovered under schools run by the United Nations Refugee Welfare Agency.

While Haruv will have operators trained as snipers, anti-tank units and engineers will not be assigned to this unit, which will be roughly the size of an infantry battalion. The unit has been assigned to the Kfir Brigade – which holds five other counter-terrorist units, the Nachshon, Shimshon, Duchifat, Lavi and Netzah Yehuda battalions.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Israeli troops with the Kfir brigade prepared for urban combat. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The original “Haruv” unit fought in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. Its best-known operation was in ending an airline hijacking in August, 1973. According to Isayeret.com, the unit also specialized in carrying out border security missions on Israel’s border with Jordan.

The earlier Haruv unit carried out a number of its operations in the Gaza Strip. During its eight years in operation, it also carried out ambushes and pursuit missions in the Jordan Valley. In the wake of the Yom Kippur war, the Israeli Defense Forces disbanded special operations units at the regional command level.

Articles

This Guy Digitally Paints US Presidents Into Totally Badass Situations

If you’ve ever wondered what President Ronald Reagan would look like while riding a velociraptor, San Francisco artist Jason Heuser has you covered.


With creations ranging from Reagan shooting from the saddle of a dinosaur to Nixon fighting a sabertooth tiger, Heuser has built an impressive art collection of U.S. Presidents being, well, total badasses.

The digital artist goes by the name Sharpwriter on the DeviantArt website, where he posts his creations for people to view or print out and enjoy. He also sells full-size prints. We gathered up some of our favorites here, but he has many more at his DA gallery, which you should definitely check out.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Articles

SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

There’s a lot going on behind closed doors in the ground services as planners see an opportunity to fundamentally change the mix of infantry weapons given bigger defense budgets and a command more receptive to change.


WATM earlier reported on moves in the Army to quickly outfit soldiers with an interim battle rifle capability with available 7.62 NATO chambered rifles to replace some standard-issue 5.56 M4s in the infantry squad and platoon. It now seems the service is set to issue an Urgent Needs requirement for over 6,000 battle rifles for soldiers in the fight now.

But in a move that analysts say could fundamentally transform the lethality of small units on the front lines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to find ways to replace some of their M2 .50 caliber machine guns and M240 machine guns with a new one chambered in an innovative round developed primarily for long-range precision shooters in the civilian market.

WATM reported in March that the services were taking a hard look at the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun developed by General Dynamics that fires the .338 Norma Magnum round — a relatively new cartridge that’s seen few military applications until now. According to sources in close touch with military planners, the .338 NM machine gun is 3 pounds lighter than the M240B and has double the range and lethality of the 7.62 round.

On May 11, SOCOM and the Marine Corps issued a so-called “Sources Sought” message to industry asking for a LWMMG that weighs less than 24 pounds, with a rate of fire between 500-600 rounds and which includes a suppressed and un-suppressed quick-change barrel.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
This slide from a recent industry briefing shows the LWMMG and its .338 NM round potentially reach targets beyond the .50 cal M2 range. Stats show an incredible 5x energy at 1,000 meters compared to the NATO 7.62 round. (Photo from General Dynamics)

The LWMMG should have the capability to accurately engage point targets out to 2,000 meters, SOCOM and the Marine Corps says.

The request is in answer to worries by military planners that the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other potential battlefields have widely-available small arms capabilities that can target U.S. troops at ranges Americans can’t reach with most weapons. Additionally, the M2 is extremely heavy and cannot be wielded by a single operator like the LWMMG can.

Documents show the 75th Ranger Regiment and Marine special operations units have successfully evaluated four LWMMGs and 16,000 rounds of .338 NM ammunition and want more.

The Sources Sought notice also includes a request for .338 NM ammunition with a polymer case rather than a brass or steel one — an effort to cut down on the overall weight of the system and allow more rounds per shooter. General Dynamics is well on its way to fielding a polymer-cased .338 round (less than 13 pounds for a 500-round box), and the Marine Corps is moving forward with outfitting its forces with polymer-cased .50 caliber rounds.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The technology to develop lightweight rounds that can handle the heat and pressure of automatic fire is progressing rapidly. (Photo from General Dynamics)

“In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century,” said one military small arms expert on the industry website SoldierSystems.net. “It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator.”

Articles

This Army officer beat cancer twice while going through Ranger School

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, a Ranger School graduate and cancer survivor, told recent Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course graduates and future Ranger students at Fort Benning, Ga., to attack every second of the Ranger course, Oct. 2, 2015. Courtesy photo by Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland


FORT BENNING, Ga., October 20, 2015 — Speaking to a room-full of infantry lieutenants at the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment Headquarters here Oct. 2, Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski sought to motivate recent Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course graduates with his story of resilience as they prepared to begin the Ranger course in a couple of days.

Last year, Janowski graduated from Ranger School and beat cancer twice in the process.

“Hopefully, I can give you a new perspective today,” Janowski said.

Janowski told the lieutenants that he began Ranger School on July 21, 2014, but during the Ranger Training Assessment Course he began to have medical concerns.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital, because I didn’t want to lose my Ranger slot. I was too naive, too stubborn. So I went to Ranger School anyway,” he said.

Janowski didn’t tell the course medics about his medical concerns. Instead, he confided in a fellow student who happened to be a Special Forces medic.

“After a few days, he pulled me to the side and was like, ‘It’s not getting better and I’ve had this idea of what it might be, but I didn’t want to scare you. I think it’s cancer. You should go to the medics,'” Janowski said.

Testicular Cancer

That night, Janowski went to the medics and was rushed to the hospital, where he learned that he had stage-one testicular cancer.

He underwent surgery and returned to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, or IBOLC, the next day, where he said he wanted to return to Ranger School.

Janowski waited two weeks to find out if the surgery worked.

“During those two weeks I was extremely fearful, not knowing the road ahead, and those are some of the feelings you are going to feel when you’re at Ranger School,” he said. “You’re going to be afraid. You’re not going to know what’s next. You’re not going to know if you’re going to recycle. My fight with cancer was the best training I got for Ranger School.”

At the end of the two weeks, Janowski learned that the surgery worked, and he was cancer free. He returned to the Ranger course Sept. 5, just five weeks after his surgery.

“Everyone in this room, I guarantee, is better physically than I am,” he said. “I’m not very big, not very strong and not very fast, but I went through Ranger School five weeks after [having] cancer and made it through [Ranger Assessment Phase] week.”

Janowski told the lieutenants that if they want their Ranger tabs bad enough, they will get them.

“RAP week is too easy. Ranger School is too easy. You don’t have to be a physical stud to get through. It’s literally all mental,” he said. Janowski made it through RAP week and then took a blood test to make sure the cancer had not returned.

Cancer Returns

“During my eight-hour pass, I got pulled aside and they [told] me the cancer is back,” he recalled, noting the disease had spread to his lungs and abdomen and had become stage four.

Janowski was medically dropped from the Ranger course again and he began to question whether or not he would survive.

“So, now I’ve wasted a bunch of time. I just got the hell beat out of me for no reason and I’m still losing. Trying to pick myself up after that was impossible,” he said. Janowski went to his hometown for medical leave and spent three months going through chemotherapy.

Getting Treatment

“It was five hours a day of just sitting in a chair, getting poison pumped into your body. It doesn’t hurt in the moment, but those days as it goes on and on it just beats you down,” he said.

During his treatment, Janowski said he lost all of his hair and watched himself physically deteriorate.

“Near the end of it I was at the bottom of the stairs trying to get up and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t walk up the stairs. And there were moments when I was in Mountain Phase when I was sitting there at 3 a.m. on a long walk, looking up to the top of the mountain and thinking there’s no way I’m getting up this mountain. Then I thought back to those days, where I sat at the bottom of the stairs,” he said.

He told the lieutenants they will have moments in Ranger School when they feel like they can’t possibly complete the task at hand.

“I can tell you from my experience, the body will go forever. Your mind will shut off before your body does,” he said.

Janowski said every Ranger student should push themselves beyond their limits.

“Trust me, your body will not fail you. You’re going to feel like you have nothing left in the tank, but I’ve seen what it’s like to be on the edge of death when the chemo completely broke me down to where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet without somebody helping me — and the body still had more to give,” he said.

When Janowski finished his chemotherapy treatments, he began looking for alternative ways to serve his country. He thought he would be medically discharged, but he realized that he truly wanted to complete the Ranger course.

Determined to Complete Ranger School

“I didn’t want to be older and telling my kids how to get through tough times and then look back at my own track record and realize that I let Ranger School get away, to realize that the cancer beat me,” he said.

Janowski returned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment and began IBOLC.

“I came back two weeks after chemo and suffered through IBOLC,” he said. “Guys were trying to get me to do hill sprints and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was pathetic. Doing 10 push-ups was awful.”

Despite the difficulty, Janowski made it through IBOLC and prepared to return to Ranger School for the third time.

But on June 10, 11 days before the course was to begin, he received a phone call from his doctor, who said the cancer had returned.

“At this point, I’ve done surgery. I’ve done chemo. There’s nothing you can do for me. It’s just a time bomb. I’m going to die at some point,” he said.

Janowski said he went to his apartment that day and wept.

“I just sat there on the ground crying, so broken there was nothing anyone could have done for me,” he said.

False Positive

Luckily, that test had a false positive. Janowski was still cancer-free and he went to Ranger School as planned, June 21.

Janowski said his battle with cancer taught him to “attack,” because when you’re diagnosed with cancer there is no alternative.

“So, I’ll go into chemo and I’ll sit in the chair all day. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll attack all day,” he said.

Janowski said soldiers should have that attack mentality when they enter the Ranger course.

“When you go to your PT test on Monday, don’t ever tell yourself it’s only 49 push-ups. Hell no, get out there and be like ‘I’m going to do 1,000 push-ups,” he said. “I’m going to make this Ranger instructor count to a thousand because I know he is going to make my life hell for 62 days. Do not ever play defensive. Attack every second of Ranger School. Always maintain that aggressiveness, and you’re going to crush it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The wife of the famous ‘kissing sailor’ is in the iconic 1945 photo – and it’s not the nurse

You don’t have to be a history buff to be familiar with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” photo — though its actual title is “V-J Day in Times Square.” It was taken hours before President Truman officially announced America’s victory in the Pacific War. The sailor in the photo happened to be on a date in New York City. He suddenly decided to celebrate by kissing the closest nurse — it’s just too bad his date wasn’t a nurse.


Authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria did an extensive background study on the photo in their 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor. Their extensive forensic analysis determined that sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman. Friedman was not prepared for the kiss. In later years, she admitted that she didn’t even see him coming and that the two were strangers.

Related: Iconic World War II nurse Greta Friedman dies at 92

Friedman was working in a dental office at nearby Lexington Avenue, and though the war hadn’t officially ended, the rumors around NYC were swirling that Imperial Japan was set to surrender. She went over to Time Square to read the latest news, and sure enough, the electronic tickers all read “V-J DAY, V-J DAY.” That’s when Mendonsa grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her in.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

“It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she told a Veteran’s History Project Interview. “I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.”

He grabbed a nurse because he was so grateful to nurses who tended the wounded in the war. The good news was her bosses cancelled the rest of the appointments for the day. The bad news was she never knew the sailor’s name. She never even saw the photo until the 1960s. What she did know was that Mendonsa had been drinking (he was likely drunk).

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Then-Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa was on 30 days leave from his ship, The Sullivans, at the time. He had been at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from the carrier Bunker Hill after it was hit by kamikaze attacks. It’s small wonder he was happy to not have to go back into combat.

He was on a date with his then-girlfriend, Rita Perry, a woman that would later become his wife, waiting for his train back to the West Coast and back to the war. That’s when he heard the news that the war was over.

Rita can be seen just over Mendonsa’s right shoulder.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Former Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa and his wife of 71 years, Rita, celebrate George’s 95th birthday.(Photo by Hal Burke)

By the time The Kissing Sailor hit bookshelves, Rita Perry (now Mendonsa) and George Mendonsa had been married for 66 years. When asked about her feelings being in the background of a famous photo of her husband, 95 years old as of 2018, kissing another woman, she said, “he’s never kissed me like that.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

VHA commemorates Black History Month

A look at the many “firsts” in Veterans health history


Today’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) embodies the spirit of the many Black men and women who broke history and continue to inspire us today.

National home for disabled volunteer soldiers, the first to provide domiciliary and medical care to Black veterans

VHA’s first hospitals opened under its predecessor, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The hospitals were racially integrated from the very beginning. The first African American Veterans, who served with the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War, were admitted to the Central Branch (now Dayton VAMC) in Ohio in March 1867.

Dr. Howard Kenney, 1962

It was the first government-civilian institution to admit the nation’s first African American Veterans of the Union Army.

First racially segregated veterans hospital

After the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case decision, the practice of “separate, but equal” accommodations based on race took hold in American society. When the National Home opened its new Mountain Branch in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1903, the staff segregated Veterans by race.

A Veterans hospital established exclusively for African American Veterans opened in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1923, for those who served in World War I, caring for more than 300,000 Black Veterans

Pictured above is Dr. Henry Ward and staff at Tuskegee Hospital, 1924.

First African American hospital director

Dr. Joseph H. Ward, of Indianapolis, became the first director of the Tuskegee Veteran’s hospital in 1923. Dr. Ward served in that capacity at Tuskegee until 1936.

Dr. Howard Kenney, 1962

Racial segregation ends at VA

On July 29, 1954, VA announced that segregation of the races had officially ended at all hospitals.

First African American director to integrate VA hospitals

Dr. Howard Kenney was the first director to integrate the VA hospital system. On July 20, 1962, he became the first African American VA hospital director for the East Orange, NJ, facility.Long Description

Viola Johnson, director, Battle Creek VAMC, 1984

First African American VA regional medical director

After integrating executive leadership at VA hospitals in 1962, Dr. Howard Kenney went on to become the first African American appointed as a VA Regional Medical Director in 1969.

First African American nursing director

Vernice Ferguson was the first African American nurse appointed as VA’s Director of Nursing in 1980, and she held that position for 12 years, retiring in 1992.

Viola Johnson, director, Battle Creek VAMC, 1984

First African American woman hospital director

Viola Johnson became the first African American woman to lead a VAMC in 1984 when she assumed direction of the Battle Creek Michigan facility.

First VA hospital named for African American veteran

The first VA facility named after an African American was named after Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient PFC Ralph H. Johnson (Marines) in 1990.

First African American VA Secretary

Jesse Brown was the first African American VA Secretary. He served from 1993 to 1997.

Articles

These colorized photos show a new side of World War II

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Marines finishing training at Parris Island in South Carolina./Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress


The 1930s and 1940s were a time of upheaval for the US and the world at large.

Reeling from the start of the Great Depression in 1929, the world soon faced a greater disaster with World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Though the US did not enter into the war officially until after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the global war still affected the country.

The following photos, from the US Library of Congress, give us a rare glimpse of life in the US during World War II in color. They show some of the amazing changes that the war helped usher into the US, such as women in the workforce and the widespread adoption of aerial and mechanized warfare.

Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repairs department of the naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a National Youth Administration trainee from Michigan, in Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training, he will go into the civil service.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congres

Answering the nation’s need for woman-power, Davis made arrangements for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work at the naval air base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed in a US Navy plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

A sailor at the base in Corpus Christi wears the new type of protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed on a US Navy plane in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Feeding an SNC advanced-training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Av. Cadet Thanas at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Pearl Harbor widows went into war work to carry on the fight in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis was appointed by the civil service to be senior supervisor in the assembly and repairs department at the naval base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

After seven years in the US Navy, J.D. Estes was considered an old sea salt by his mates at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, painting the American insignia on an airplane wing. McElroy was a civil-service employee at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadet in training at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Ensign Noressey and Cadet Thenics at the naval air base in Corpus Christi on a Grumman F3F-3 biplane fighter.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Working with a sea plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadets at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mechanics service an A-20 bomber at Langley Field in Virginia.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-3 tank and crew using small arms at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-4 tank line at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle at Fort Knox.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Servicing an A-20 bomber at Langley Field.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A US Marine lieutenant was a glider pilot in training at Page Field on Parris Island in South Carolina.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Marines finish training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Articles

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.


And he would know.

Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.

“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.

Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.

While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.

“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”

Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.

“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”

Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.

In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.

The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.

“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.

Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”

Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.

As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.

Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.

“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.

“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”

Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.

“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”

Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said

“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”

Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.

“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”

He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.

“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”

Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.

That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.

“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”

Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.

Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.

“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”

Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.

Articles

This woman had a kamikaze mission to take down an airliner on 9/11

The September 11, 2001, attacks saw numerous acts of bravery and courage from Americans from many walks of life — be they ordinary citizens, emergency services personnel or members of the military.


Of special note was the sacrifice this National Guard fighter pilot and her comrades were willing to make when their fighters were sent up without any armament to protect the nation’s capital soon after word of the attacks spread.

Among the many fighter pilots sent to the skies in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York was Heather “Lucky” Penney, a fighter pilot with the District of Columbia Air National Guard. At the time a 1st lieutenant with the 121st Fighter Squadron, Lucky was the only female in her fighter training class, and the only female pilot serving with the squadron.

When air traffic controllers in Cleveland, Ohio, saw a potential hijacking aboard a United Airlines flight, Penney and her flight lead, Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, were called into action.

Launching from Andrews AFB near Washington, D.C., at 10:42 local time, the pair saw smoke billowing out from Arlington, Virginia, the site of the Pentagon. A second pair of fighters piloted by Brandon Rasmussen and Daniel Caine – also of the DCANG – were sent up as well.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
A firefighter looks at the remains of the South Tower at Ground Zero (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Secret Service and defense sector controllers responsible for watching over the airspace surrounding the capital requested an aerial presence to ward away or destroy any other hijacked airliners, lest they attack juicier targets like the White House or the Capitol, or hit crowded civilian areas.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon – the fighters these four pilots flew – is very capable in the air-to-air arena. However, in the rush to get airborne, none of the four DCANG F-16s were armed with missiles or live rounds for their cannons – not that any were immediately available.

Sasseville and Penney briefly discussed a plan of action, noting that their lack of armament would make downing a larger airliner considerably more difficult. The two agreed that the only option would be using their aircraft as rams, where Sasseville would hit the cockpit and Penney the tail.

Though, hypothetically, the two pilots could have aimed their fighters for the engines of the aircraft and ejected quickly after, they knew that the only way they could be sure of bringing down their quarry was if they stayed with their F-16s all the way through.

This would have to be a suicide mission – there was no other alternative.

Word came in over their radios that an aircraft was heading at a low altitude over the Potomac River, possibly towards the White House. This ultimately proved to be a false alarm, though military and Secret Service operations officers initially concluded that the inbound aircraft was United 93, a Boeing 757 similar to the American Airlines jet which had slammed into the Pentagon earlier in the day.

United 93 never showed up in Washington. After recovering at Andrews AFB, the four DCANG pilots would learn that United 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Penney, Sasseville, Rasmussen and Caine would soon refuel and have their aircraft armed with weaponry before returning to the skies for their second sortie on Sept. 11.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The crater where United 93 impacted near Shanksville, PA (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

This time, Penney and Sasseville were directed to fly as escorts for Air Force One, carrying President George W. Bush from Offutt AFB to Andrews AFB. The duo were almost engaged in combat yet again when a Learjet approached Air Force One at high speed, though the event was short-lived with the private aircraft diverted, having been on its way to finding a suitable airport to land.

Both Penney and Sasseville went on, post-9/11, to fly combat missions overseas in support of the Global War On Terror. Penney has since left the DC ANG and works with Lockheed Martin in a senior position, while Sasseville remains active in the Guard, now as a major general.

Articles

These new muzzle devices make us hot and bothered

The last few weeks have seen several new muzzle devices make their way into the marketplace. Comps, brakes, flash hiders — we’ve seen quite an array of ’em. Here are three that caught our eye.


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.

Remember: at the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you that this is just a “be advised” — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

1. Faxon MuzzLok

There are actually two of these: the GUNNER, a 3-port muzzle brake, and the FLAME, a triple prong flash hider. The two new devices follow in the footsteps of Faxon’s Loudmouth single-port brake.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Faxon Flame Muzzle Device.

The FLAME is described as being capable of “virtually eliminating” secondary ignition at the mouth of the muzzle, thus making muzzle flash nearly non-existent (their claim — we haven’t tested to verify).

The GUNNER, for its part, is designed to reduce recoil by 50%, making it ideal for competitive shooters. Both are designed to function with 5.56mm and .223 Rem. platforms. Both feature concentric 1/2 x 28 TPI threads, and both retail for $59.99.

Nathaniel Schueth, the Faxon Director of Sales and Product Development, had this to say:

“We are thrilled to be expanding the MuzzLok line of products with the GUNNER and FLAME devices. Both meet shooters’ objectives for versatility and recoil or flash reduction. The GUNNER and FLAME for 5.56 are just the first of many more devices to come using MuzzLok technology.”

GUNNER 3 Port Muzzle Brake:

Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel

Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride

Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI

Weight: 2.9 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut

Length: 2.4 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut

Diameter: 0.9″

Caliber: .223/5.56

FLAME Tri Prong Flash Hider:

Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel

Finish:  QPQ Salt Bath Nitride

Thread:  1/2″-28 TPI

Weight:  3.36 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut

Length:  2.6 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut

Diameter:  0.9″

Caliber:  .223/5.56

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Faxon Gunner Muzzle Device.

2. LANTAC Dragon 

The Dragon muzzle brake (officially the “Dragon DGN556B-QM”) shouldn’t be confused with their Drakon or other Dragon models. This one is manufactured to be GemTech QM compatible, making it their first to be designed for use with silencers.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
LANTAC Dragon.

This muzzle device is threaded in 1/2 x 28 for 5.56mm, but we’re reliably informed they’ll be building 7.62 and other versions soon. Unfortunately, despite putting out word of the Dragon over a month ago, it has yet to show up on their website, so we can’t give you an MSRP or any additional details.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
LANTAC Down Range Photography.

All we can do is suggest you check ’em out online or follow their social media for updates (on Instagram @lantac_usa).

3. VLTOR Narwhal

The VLTOR Narwhal is described as a “mix of a brake and a flash suppressor [that] directs blast forward.” It uses an expansion chamber rather than a blast chamber, and as you can see is available from Rainier in a limited edition Stickman version.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
VLTOR Narwhal Muzzle Brake.

Says VLTOR,

“The VLTOR Weapon Systems VC-NRWL muzzle device gives a unique spin on utilizing gas and blast to help rifles function reliably as well as many other features. The muzzle device directs blast and sound forward and away from the shooter by pushing blast out in one direction. This makes the weapon more controllable and helps eliminate muzzle rise to keep the forend of the weapon on a level sight view.

While being an excellent muzzle device for any 5.56/.223 rifle, the VC-NRWL stands out in short barrel applications by allowing backpressure to be utilized for cycling as well as in situations of weak ammunition.”

Some other things to know – it comes with a crush washer, can be installed and clocked with a 1 in. open end wrench, is 3.04 in. long, weighs 5.4 oz. and is Made in the USA.

If you wanna know more than that, you gotta go look for yourself.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
VLTOR Narwhal Muzzle Brake.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Articles

The iconic Jeep may see frontline combat again

The Jeep was first introduced on Jul. 15, 1941. It became an icon in World War II and evolutions of the design saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Gen. Dight D. Eisenhower rides in a Jeep in Normandy during World War II. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The U.S. phased the Jeep out of the arsenal starting in 1984 when it adopted the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as the HMMWV or Humvee. But the Jeep may be headed for a comeback.

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, the Army is looking for an inexpensive, lightweight, unarmored, all-terrain vehicle for ferrying troops and supplies. It would bridge a gap between the Army’s upcoming, heavily armored JLTV and the light MRZRs.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The JLTV is a heavily armored vehicle replacing the M-ATV and MRAP, while the MRZR is a light vehicle in service with special operations and Airborne units. Photos: US Army

One company, Hendrick Dynamics, thinks that sounds a lot like the original Jeep and they’re submitting modified Jeep Wranglers to the competition. From Stars and Stripes:

Hendrick starts with a diesel-equipped Wrangler Rubicon, converts the electrical system to 24 volts, adds additional safety features and military-spec equipment, upgrades the suspension and brakes for higher payload capacities and modifies the vehicle so it can be transported within an aircraft cargo hold.

While Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler, has been out of the defense contracting game for a long time, Hendrick Dynamics has a bit of experience modifying Wranglers for combat duty. They currently offer three versions of their “Commando” vehicle to government agencies and commercial clients.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo: Commando USA gallery

The Commando 2, Commando 4, and Commando S are clearly aimed at light units like Airborne and Air Assault formations, the same units that are the most likely beneficiaries of the Army’s vehicle proposal.

Commandos are certified for loading on CH-47s and can be slung under UH-60 helicopters. The website advertises that the vehicles are strong enough to tow 105mm howitzers.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The Commando S is basically a rugged pickup that can carry different mission pallets. Photo: Commando USA gallery

All three models run on JP-8, the jet fuel also used in most military vehicles, tanks, and generators. The Commando S model even has a “Mission Pallet System” that allows it to be quickly configured for carrying heavy weapons, combat engineering, route clearance, or other tasks.

If Hendrick Dynamics gets wins the Army contract, vehicles similar to the current Commando and the World War II Jeep could be the preferred ride of future warfighters.