Remember that awesome scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where the paratroopers and Rangers make bombs out of their socks, stick them to tanks, and blow the treads off?
Well, the British and Germans actually had devices that did that, and no one had to take his socks off. Americans would have had to improvise to create the same effect, but there’s little sign that they did this regularly since even the best sticky bombs had some serious drawbacks.
The British had one of the first sticky bombs, the Number 74 Mk. 2. It was developed thanks to the efforts of British Maj. Millis Jefferis and a number of civilian collaborators. Their goal was to create a device which would help British infantry fight German tanks after most of the British Army’s anti-tank guns were lost at the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The glass broke when the bomb hit the tank and deformed against the surface, allowing enough of the sticky fabric to attach for it to stay on the armor. When the handle was released, a five-second fuse would countdown to the detonation.
Obviously, getting within throwing and sticking distance of a tank is dangerous work. And, while the bomb was sent to the infantry in a case that prevented it from sticking to anything, it had to be thrown with the case removed. At times, this resulted in the bomb getting stuck to the thrower, killing them.
The Germans had their own design that used magnets instead of an adhesive, making them safer for the user. It also featured a shaped charge that allowed more of the explosive power to penetrate the armor.
But the German version featured the same major drawback that the British one did, the need for the infantryman to get within sticking distance of the tank.
Javelins and TOW missiles may be heavy, but they’re probably the better choice than running with bombs.
The latest Air Force Chief of Staff’s world is a complete departure from his predecessor’s – one where things are not “pretty darn good.”
General David Goldfein is no stranger to agression. He’s a trained fighter pilot who flew missions during Desert Storm and over Serbia in Operation Allied Force.
Goldfein’s Air Force has 12 core functions and one of those is space defense. The top air officer says space is no longer going to be considered a “benign environment.” Instead, the Air Force will see it as a “war-fighting domain”– but space doesn’t need foot soldiers just yet, according to Goldfein.
“Anything that separates space and makes it unique and different, relative to all of the war-fighting missions that we perform that are reliant on space, I don’t think that will move us in the right direction at this time,” he told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill..
His comments come in response to Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and two subcommittees for readiness and strategic forces.
Rogers wants to create a “Space Corps” — a new military branch for operations in Earth’s orbit.
Despite the Air Force being a “world-class military service,” space should not be led by people who “get up each morning thinking about fighters and bombers…you cannot organize, train, and equip in space the way you do a fighter squad,” Rogers said at the 33rd Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs.
The Alabama Congressman went on to note that of the Air Force’s 37 newest one-star generals, not one had extensive space experience – they are predominantly pilots.
Rogers called for a Space Corps within the Air Force that would one day break off to form its own branch, much like the Army Air Corps broke from the Army in 1947.
“Whether there’s a time in our future when we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we probably ought to keep that dialogue open,” Goldfein said. “But right now, I think it would actually move us in the wrong direction.”
Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.
Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.
I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.
In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.
Enter Team Cobra
A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army. They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.
Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece. Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.
Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.
Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.
Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them. I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.
When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.
In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and some of them are there today.
I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.
In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.
But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.
To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?
You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.
Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…
Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.
Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.
It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.
At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.
You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)
The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.
At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).
Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”
So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.
For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.
Washington wants NATO to assume responsibility for Iraqi troops once the Islamic State forces are defeated, a top military commander said on Wednesday.
A top US military commander has floated the idea of the Washington-led NATO military coalition to assume some responsibility for training troops in Iraq after Islamic State group militants are defeated there.
The 28-member Atlantic alliance “might be uniquely posturing to provide a training mission for an enduring period of time” in Iraq, General Joe Dunford told reporters during his flight back to the US from Brussels, where he attended a planning meeting ahead of next week’s NATO summit.
“You might see NATO making a contribution to logistics, acquisitions, institutional capacity building, leadership schools, academies – those kind of things,” Dunford, who is Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
The issue is at the top of the agenda for next week’s summit, with US President Donald Trump pushing the allies to take on a greater role in combatting terrorism.
After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadi force is now largely isolated in Raqqa, over the border in Syria.
A change in who leads the training mission would likely also mean revamping the nature of the effort, Dunford said.
“We are not talking about NATO doing what we are doing now for combat advising in places like Mosul or Raqqa,” the general said.
“I don’t think we are at the point now where we can envision or discuss NATO taking over” all missions of the anti- IS coalition in Iraq, he added.
NATO’s top brass said on Wednesday they believed the alliance should consider joining the anti- Islamic State group coalition put together by Washington to fight IS in Syria and Iraq.
General Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s military committee, told reporters after chiefs of defense staff met in Brussels that it was time to look at this option.
“NATO members are all in the anti- IS coalition. The discussion now is – is NATO to become a member of that coalition,” he said.
Afghan special forces have freed 61 captives held by the Taliban in an operation in the southern province of Helmand, the military says.
Jawid Saleem, a spokesman for the elite commando units, said the operation was conducted late on Aug. 2, 2018, in the Kajaki district in Helmand, a stronghold of the Taliban.
Saleem said at least two Taliban militants were killed during the rescue mission by Afghan special forces.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the matter.
The prisoners were transferred to the provincial army headquarters, said Munib Amiri, an army commander.
Those held had been captured for a range of reasons, Saleem said, from cooperating with Afghan security forces to belonging to the local police force.
According to Saleem, the prisoners were held in poor conditions, including a lack of proper food and health care. They were also tortured, Saleem added.
Hundreds of prisoners have been freed from Taliban prisons by Afghan security forces in Helmand Province in recent months.
On May 31, 2018, Afghan special forces freed 103 people held at two sites run by the Taliban in Kajaki district.
According to the latest report by the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent U.S. federal auditor, the militants control nine of 14 districts in Helmand. Half of the population of the province lives in areas under Taliban control.
Our family made the downsize of a lifetime – from a 2,667 square foot home to 39 feet. That is, a 39-foot travel trailer AKA camper. My husband, our two boys, ages three and one, dog, and cat – we packed up the essentials, stored what was sentimental and sold/donated the rest.
Now, we are full-time campers. Mobile living where we can pick up and go as needed, living in minimal space and with maximum experiences.
It was a life I never though I’d have, and now, one I can’t imagine not doing.
We have more time outdoors, more time together, fewer things to worry about.
The day we moved into our long-term slot we were full of peppy energy. We were starting this new adventure that was outside the norm, but so incredibly exciting. After settling down around the campfire, I felt the beginning stages of an eventual miscarriage. Here we were, making this epic family move, book-ended with thrills and sadness. There are surprises we can control and those that we cannot, and we were taking in both at full force.
In the camper, everything is so simple. Those three bathrooms I had to clean before? I can deep clean the entire camper in less time. Yard work? Now we do it for fun. Because we get to be outside and the to-do list is miniscule.
The absolute icing on the experience: we have time for our kids. So. Much Time. We go on bike rides, walks, down to the park, to the pool – all the outdoor activities that we never seemed to have time for before. I’m not longer tied to things like housework that kept me from being a good Mom. (At least, that’s how it felt at the time.)
This is, of course, why we did it. We were tired of the grind. Drill hours are exhausting as a rule. (Where are you other drill wives at? You are my people!) But with two littles, my self-employment and a too-big yard and house … it was just work – work at home, work at work, work at raising kids. Work at trying to find time for fun and plan for said fun.
Sure it was hard to sell our house; good memories are always hard to leave behind.
But as military life goes, you can’t keep it all. You hold onto what matters, and then you make the decisions you have to make. In this case, it was moving your family into a camper.
Originally it was to help us through a PCS … until we thought, “Why not just do this indefinitely?!”
We had some help in that decision, of course, thanks to the military norm of dramatic and rapid plan changes.
But now, we’re steadily living that camper life. We have wonderful neighbors, and the boys have plenty of friends at the ready at all times. When a tree fell on a neighbor’s camper, we turned it into a block party, cutting firewood and eating pizza.
Because, as it turns out, this lifestyle is a thing. Families of all sizes pile into their campers for PCSs, TDY, and for entire duty station stints. It’s an entire world that I’m fascinatingly taking in as we go.
There are tanks to be emptied. Rules about what can go down the sink. I have minimal fridge space. Neighbors can likely hear me yelling at the kids – blah, blah, blah. But it’s an exciting process, one that fuels me every day.
As for the downsides – no, it didn’t solve every problem. My husband is still OCD about the way the bikes are parked or worried about there being to many things outside the camper. I’m still my normal amount of hot mess.
There are moments where we are tripping over one another, frustrated with the lack of space. We are regularly woken in the middle of the night to a propane detector that’s set off by the dog’s gas. (Not making this up; it happens to other people too.) We have to haul up the laundry to use coin machines. But laundry is always my least favorite chore; I’ll never enjoy it unless its’ done for me. And a lack of walking space also means a lack of things I have to clean.
Like everything, there are the ups and downs in life and you decide what’s important. For us, this is the life we get to be a better family, a more engaged, less-stressed version of our former selves. I encourage more people to give it a chance.
From the moment you don the uniform of the U.S. military, the biggest threat looming over your nascent career is being forced to “turn big rocks into little rocks” at Leavenworth.
There are actually a number of military prisons, which house inmates for crimes of varying degrees of severity, including capital murder. As a matter of fact, the U.S. military hasn’t executed one of its own since 1961, when the Army hanged Pvt. John Bennett for sexual assault and murder. Most criminal troops, like most criminal civilians, do not commit crimes on that level and are expected to spend a shorter time in the slammer.
Civilian prisons have a less-than-stellar reputation that precedes them. Film and television portray American civilian prisons as a violent jungle of gangs, drugs, rape, and boredom where death stalks inmates at every turn. To make matters worse, the food is so terrible, ramen noodles replaced cigarettes as the unofficial currency. But military life has always been different from civilian life and the two systems of justice are just as different.
Civilian prison guards at the federal level.
Military prison guards are usually from a local military police/security forces unit. These are uniformed personnel who took on the same obligation as the inmates under their control. Their military specialty is their job and they want their lives and the lives of the prisoners to go as smoothly as possible – and in military prisons, life usually happens that way.
Federal prison guards come in two types, according to a former inmate who saw both systems while doing time for drug trafficking. The first is the kind that come in and do their jobs, preferring to hang out in offices and guard shacks, drinking coffee and taking home a check. The other kind is aggressive, trying to provoke the prisoners so he can assert authority (and sometimes a beating of sorts) on prisoners. This is not to imply that correctional officers are entirely terrible – every job has its best and worst. Prisoners will “put on a show” while the worst guards are around.
Inside the Naval Brig at Miramar.
Just like in basic training, every one in a military prison is responsible for cleaning their areas of the facility, as well as its maintenance and upkeep. If a prisoner’s area gets even slightly unkept or unsanitary, that prisoner will hear about it immediately and the strict code of military discipline will come down in a hurry. More than that, however, military prisons are incredibly clean and well-kept anyway, so keeping it looking that way is almost effortless. There might be something to the broken windows theory because it’s very different in a federal penitentiary.
Federal prisons are run down, broken, unsanitary messes. Prisoners here are also responsible for cleaning the facilities but many leave much to be desired in this respect. Civilian prisoners tend not to care as much about cleanliness, doing the bare minimum amount of work or giving up after seeing how far gone certain areas are.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a corporation that uses prison labor to make military uniforms.
The military offers a plethora of different ways a prisoner can rehabilitate him or herself before leaving the military prison system. Since most of the prisoners who leave the military with a sentence will be left with a dishonorable discharge, the ability to work in fields that are critically undermanned or a skilled trade will be important in their new lives. As such, the military prison system offers training in carpentry, certified auto repair, culinary arts and hospitality services, and more.
Preventing recidivism isn’t as apparent in the civilian prison system. The Federal Bureau of Prisons offers offenders with sufficient time on their sentences the opportunity to get out nine months early in the Residential Drug Abuse Program. Federal prisons offer education for those without a high school education or for prisoners who don’t speak English and some job training exists, but depends mostly on the labor needs of the prison system. College coursework is available, but prisoners must fund these themselves.
In general, military prisoners are focused on the long-term of life after prison while civilian prisoners are only focused on what’s going to happen later that same day.
Civilian prisoners would never think to do this but for a military audience, this is important. Prisoners in military correctional facilities, while technically still in the military, are not allowed to salute military officers and the offense is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The reason is respect, but not the way you’re likely thinking.
A military officer returns salutes thrown at them as a matter of respect to the person saluting them. If a prisoner saluted a military officer, the officer would be obliged to return the salute – and who wants to salute a convict? Military convicts are still expected to refer to their guards by rank and name, however.
While inmates are still a part of the military and answer to the military hierarchy, one corrections officer from California noted that inmates in a general population at a federal prison will create their own chain of command (outside of the prison personnel), leading right up to the top inmates.
A fight breaks out at a SuperMax prison.
Fights are uncommon in the military prison system and when they do happen, they are broken up quickly. Inmates in military prisons were – at some point – military personnel trained and held to a high standard. Breaking a few laws will not usually change this very much. Besides, everyone is trying to get out of the military system on good behavior, and many will re-enter the military after their sentence. Most importantly, they don’t want to lose access to their nice rehab programs and lose the work they’ve put in because of a stupid fight – and prison gangs don’t exist. Military personnel don’t lose the sense of camaraderie they garner during service, and that same “in it together” mindset binds military prisoners.
In the civilian system, the world is not how it’s portrayed on television. There are more fistfights that happen than in military facilities, but there are also higher population densities in federal prisons. For the most part, problem inmates are separated. When fights in civilian prisons get really bad, the entire facility can be placed on lockdown. For gangs, some facilities have more gangs and gang members than others, with a “you stay with yours and I stay with mine” mentality
An exercise area for solitary prisoners.
Whether in Federal prison or a military prison, refusing to obey the guards will land you in segregation, aka solitary confinement, aka “The Hole.” The only activity left to a prisoner in solitary confinement is sleeping or perhaps carrying on a conversation with him or herself. In a military prison, noncompliance can land you in solitary for up to six months at a time, where your home is an eight by seven-foot room with a single bunk, a single light, along with a toilet and sink. The only interaction with the outside world is a small slot in the door for food.
No matter if a prisoner is in solitary or general population, the life of a prisoner is boring and monotonous. Work details and recreation help pass the time, a chief concern of the extended-stay prisoner.
An above-average prison dinner.
7. Daily Life
Both military and civilian prisoners lead regimented lives, but naturally the military prisoner’s is much more so. In the military, prisoners will have the option of working in one of the prison’s workshops or details, like a wood shop, kitchen detail, dorm cleaning, chapel cleaning, grounds maintenance and masonry. Every day, prisoners have a very rigid structured schedule, which including shaving in the morning, work details, multiple head counts, recreation, and showers. The weekends have no work details and more recreation.
On the plus side, the food is much better in a military prison – like that of a chow hall – but inmates are searched to ensure they don’t take food back with them to their dorm/barracks room. Some civilian prisons have very little oversight over the prisoners food and reports of undercooked meat are common. In general, prison food is bland, one more reason ramen is the currency of choice.
Military prisoners also receive much better medical care as a result of being in a military correctional facility.
Disgraced Subway personality Jared Fogle was immediately beaten in a low-security federal prison.
8. Crimes Matter
Whether in civilian prisons or military prisons, the reason for your detention is important – to the other prisoners. Besides the security level of your sentence being based on the crime you committed, convicts convicted of child molestation and underage pornography are shunned and harassed by other prisoners.
Snitches usually get ostracized as well and are usually said to be forced to group with convicts who committed crimes against children.
The United Kingdom unveiled a full-sized model of its proposed next-generation fighter jet on July 16, 2018, at the Farnborough air show in England, according to Bloomberg.
“We are entering a dangerous new era of warfare, so our focus has to be on the future,” UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he unveiled the conceptual design, according to Defense News.
The unveiling also coincided with the UK signing a future combat air strategy, which will review its technological spending and capabilities, Defense News reported.
Nicknamed the “Tempest,” the aircraft is a joint venture by BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo, and MBDA, and could be an optional unmanned system armed with lasers, swarming UAVs, and be resilient against cyber attacks, according to several news reports.
BAE Systems graphic on some of the Tempest’s possible capabilities.
“While some of these may be abandoned during further development, tackling all of this in a single project places the barrier for success extremely high,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
Although “the concept sounds extremely promising, the level of ambition could make actual development and production problematic,” Tack added.
Tack also said that this “program is the British response to seeing Dassault (France) turn towards the Franco-German fighter,” Tack added.
WATM recently had an audience with 92-year-old WWII Army veteran Clark Johnson of Floreville, Texas. At the time Johnson had just gotten back from visiting his late wife’s family and his disabled son who he hadn’t seen in eight years, a trip he was given courtesy of Dream Foundation. Despite the fact that he has lung disease and has been given two months to live, he was very upbeat and candid during an amazing conversation that revealed hard-fought wisdom of an old vet.
Q: What was your rank?
A: Staff Sergeant. I was in Airborne, and 2-3 days after my jump in Normandy, I hurt my leg pulling a soldier out of the swamp. [He was] drowned but we needed the material on his back over and above that even the ones drowned that didn’t have nothing we pulled them onto shore so the Red Cross could come pick ’em up later.
My job mainly was a demolition man, but for the first 3-4 days in Normandy, there was so much confusion you would kill anyone that got in your way [laughs]; you wanted to say alive.
Q: What have your learned from your time in the military?
A: I don’t know, but I’ll tell you the government can pull anything out of a hat.
Q: What advice do you have for current members of the military?
A: If you get in front of a machine gun, like I did, and they take the knuckle out of your middle finger – don’t pull your hand away. Leave it up there, even let them get the other three fingers too. Because today – that knuckle out of my little finger pays me a thousand dollars a month.
I got two Purple Hearts and each one of ’em pays me a thousand bucks. That’s $2,000 a month [laughs]; you know, at least that puts food on the table.
Q: How did you cope with what you saw during your time in combat?
A: Silence is the best thing that I know. Because, now and then, you can say something, and then later on they ask you the same thing you said and they’re mixing stuff up. That’s not good for nobody.
Q: Do you remember when you got drafted?
A: Yeah, I got a letter that was typed, “Greetings!” (laughs)
Q: What went through your mind when you got that letter?
A: I was gonna lose my job. Hey, you know when you were a teenager and you got a job, you were lucky if you got a good one that paid big money.
Q: How old were you when you got drafted?
Q: What years did you serve?
Q: What is your advice to young Americans?
A: If you can’t go to college, due to money, whatever, there is nothing wrong with going to the Army or the Navy and getting out in about four years with a discharge that will help you for the rest of your life. I can’t lay it any cleaner than that.
June 25, 1950 saw troops from North Korea pouring across the 38th parallel into South Korea. This began a short, yet exceptionally bloody war. There are those that refer to the Korean War as, “the forgotten war” as it did not receive the same kind of attention as did World War II or the Vietnam War. However, despite the lack of attention given to it, the Korean War was one of great loss for both sides involved – both civilian and military. Even now, 70 years later, the Korean War is given less notice than other conflicts and wars in history. It is just as important and just as worthy of remembrance as anything else.
To honor those that fought, those that died, and those that were wounded in Korea between June 25, 1950, and July 27, 1953, here are 5 facts about the Korean War:
38th Parallel still divides the two countries:
The 38th Parallel was the boundary which divided the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the North and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the South. Despite the original desires of the UN and the U.S. to completely destroy communism and stop its spread, the Korean War ended in July 1953 with both sides signing an armistice which gave South Korea 1,500 extra square miles of territory, and also created a two-mile wide demilitarized zone which still exists today.
It was the first military action of the Cold War:
After World War II ended, the world entered a time period known as the Cold War. The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1990. It was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and their allies. The Korean War was the first military action following the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War.
American leaders viewed it as more than just a war against North Korea:
North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. By July, U.S. troops had joined the war on South Korea’s behalf. This is partly due to the fact that President Harry Truman and the American military leaders believed that this was not simply a border dispute between two dictatorships, but could be the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world. President Truman believed that, “If we let Korea down, the Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one place after another.” They sent troops over to South Korea prepared for war against communism itself.
General MacArthur was fired from his post:
By the end of summer 1950, President Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Asian theater, had set a new goal for the war in Korea. They set out to liberate North Korea from the communists. However, as China caught wind of this, they threatened full-scale war unless the United States kept its troops away from the Yalu boundary. The Yalu River was the border between North Korea and communist China.
Full-scale war with China was the last thing President Truman wanted, as he and his advisers feared it would lead to a larger scale push by the Soviets across Europe. As President Truman worked tirelessly to prevent war with China, General MacArthur began to do all he could to provoke it. In March 1951, General MacArthur sent a letter to House Republican leader, Joseph Martin stating that, “There is no substitute for victory,” against international communism. For President Truman this was the last straw, and on April 11 he fired General MacArthur from his post for insubordination.
Millions of lives were lost:
Between June 1950 and July 1953, approximately five million lives were lost. Somewhere around half of those were civilian casualties. American troops saw approximately 40,000 soldiers die in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded. These numbers made the Korean War known as an exceptionally bloody war, despite the fact that it was relatively short.
In the early morning of May 15th, 1967, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed near Song Tra Cau riverbed Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam. Outnumbered and outgunned, they faced an entire battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. The 101st couldn’t hit their attackers and quickly took casualties.
Charles Kettles was a UH-1 Huey pilot on his first of two tours in Vietnam. When he learned soldiers on the ground were taking intense fire and many were wounded, he didn’t hesitate. Then-Maj. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six Hueys (including his own)into the firefight to drop off reinforcements and pick up the wounded.
“There wasn’t any decision to be made,” Kettles was quoted as saying in a recent Army Times piece. “We simply were going to go and pick them up.”
When the helicopters approached the landing zone, they came under the same intense fire. Kettles stayed in the fight until all the wounded were loaded and the 101st received their supplies. He then went to pick up more reinforcements. After dropping off the second wave, his gunner was injured and the small arms fire caused a ruptured fuel line. He got his bird back to Duc Pho but later that same day, the last 40 U.S. troops, with eight members of Kettles’ own unit (their helicopter was shot down) requested an emergency extraction. Maj. Kettles volunteered to go back with five other Hueys.
“The mission was simple,” Kettles said. “The situation was anything but simple.”
Kettles had what he thought was everyone, and so he departed the area. Once airborne, however, he learned that eight troops were pinned down due to the intense fire and didn’t make it to the helicopters. Kettles immediately broke off from the main group, turned his bird around, and went back for the missing eight men on his own. With no gunship or artillery support, Kettles flew what was now a giant, lurking target into the ambush area. A mortar immediately his tail boom, rotor blade, and shattered his front windshield. His Huey was raked by small arms fire. Despite the constant attack and severe damage to his helicopter, he held firm until the eight men were aboard and flew everyone to safety. When he landed, he was “unrattled and hungry.”
“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA Today. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”
He did another tour in Vietnam, then retired in 1978 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He started a car dealership with his brother after his retirement, happy to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. He had no expectations of receiving the Medal of Honor. That came about from the work of amateur historian William Vollano. Vollano, in the course of interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project, heard Kettles’ story. With written accounts of men from the 101st who were there that day, Vollano was able to push the Army to reexamine Kettles. They determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest honor.
“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten a Medal of Honor who deserved it more.”