As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.
But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”
No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.
Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.
Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney departs Mayport for its new homeport of Rota, Spain, Sept. 6.
An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015.
Airman 1st Class Stefan Alvarez, a 3rd Combat Camera Squadron photojournalist, loads 5.56 mm ammunition into an M4 magazine in preparation for the next drill during Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training Sept. 4, 2015, in Converse, Texas.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a torch to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
1st Lt. Keith G. Lowell administers OC spray during the OC Spray Performance Evaluation Course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2015. This course is part of the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course, which is only offered once a year to all service members on Okinawa.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego ASTs run pilots and aviation crews through Shallow Water Egress Training at Naval Base Point Loma. The training is conducted in a controlled environment to prepare flight crews on how to safely exit an overturned helicopter in the water.
President-elect Donald Trump named three members of his national-security team Nov. 18, including his pick for Attorney General, CIA director and National Security Advisor.
According to multiple media reports, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was selected to be Trump’s National Security Advisor, while Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions was chosen for the Attorney General slot.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was asked to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency. (Official congressional portrait)
Flynn, who had been a strong supporter of Trump on the campaign train and was a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served in a number of posts during his Army career. He took part in Operations Urgent Fury and Restore Democracy, then served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to taking charge of the DIA.
Flynn’s service decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service medal with five oak leaf clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with five oak leaf clusters.
Flynn’s tenure as DIA director was marked by controversy, leading him to retire in August 2014.
Representative Pompeo was first elected to Congress in 2010 and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2016. Prior to entering Congress, Pompeo served for five years in the United States Army, reaching the rank of captain, then went to Harvard Law School before founding an aerospace firm and becoming president of an oilfield equipment company.
Pompeo has been an advocate of a hard line with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pompeo has served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Senator Sessions is in his fourth term, having first been elected in 1996. Prior to his election, he served as a United States Attorney for 12 years.
During his service as a U.S. Attorney, his 1986 nomination as a federal judge was derailed. Sessions later ran for Attorney General of Alabama serving two years before winning his seat in the U.S. Senate.
While best known for his tough positions on illegal immigration and border security, Sessions was the sponsor of the HEROES Act of 2005, which boosted the death gratuity benefit to $100,000, and upped Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance coverage to $400,000. The legislation became law later that year.
Sessions served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Senate Committee on the Budget, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Sessions also served in the Army Reserve from 1973-1977, reaching the rank of captain.
Both Flynn and Sessions had been reportedly under consideration to serve as Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration. Had Flynn been nominated for that post, he would have needed a special exemption from rules mandating civilian leadership of the Pentagon.
The father of our country was famous for his moderation but when he did imbibe, he made sure his drink packed the punch of a Brown Bess. Not only did Washington keep a healthy supply of imported Madeira, he also distilled his own distinctive rye whiskey and the Commander-In-Chief always made sure his troops were well-lubricated when on the march. The most powerful weapon in his cellar came only once a year, however, the General’s egg nog made its presence felt.
“I cannot tell a lie, I’m totally wrecked. Merry Christmas to all, including the Mahometans.”
In the years since historians have rifle through all of our first president’s personal papers and diaries, a number of interesting recipes have been found, including Washington’s small beer recipe. Though his personal egg nog recipe has never been found written in his own hand, it is at least a good representation of what such a recipe in the days of yore would have been like – at least for a wealthy man such as General Washington. It is, unlike most recipes found online nowadays, remarkably blunt. No intros, just straight to the business of catching a buzz.
Maybe colonials weren’t the biggest fans of family get-togethers.
“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”
“Taste frequently” being the operative command from the first Commander-In-Chief. Be careful, this drink packs a wallop.
William Henry Harrison was a wuss.
While even the Farmer’s Almanac lists the recipe as General Washington’s, there is no evidence he ever wrote it, made it, or drank it. The earliest mention found of the recipe was in a 1948 book called Christmas With The Washingtons by Olive Bailey. While this recipe can’t really be found in earlier papers or other works, the book is in the catalogue at the Mount Vernon Archives and there is definitive proof that George and Martha Washington entertained Christmas guests with some kind of egg nog.
So why not this one?
The egg nog is a strong but delicious concoction that takes some work, like separating eggs and beating the whites until fluffy, then folding the whites into the mixture, but it is well worth the effort. Take heed, though: General Washington would not care much for soldiers in his army in a constant state of inebriation.
There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.
Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.
These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.
4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
5. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
9. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”
The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.
Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.
Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.
The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.
About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.
The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.
A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.
Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.
Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.
He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.
Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.
Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.
Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.
The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.
The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.
Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.
The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.
Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.
“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.
Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.
Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.
Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.
A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.
The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.
The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.
Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.
As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.
But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.
“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”
The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.
Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.
Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.
When and how to transition
In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.
The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.
Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.
Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.
“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”
During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.
“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.
Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.
“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.
Keeping the fleet comfortable
As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.
Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.
Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.
For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.
Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.
“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”
Vladimir Putin‘s KGB career may have ended decades ago, but that didn’t stop the Russian president from citing his spy credentials during July 16, 2018’s press conference with US president Donald Trump.
Dissmissing the idea that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 and disputing the credibility of the Steele dossier, Putin said, “I was an intelligence officer myself, and I know how dossiers are made up.”
Putin has denied hacking the election. Trump has argued that he “doesn’t see any reason” why Putin would meddle in the election, despite the consensus of the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in order to ensure a Republican victory.
Here’s a look into Putin’s early career as a KGB spy:
“The Shield and the Sword” (1968)
As a teenager, Putin was captivated by the novel and film series “The Shield and the Sword,” writes Steven Lee Myers in “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.”
He attended training at the heavily fortified School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg, where prospective officers learned intelligence tactics and interrogation techniques, and trained physically. In 1976, he became a first lieutenant.
In the biography “Mr. Putin,” Fiona Hill and Cliff Gaddy speculate his mission may have been to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, steal technological secrets, compromise visiting Westerners, or travel undercover to West Germany.
The 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the all-time great war movies. While much of the movie is a fictional account, the premise behind Capt. Miller’s mission is based on a true story. That is the story of the Niland brothers — Edward, Preston, Robert, and Frederick — from Tonawanda, New York.
The two middle brothers inspiring the “Private Ryan” film, Preston and Robert, had enlisted prior to the beginning of the War. After America entered the war the oldest, Edward, and youngest, Frederick, known as Fritz to his friends, joined up in November 1942.
Edward became an enlisted pilot, with the rank of Technical Sergeant, of a B-25 Mitchell bomber flying in the Burma-India-China theatre.
Preston was commissioned into the infantry and assigned to Company C, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
Robert and Fritz both became paratroopers. Robert served with Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Fritz joined Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
As fate would have it, three of the brothers found themselves preparing for the invasion of mainland Europe.
However, before the brothers could start their “Great Crusade” to liberate Europe, Edward was shot down somewhere over Burma. He was listed as Missing in Action, but this usually carried a presumption of death at the time, especially if he had fallen into the hands of the Japanese.
Then, in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Robert and Fritz joined over 23,000 Allied paratroopers in cracking Fortress Europe.
Although Fritz’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 501st PIR, was supposed to be the division reserve, the misdrops meant they were thrust into action in ad hoc groups. These forces were able to secure vital causeways, bridges, and locks allowing the 4th Infantry Division, and Niland brother Preston, to exit Utah beach later that day.
This wasn’t quite what happened in Private Ryan, but the movie still draws from these events.
Elsewhere, Robert Niland had landed outside of Ste. Mere-Eglise with the rest of the 505th as part of Mission Boston. After the 3rd Battalion was able to capture the town early in the morning, the 2nd Battalion linked up with it to establish a defensive perimeter.
When a strong German counter-attack came from the south, Robert Niland and the rest of D Company’s 3rd platoon were left to guard the northern approaches to the town in a small village called Neuville.
When two companies of Germans came at their position, they fought tenaciously to hold them off to buy time for their comrades to the south. When the position became untenable, Robert Niland, along with two other paratroopers, volunteered to stay behind and cover the platoon’s retreat toward Ste. Mere-Eglise.
While manning a machine gun in the face of the German onslaught, Robert Niland was killed in action.
That very same morning, Lt. Preston Niland led his men onto the shores of Utah beach as part of the seaborne invasion of Normandy. Though casualties were relatively light for the men of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah beach, the battles beyond would be much tougher.
Despite having made if off the beaches, the men of the 4th Infantry Division still had numerous gun batteries of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to clear. The task of capturing the Crisbecq battery, which had already sunk the destroyer USS Corry, fell to Lt. Niland and his men.
On June 7, Niland led his men against the German position. During the heavy fighting Niland fell mortally wounded. The rest of his unit was repulsed. The battery would not fall until several days later to units of the 9th Infantry Division.
The Niland brothers’ parents received all three notifications in a very short amount of time. Their only condolence was a letter from Fritz informing them that “Dad’s Spanish-American War stories are going to have to take a backseat when I get home.”
Fritz was unaware of the fate of his brothers. If only the brothers could have known that their story would turn into Saving Private Ryan, one of the most classic war films in history.
When the War Department received word of the tragedy orders were dispatched to return Fritz Niland to the United States. That task fell to the regimental Chaplin, Father Francis Sampson. Sampson located Fritz, who had been searching for his brother in the 82nd and began to paperwork to send him home.
Returning to the United States in 1944, Fritz served for the remainder of the war as an MP in New York.
Then, in May 1945, the Nilands received some rather unexpected news. Edward was found alive in a Burmese POW camp when it was liberated by British forces.
He had survived bailing out of his plane, several days in the jungle, and nearly a year as a prisoner of the Japanese. During his captivity he had lost significant weight and returned to New York at a meager 80 pounds.
The other two Niland brothers, Preston and Robert, are buried side-by-side in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.
“It’s really hard for me to quit anything … I expect to have bad days. I expect to make mistakes and have setbacks. It’s just second nature for me to keep moving.”
Writer, producer and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke doesn’t fit into molds. His life has been filled with a gamut of opportunities for which he didn’t qualify. But with help from a recruiter and the voice of his mom in his mind reminding him of excellence, he proved that he would overcome the bad choices he’d made as an at-risk youth to master his future.
Now, he’s passionate about motivating young people of the same background to know what they can accomplish beyond the limitations society has put on them based on their race or what area they’re from.
Adeleke didn’t grow up with hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He’d never seen one in person or thought about becoming a member of the highly-trained elite team of special operations forces. They were just the intriguing cool guys in the movies.
His father died when he was a young boy, and his mom was left alone to care for him and his brother Bayo. So, she moved her family from Africa to the Bronx in New York City. Unfortunately, inner-city communities like the Bronx are plagued with crime, high unemployment, inadequate educational opportunities, and extreme poverty, and Adeleke became a product of his surroundings. He was selling drugs and getting into other illegal activities. By the time he tried to join the military, he had two warrants out for his arrest. But Adeleke had an unexpected supporter that changed his life. His recruiter, Tianna Reyes, was a fellow Bronx native who understood his environment and went to bat for him because she knew no one else would give him a chance.
“She really believed in me,” he said. As a result, his record was expunged, and on July 2, 2002, he was sworn into the U.S. Navy.
Adeleke’s first time learning about special operations forces was in boot camp, and he was hooked.
But once again, he didn’t fit the bill.
“I was totally unqualified to go to BUD/S (basic underwater demolition SEAL training) because I didn’t have the academic scores. My ASVAB scores weren’t high enough. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t run. I was super skinny, and I was not in shape for the program,” Adeleke explained.
But during his first command at Camp Pendleton, he took matters into his own hands.
“I created a regimen and started training. I would run three miles to the pool, jump in the shallow end, and try to figure it out. Over time I began to get better, and I would run three miles back to my barracks,” he said.
He also purchased the book “ASVAB for Dummies” and eventually retook the test.
Adeleke then went even further and asked his leading petty officer to give him a split shift schedule so he could train harder. He qualified for SEAL training within six months, but this still didn’t seal the deal for him. After a year of being in SEAL training, he had failed his aquatic test so many times that he was kicked out.
“I failed a dive test four times and ultimately got kicked out of school,” he added.
Still, he refused to quit after being sent back to the fleet. Adeleke trained for a-year-and-half with the Marines and went back to SEAL training and became a SEAL.
In his book “Transformed,” he documents his life, the challenges he’s faced, and the lessons he’s learned. His driving force now is giving back to communities like the one he grew up in. Acting in a major film — “Transformers: The Last Knight” — and now working as a screenwriter and director aren’t enough if he can’t share the lessons. He attributes this to one thing — his faith.
“This is not about me. It’s about people. How can I serve people? How can I bless people?” he said.
Adeleke emphasizes a desire to expose Black youths to the Navy SEALs, as he was the only Black graduate in his class of SEALs. Since 2012, the U.S. Navy has stated it is actively looking for minority SEALs, yet less than 1% of them are Black. Adeleke says part of the blame goes to Hollywood for the lack of positive Black images they put in the world.
The idea that white people can do anything is normalized and reinforced by Hollywood, while Black children rarely see themselves in strong, affluent roles.
Exposure to proper education is another mission. Not only are the kids not exposed to SEALs, but urban schools also lack essential tools required to join, like access to pools to learn to swim.
“You don’t see educators allowing top tier military professionals such as special operators, pilots, or doctors into their inner-city schools to say you can do this too,” he explained.
To add to the lack of representation, Adeleke has received layers of pushback from inner-city schools and prisons when his team asks if he can speak to the inmates or students.
“The schools that give me the hardest time to get into [to speak] are inner-city, predominantly African American schools,” he said.
His frustration is palpable. The root of the problem is that predominantly white schools are financially backed with an outpouring of community support to expand and better their students’ opportunities. In contrast, minority community schools, which mostly receive funding from property taxes, still fall victim to the American system’s discrimination.
“You’ve got to go through all this red tape. But when you go to these schools in suburbia, it’s, ‘Hey, you want to come speak? Come!’ I’ve got an open-door policy to so many schools in suburban areas, but I don’t in urban areas,” Adeleke shared.
And when asking the reason, he is told it’s the city officials and their rules. But Adeleke has a knack for breaking down barriers.
“Overcoming adversity has become second nature to me,” he said. “I kind of learned that through osmosis by living with my mother.”
During 2020, as big brands claimed they would actively diversify and seek out Black creators, one major studio stuck to their word and sought Adeleke out to produce a show.
“In the Hollywood side, I have seen some things change,” he said.
As his weight in Hollywood grows, Adeleke hopes to help give minority youth more exposure and experiences through the imprint of his future television and film work.
Colonel Paris Davis is one of the first Black officers to earn the coveted Green Beret of U.S. Special Forces. In the 1960s, America underwent the trials of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, both of which Davis took head on. “I said, ‘Look, you can call me Captain Davis, but you can’t call me a n****r,'” he said of his experience as a Black officer. In spite of the discrimination that he faced, Davis was a bonafide hero.
On May 13, 1965, Davis earned the Soldier’s Medal for actions at Bong San. An aviation fuel truck jackknifed and rolled on its side, pinning the driver against the steering wheel. He reacted quickly and ordered his men to stay clear of the truck. With complete disregard for his own safety, Davis ran to free the driver from the now burning truck. Despite the driver’s pleas to abandon him, Davis refused to leave a man behind. His citation reads, “Major Davis worked his comrade loose and then carried him away from the truck just as it exploded.” The award was presented in 1968, by which time Davis had been promoted to Major. Davis is a real-life action hero and his story only get better.
The month after his heroic rescue of the fuel truck driver, Davis commanded what would become a 19-hour raid and a fight for survival. On June 18, Davis led an A-Team of 90 men to hit what they thought was a Viet Cong camp. However, it turned out to be a group of 4,000 North Vietnam regulars. In 1965, it was rare for U.S. troops to come across conventional soldiers. Still, Davis and his men hit and hit hard. “We were stacking bodies the way you do canned goods in a grocery store,” Davis said of the raid. Absolute badass. However, things soon went wrong for the A-Team.
During the raid, Davis was wounded by enemy gunfire and grenade shrapnel. He wasn’t the only one who got hit. Two of his men, Billy Waugh and Robert Brown were gravely wounded. Waugh was hit in the knee, foot, ankle, and head, and so was Brown. “I could actually see his brain pulsating. It was that big,” Davis recalled of Brown’s wound. “He said, ‘Am I gonna die?’ And I said, ‘Not before me.'” With the raiders under heavy fire, Davis was ordered to withdraw. “Sir, I’m just not gonna leave. I still have an American out there,” was Davis’ reply. Refusing to abandon his men, Davis disobeyed the order. Another Green Beret on the raid, Ron Deis, recalled Davis’ commitment to his men. “Captain Davis refused and said, ‘No, I’m not leaving while I still have men out on the field,'” he emotionally recalled.
During the fighting, Waugh became separated from the team and lost consciousness. He was stripped naked and left for dead by the Vietnamese soldiers. Davis, with the help of a Sgt. First Class John Reinburg, carried Waugh to a hill where they could be extracted by helicopter. As Reinburg crested the hill above Davis and Waugh, he stood up to catch his breath. As soon as he did, he was shot twice and fell. With Reinberg dead, the wounded Davis carried Waugh by himself on his shoulders to the Huey and got him out of there.
For his actions during the raid, Davis was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commander, Billy Cole. However, the paperwork vanished. An army review in 1969 revealed no such file for Davis. The recommendation was resubmitted following the review. However, army records still showed no paperwork for Davis’ Medal of Honor. In an effort to recognize Davis’ heroism, many of the soldiers who served under him lobbied Congress. Waugh, who went on to serve in special forces and the CIA until Operation Enduring Freedom, submitted a statement in 1981. “I only have to close my eyes to vividly recall the gallantry of this individual,” he wrote.
Davis’ heroism in Vietnam cannot be overstated. His dedication to the mission and his men embodies everything that the army and the Green Berets stand for. “When you’re out there fighting, and things are going on like that, everybody’s your friend, and you’re everybody’s friend,” Davis said of combat. “The bullets have no color, no names.” An expedited review of Davis’ twice-lost Medal of Honor nomination has been submitted. When asked what it would mean to him to receive the medal, Davis said, “It would mean all the things that I haven’t been able to dream about.”