When the 6th Marine Division stormed ashore at Okinawa on April 1, 1945 they knew they were in for a fight. Okinawa is a Japanese prefecture, therefore home turf, and would be ruthlessly defended.
But, their first month on the island was almost uneventful as the Marines swept across the northern part of the island.
All of that changed when they shifted to join the attack in the south.
The Japanese commander’s plan was to concentrate his forces in the hills of southern Okinawa and wage a war of attrition on the Americans that he hoped they could not withstand.
All along the front, American units took a beating from the Japanese. Slowly but surely though, they crept forward. This monumental effort broke the first defensive line, the Machinato line. This led the Americans to the next, and even more formidable defense, the Shuri line.
The Shuri line was the Japanese Main Line of Resistance. It ran from coast to coast across Okinawa roughly in line with Shuri castle.
All along the line, the Japanese defenders were chewing up entire American divisions. However, the worst of it would come for the 6th Marine Division at an unassuming little hill they called “Sugar Loaf.”
Though barely 75 feet high and some 300 yards in length the small hill was teeming with an entire Japanese regiment. The Japanese were dug into intricate tunnels with machine gun and mortar nests covering every approach with interlocking fire.
Artillery from Shuri heights behind Sugar Loaf added more devastation.
On May 12 Company G, 22nd Marines advanced on the hill. Confidence was high as they crossed the first 900 yards to Sugar Loaf’s slopes. Then all hell broke loose. The first two platoons were suddenly ripped apart and pinned down by heavy Japanese machine gun and artillery fire.
Capt. Owen Stebbins, and his XO, Lt. Dale Bair rushed forward leading the remaining platoon. Before they could even make the slopes, Stebbins and 28 other Marines were cut down.
Bair assumed command but was wounded instantly himself. Despite his wounds, he rallied his men and surged to the crest of Sugar Loaf. Blasting at the Japanese with only one good arm Bair inspired his men before Japanese fire repeatedly struck him. Continuing to fight through the pain Bair did everything in his power to suppress the Japanese. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
As the Japanese fire intensified, the few remaining Marines evacuated the summit. However, the fight was not over. G Company would assault Sugar Loaf and take the summit three more times that day before being forced to withdraw for the night.
Company G was down to 75 able-bodied men after only the first day. The next day other elements of the 22nd Marines captured the summit of Sugar Loaf only to be driven off.
On May 14, elements of the 29th Marines joined in on the attack and the combined effort managed to get two companies to the top of the hill. Withering fire from the Japanese forced them back down.
An attack in the afternoon by the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines stalled and left Maj. Henry Courtney, the battalion XO, stranded on the slopes along with 44 other Marines. From his precarious position, Courtney surmised that their only hope was to assault.
Leading the way through ferocious Japanese fire Courtney led his men through fierce combat. After gaining a better position, Courtney sent for reinforcements and ammunition. He then pushed forward to the crest of the hill, demolishing Japanese positions with grenades as he went. Observing a large force assembling for a counterattack Courtney pushed on and routed the enemy from the top of Sugar Loaf.
Courtney order his men to dig in and hold for the night. Unfortunately, accurate Japanese mortar fire mortally wounded him and determined Japanese resistance reduced his small force to only 15 men. Unable to hold they once again yielded the summit.
May 15 was no better for the Marines. Company D, 29th Marines battled to the top before fighting a bitter engagement with the Japanese. A single platoon exhausted some 350 grenades and were down to eleven men before they retreated.
On the 16th, the Marines renewed their assault. The 22nd Marines once again went up Sugar Loaf while the 29th Marines attacked Half Moon hill, a small landmass interconnected with Sugar Loaf’s defenses, from which they could provide supporting fire.
Sugar Loaf changed hands four separate times before the Marines withdrew. The final attempt seemed to be holding when they ran out of ammunition and had no choice but to forfeit the hill once more.
The first good news of the battle came on May 17 when a battalion from the 29th Marines finally secured most of Half Moon hill.
The next day, the Marines launched diversionary attacks all along the line and then snuck a unit of tanks and infantry between Sugar Loaf and Half Moon. These Marines then attacked Sugar Loaf from the rear and finally drove out the remaining Japanese defenders. This was the twelfth times the Marines had made the summit and they were loath to relinquish it.
The beleaguered and angry Marines mowed down the retreating Japanese.
The fight for Sugar Loaf Hill had cost the Marines over 2,600 causalities with nearly 1,300 more evacuated for exhaustion or illness. But, the Marines hard-won victory finally cracked the Shuri line and spelled the end for the Japanese defenders on Okinawa.
The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.
There are a lot of badasses in military service. Many have proven themselves in combat, but there are some who manage real heroics without facing the enemy. Even in peacetime, some very bad accidents happen.
In January of 2013, the Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessel USS Guardian (MCM 5) hit a reef off the Philippines and was well and truly stuck. The ship was eventually dismantled in place and her commanding officer and other top personnel were relieved. There were no serious injuries among the 80 crewmen of the ship, but it wasn’t blind luck that kept everyone safe — sailors demonstrated some real heroism that day.
Heavy waves crash against the grounded mine countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17. The grounding and subsequent heavy waves constantly hitting Guardian have caused severe damage, leading the Navy to determine the 23-year old ship is beyond economical repair and is a complete loss. (U.S. Navy photo)
Damage Controlman 1st Class Jeffrey Macatangay was one of those sailors. He, joined by Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Jean Isidore and Mineman 3rd Class (SW) Matthew Pekarcik, went into a bilge where five gallons of water flooded the ship each minute. He had all of 18 inches of clearance and was in a very confined space. Despite this, he managed to shore up an air-conditioning unit, keeping the ship from losing electrical power. That bought time for the crew to get off the vessel.
One other sailor, a search-and-rescue swimmer, Mineman 3rd Class Travis Kirckof, would perform an even more amazing feat. On the day the Guardian ran aground, some of the ship’s life rafts drifted away after the furious seas snapped the lines holding them to the ship. After one sailor helped keep the remaining rafts from drifting off, Kirckof would help 46 sailors reach safety, spending five hours in the water to do so.
His actions were credited with saving at least two lives.
All four sailors received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their actions. They may have never faced an enemy in combat, but they proved they were badass sailors when the chips were down.
Gemini 3 was the first American space mission to be crewed by more than one astronaut. Gemini 3 performed the first orbital maneuver ever by shifting its orbit mid-flight. This breakthrough performance also showed that a re-entry vehicle could change its touchdown point. What it will be remembered for in the annals of NASA history, however, is a corned-beef sandwich.
For just shy of five hours, the Gemini 3 mission experienced very few setbacks — none of them major. From the takeoff aboard a Titan-II Rocket to the capsule’s recovery by the USS Intrepid, the crew would tell you it was a very smooth, well-run mission. The 89th U.S. Congress, however, had a different opinion.
The crew of Gemini 3. Not pictured: pocket sandwich.
Strangely enough, one of Gemini 3’s other mission requirements was to test space food in the capsule — specific food, not just whatever food the astronauts wanted to bring. The mission took five hours, but the non-rated food incident lasted less than a minute. The two astronauts were working in the capsule when pilot John Young, who was on his first spaceflight, pulled out a corned-beef sandwich.
“I was concentrating on our spacecraft’s performance, when suddenly, John asked me, ‘You care for a corned-beef sandwich, skipper?'” Grissom later recounted. “If I could have fallen out of my couch, I would have. Sure enough, he was holding an honest-to-john corned-beef sandwich.”
“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked. Corned-beef sandwiches were his favorite. “I brought it with me,” Young answered. “Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?” The smell of corned beef did indeed fill the spacecraft. The astronaut picked up the sandwich from a local deli called Wolfie’s inside the nearby Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach. Wally Schirra gave the sandwich to Young, who stowed it away in a pocket in his spacesuit.
Grissom took a bite, but the sandwich was not holding its integrity in zero gravity. The astronauts opted to put the sandwich away. Young admitted that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to bring the sandwich into low earth orbit. Grissom told him the sandwich was “pretty good, if it would just hold together.” With crumbs of rye bread floating around the cabin, the crew continued their mission.
“It didn’t even have mustard on it,” Young wrote. “And no pickle.”
While mission control at NASA and Young’s superiors were less-than-thrilled with the smuggled sandwich, the rest of the mission went ahead as planned and though the two were given slaps on the wrists and told, in no uncertain terms, that non-man-rated corned-beef sandwiches were out for future space missions, nothing more was really thought of it.
Until Congress stepped in.
Vietnam, civil rights, and corned beef.
It was the height of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Gemini 3 was supposed to be the first orbital mission ever to have more than one astronaut, but the Soviets had beaten NASA to the punch by a week — when it launched the Voskhod 2 mission. Regardless, the United States was behind in the race and the costly program was under close scrutiny.
The House Appropriations Committee began a full review of the incident, concerned that those rye crumbs were a serious threat to the safe operation of the spacecraft. It’s true that the greasy crumbs could have played havoc on the craft’s electronics and computer systems. The sandwich was nicknamed the “-million sandwich.”
A replica of the million sandwich.
(Grissom Memorial Museum)
Congress thought the astronauts were ignoring the space food they were sent to evaluate and were wasting taxpayer money. John Young later wrote that he didn’t think it was that big of a deal and that it was common to carry sandwiches aboard. The offending corned-beef sandwich wasn’t even the first smuggled sandwich — it was the third. These days, astronauts make sandwiches in space all the time, they just use ingredients that keep the crumbs to a minimum.
What they were supposed to be eating.
Young commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981. And carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia was a menu that included corned beef. The smuggled sandwich itself is lost to history, but a good likeness of the original can be found preserved in acrylic at the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana.
Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.
The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.
The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.
“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”
The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.
Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.
The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.
The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.
The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.
Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.
Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.
Seventy-five years ago in Bastogne, Belgium, German soldiers captured American Pfc. Marold Peterson of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Peterson escaped from the work camp where we was held prisoner, only to be captured again and killed by Hitler Youth.
Sgt. Travis Paice, the great-grandson of Peterson, said it is surreal to be in Bastogne where Peterson lived his last moments.
“Maybe he was standing right where I stood,” Paice, a soldier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said.
Paice is one soldier with family ties to the World War II Battle of the Bulge who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremonies and parade. Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, is another.
US infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods, December 14, 1944.
(Pfc. James F. Clancy, US Army Signal Corps)
Jones’ great-uncle Ed Jones was a Sherman tanker with the 10th Armored Division during World War II. While Jones is unsure of his great-uncle’s rank, he heard stories growing up about his service from his father and uncle. During the Battle of the Bulge, three of Ed Jones’ tanks took extreme damage.
On his last time evacuating a Sherman tank, he took shrapnel from a German stick grenade in his leg and was captured as a prisoner of war. He was missing for about four months until a Canadian HAM radio operator intercepted a message from the Germans including the locations of POWs from both American and Allied forces.
“It’s amazing to feel like I am walking in his footsteps,” said Jones of walking through the streets where his great uncle served. “To see Bastogne and where he was is a sobering feeling.”
On December 14, 2019, American and Belgian soldiers, along with members of the Bastogne community and World War II veterans, marched in a parade through the town center. Guests of honor, including Prime Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz threw walnuts from the balcony of the Bastogne City Center into the crowd.
The nut throwing, or “Jet de Noix,” commemorates Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous response of “Nuts” when petitioned by the Germans to surrender.
Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne.
(US War Department)
Both Jones and Paice said they felt a great sense of pride knowing their unit has lineage to World War II and the Battle of the Bulge.
Paice had the opportunity to fly his great grandfather’s flag at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. He plans on gifting the flag to his grandfather, who is also a veteran.
Before arriving in Bastogne, Paice was given documents by the Army which provided an account of his great grandfather’s capture. He brought these documents with him as a reminder of what his family had endured. While Paice said the documents do not go into much detail, it is just enough to be harrowing.
“I never knew him, and my grandfather never knew him, but to get, somewhat, a little bit of closure was a little surreal,” Paice said.
Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, center, meets reenactors at a community event at the Bastogne Barracks in Bastogne, Belgium, December 14, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Erica Earl)
Paice said the most emotional part of his great grandfather’s history is knowing that American soldiers liberated the prisoner camp Stalag IX-B, also known as Bad Orb, the day after he was killed in his effort to escape.
According to Army documents, soldiers in that prison were starved, with many men weighing only between 70 and 80 pounds when they were rescued.
As soldiers lined up to prepare for the parade, there was a mixture of snow, rain and harsh winds as temperatures dropped, but participants acknowledged that was nothing compared to what Soldiers who had gone before them endured.
Jones said if he could say something to his great uncle, it would be “thank you.”
“Thank you for paving the way for us and giving everything for our values, our freedoms and our allies’ freedoms,” Jones said in heartfelt appreciation to both is late great uncle and veterans of World War II.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
Throughout history, executions have been controversial ways of punishing heinous crimes against individuals, institutions, and governments. From hangings to lethal injection, executions have spanned the gamut of cruelty and, at every point, there has raged a debate over the moral grounds of taking a life for justice.
Historically, one form of execution has been reserved for military personnel: the firing squad. The concept is elementary: a prisoner stands against a brick wall or study barrier and is gunned down by a handful of soldiers. It might sound simple, but there are a few things about this deadly punishment that you might not know
The final walk
Out of grim curiosity, we’ve watched several videos of firing-squad executions found in the war archives. We noticed that the majority of criminals sentenced to die conducted their last walks under their own accord. Although this was likely their last moment of life, criminals weren’t dragged to their position.
We thought that was interesting.
A firing squad in Cuba.
The crimes committed
Throughout many parts of the world, if a troop or civilian was convicted of cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny, or treason, they would be sent up in front of a firing squad as punishment.
That doesn’t happen too often today.
What it’s like facing a Spanish firing squad without a blindfold.
In many cases, the prisoner was blindfolded before stepping in front of his executioners. However, some requested the opportunity to face the men who were about to unload their barrels.
That’s pretty ballsy.
According to the Crime Museum, when the condemned person was able to look into the eyes of their executioners, it diminished their anonymity. This made the event stressful for the shooters who were following orders.
The firing squad
Once given the cue by a superior, each soldier pulled the trigger of their rifle simultaneously, resulting in a kill shot by multiple rounds.
In some cases, only a handful of the executioners were given live rounds. The rest would receive blanks. This way, nobody could know who, exactly, was responsible for the kill.
Ronnie Lee Gardner in the the courtroom
(National Public Radio)
The last use of a firing squad for a convicted criminal.
According to NPR, the last person to be executed by firing squad was convicted murderer, Ronnie Lee Gardner, in 2010. While already faced with a murder conviction in Utah, Gardner attempted to escape and, in the process, killed an attorney.
Gardner’s conviction came through before the state abandoned the use of the firing squads in 2004. He elected to be killed this way.
A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.
“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.
It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.
I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.
Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.
As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.
This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.
Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.
Take Jerry for example.
Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.
Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.
“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.
Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”
Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.
I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.
His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.
Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.
“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”
I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.
Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.
They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.
For the soldiers in the trenches of World War I, safety from artillery came from lines of trenches and a network of tunnels to keep the ever-present artillery off their heads. But sometimes the very fortifications that served to protect them, were just as life threatening as the incessant bombardment.
That was the reality for the countless men and some children who were assigned to fight in the trenches of WWI.
With all those thousands of miles of trenches, both sides of the fight faced overwhelming odds and challenges like flooding, disease-carrying rats, malnourishment, and the constant mental strains of battle fatigue.
In many areas, the zig-zag trench construction placed the opposing forces as little as 50 yards away from one another, making it extremely difficult to watch the enemies’ activity while peering over the trench’s wall without the taking an incoming shot.
Since trenches had little overhead coverage, artillery shells frequently landed inside the emplacements. The distinct whistle of an incoming artillery round gave troopers just a few seconds to seek cover.
At a moment’s notice, the troops who occupied those trenches had to be prepared to defend themselves or leap out and race across No Man’s Land.
This was the dangerous area in between the enemy fronts which was covered with razor sharp barbed wire and plenty of enemy land mines.
If you’ve watched documentaries about the battles of World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, then chances are you’ve seen gun-camera footage. Whether it’s air-to-air or air-to-ground action, these attention-grabbing videos give us an idea of the intensity of combat aviation — but how do we get them?
In this day and age, we’re lucky to have plenty of digital tools to easily capture footage, download it to a hard drive, and upload it to YouTube or some other cloud storage service. Back in the day, however, all they had was film — and this film was often very useful. It gave intelligence officers some idea of what the pilots actually did. After all, it wasn’t unusual for a fired-up pilot to inflate their kill counts upon return.
But it wasn’t always easy to get that film.
This gun-camera footage from a Navy F9F Panther shows a MiG-15 in its last few seconds of life.
The process was a lengthy one. The film was first taken to a central processing laboratory. To save space, the film was placed in a number of magazines and then placed into one large roll. Loading that roll had to be done in total darkness. Why? In order to view film, it must first be developed and if the film is exposed to light prematurely, it’s ruined.
The entire process included rinsing to fully process the negatives, editing the processed negatives (which was done without computers, by the way), adding timestamps, and more. All in all, there were ten steps, including a test screening.
This is the final product of a long process done by specialists who did hard work.
(Jeff Quitney / YouTube)
You can see how some Air Force specialists did this job during the Korean War in the video below. As an added bonus, after they give you a run-down of all the developmental steps, you get to see a MiG-15 in the sights of a F-86 Sabre’s gun-camera. The folks who made it possible for you to see that footage never faced enemy fire, but they certainly worked almost as hard as the Sabre’s pilot did!
Check out the video below to see how we get that intense footage.
After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.
A top U.S. military technology company has announced that it’s working on new technology to give tank and armored vehicle crews a 360-degree view of the outside even when they’re buttoned up in armor with no windows.
Basically, crews will be able to see a virtual view of the world through the steel-plated sides of their tanks.
The new helmet technology being developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies is part of a project initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to develop futuristic survivability tools for armored vehicles.
“Our team is developing a virtual experience that gives the crews of armored military vehicles greater awareness of what’s going on outside the vehicle, while also reducing their vulnerability to attack,” David Diller, a program manager for Raytheon BBN Technologies, said in a press release. “We’re creating a three-dimensional model of the environment in real time that gives users views of their outside environment that would not normally be possible from inside the vehicle.”
The team aims to incorporate trackers for friendly forces, hostile fire, and known threats into the crew’s displays so the troops can concentrate on maneuver and tactics.
The system aims to use lidar, the same laser-imaging science that is in Google’s self-driving cars, to create the map of the surroundings while high-definition video lets the crew see what is going on around them.
Pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II currently have a system that uses that plane’s sensors to achieve a similar effect, allowing the pilot to “see” through the aircraft. While the F-35 program has come under fire for cost overruns and delays, pilots and program managers have pointed at the tactical awareness the helmet gives as a game-changer in future fights.
If tank crews can get similar awareness when they’re going toe-to-toe with enemy armor, that could tip the scales in their favor during a decisive battle.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is owned by the Raytheon Company and is working on DARPA’s Grond X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve America’s vehicles by enhancing mobility, agility, crew augmentation, and signature management.