In the fog of war, it’s not uncommon for outstanding pieces of heroism to go unrecognized — at least for a time. In the case of Joe Rochefort, a lack of recognition was one part needing to protect secrets and another part bureaucratic vengeance.
Other times, it simply takes a while for the necessary proof of heroism to be gathered. This was the case for Corporal Stephen Austin.
Austin served with the 27th Marine Regiment during the Vietnam War. According to a report by the Fresno Bee, it took two attempts and a number of years to gather the statements from Austin’s fellow Marines about what he did when his platoon was ambushed on June 8, 1968, during Operation Allen Brook.
Fellow Marine Grady Birdsong felt no bitterness about the length of time it took to recognize Austin’s valor.
“We were on the move all the time and, to be real honest with you, we weren’t concerned about awards. We were just concerned about staying alive and being able to come home,” he explained.
Birdsong, though, took up the cause after the death of Al Joyner, another Vietnam veteran who served alongside Austin.
Dog tags once worn by Stephen Austin during his military service, when ended when he was killed in action.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Marcos Alvarado)
The initial award was slated to be a Silver Star. However, after the statements were reviewed, the award was upgraded to the Navy Cross — a decoration for valor second only to the Medal of Honor. If you read the citation, it’s clear why it was upgraded.
“With complete disregard for his own safety,” the citation reads, Austin broke cover to attack an enemy machine gun nest with a hand grenade. He succeeded in hitting the position but was mortally wounded. Because of his actions, surviving members of his platoon were able to eliminate the enemy.
General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the Navy Cross to Austin’s daughter.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Olivia Ortiz)
The Navy Cross was personally presented by General Robert Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to Austin’s daughter, Neily Esposito, on July 21, 2018. The 27th Marine Regiment is currently inactive.
If there were any one weapons manufacturer that was worthy of being called the “Arsenal of Democracy,” it would be the Springfield Armory. The armory was founded by George Washington in 1777, meaning it’s nearly as old as the country itself. The Springfield, Mass. institution was the nation’s first depot for its weapons of war and has supplied the United States in every war from the War of 1812 to Vietnam.
Today, the nation’s first federal armory is a national historic site, run by the National Parks Service and housing the largest collection of American firearms in the world. Until 1968, however, it was an innovative firearms manufacturer, producing the weapons that won wars for the United States. From the get-go, the site of the Springfield Armory was of critical defensive importance to the young United States. It was the site where New England colonists trained to defend the colony from nearby native tribes. When the time came for revolution, Gen. Washington and his artillery chief, Henry Knox, chose the site for its defensive terrain.
After the revolution, the armory was critical to the defense of the young republic. In putting down Shay’s Rebellion, the defenders of the arsenal proved the United States was capable of maintaining its own stability and security. Later, it produced arms for the War of 1812, despite resistance to the war in the New England states, and it may have been one of the deciding factors in the Union victory in the Civil War.
Union troops with Springfield Armory 1861 rifles.
(National Parks Service)
The mass production techniques used by the armory at Springfield were so advanced for the time that from the start of the war to the end of the war, production increased 25 fold to more than a quarter-million rifles every year. That far outpaced what the Confederates could produce. By the end of the war, the armory wasn’t just a producer, it was designing and testing new arms for the future. It was experimenting with concepts that wouldn’t become widespread for another half-century, including interchangeable parts and even an early assembly line.
Some of the most iconic small arms ever produced by the United States to serve on the foreign battlefields of the 20th Century were produced at the Springfield Armory. The Springfield Model 1903 rifle, the M1917 Enfield Rifle, and Springfield is where John Garand developed the first practical semi-automatic rifle for military use – a weapon Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
You may have heard of the M1 Garand.
(Library of Congress)
The last weapon the armory developed and produced was the M14, a version of the M1, but eventually, the M1 family was replaced by the M16 family of rifles as the U.S. military’s standard-issue infantry weapon in 1964. By 1968, the legendary facility would be shuttered despite producing other arms for use in the Vietnam War. When the armory refused to build the new M16, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had the armory closed.
In the years that followed, the buildings of the Springfield Armory complex were restored and the place was turned into a museum, run by the Parks Service.
Marines in the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa are prepared to rescue American civilians and fellow service members in the massive continent where they operate. And they recently went on an exercise focusing on saving downed aircrews, a mission known as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel that often requires Marines entering enemy-held territory and providing medical aid.
The mission is simple enough to understand. When an aircrew crashes to earth, the personnel could be spread out, injured, and in imminent danger of an enemy patrol or other force finding them with their pants down. So the SP-MAGTF flies in, conducts search and rescue, renders medical aid, and extracts everyone.
But that simple mission comes with a lot of complications. There’s obviously the problem of enemy forces, since they get a vote on what happens. But aircraft shoot downs and crashes are naturally chaotic events, so the personnel the Marines are looking for could easily be spread out over miles of debris-strewn ground.
And there’s always the chance, though slim, that the enemy will try to get a mole into U.S. forces by having them impersonate a crew member or passenger, so the Marines have to verify everyone’s identity while also caring for the injured, some likely catastrophically.
And extraction is no picnic either. The Marines will have to carry out the litter wounded and possibly guide the ambulatory. They’ll often have to select and prepare their own landing zone and then secure it to keep out baddies. Only when all the wounded are aboard and safe can they collapse their perimeter and withdraw.
That’s why the Marines spend so much time and energy training for this and other emergencies. On game day, there won’t be much time to prepare, and their performance will determine life and death for themselves and potentially dozens of others.
Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran Roger Hayden spent ten days with the Australian Special Air Service during a mission in Vietnam. Hayden, then with SEAL Team One, invited the Aussies to go out in their area of responsibility. They had a blast Hayden told fellow Navy SEAL vet Jocko Willink on his podcast.
But for the entire ten days, the Aussies didn’t say a word. They just used hand and arms signals.
Some people may not be aware just how far back SEAL history goes. SEALs were first birthed during World War II, so by the time of the War in Vietnam, the use of Naval Special Operations was a lot more perfected than it was in its earliest days. The United States wasn’t the only country to have special operators in Vietnam. Many are surprised to discover the Vietnam War was fought by a handful of countries who also believed Vietnam was the front line of the ideological war pitting capitalism versus communism. One of those countries was Australia, which sent (among others) its own special operators.
For Australia, it was the largest force contribution to a foreign war in its history and for the longest time, remained its longest war. It was also just as controversial for Australian civilians at home as the war was for American citizens at home.
Australian soldiers from 7 RAR waiting to be picked up by U.S. Army helicopters.
(Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra.)
For Vietnam-era Navy SEAL Roger Hayden, the Australian SAS were some of the best he’d ever seen. He went to Army Ranger School, Raider School, and others, but he says he learned more about reconnaissance in his ten days with the Australians than he did anywhere else in the world.
“In UDT (underwater demolition teams), you just didn’t have the fieldcraft to be out in the jungle looking for people,” Hayden said of the SEALs at the time. “Their [the Australians’] fieldcraft was so good… and you gotta have your sh*t together.”
According to Hayden, they lost a lot of SEALs because of their lack of fieldcraft preparation.
Hayden and his fellow SEALs took over from those they replaced the very same day they arrived in country, with little to no preparation or turnover. They had to start completely brand new, flying into a South Vietnamese base near the U Minh Forest, today called U Minh Thượng National Park. Hayden says they were doing dartboard ops – where they would throw a dart at the map, going to wherever it hits.
“We didn’t have intel, we didn’t have sh*t,” Hayden says. “We were pretty isolated out at a Vietnamese base camp in BF-Egypt, you know what I mean?”
His time with the Australians was a rare run in the jungle, as he and fellow SEALs normally conducted riverine inserts for ambushes, intel gathering, and enemy observation.
It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.
I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.
I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.
By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)
I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.
Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.
‘Some snap drill’
Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.
I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.
Our conversation went something like this:
“Are you watching this?” he asked.
“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”
“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”
Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.
“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.
We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.
We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.
Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.
“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”
Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.
And then it got weird
We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.
We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.
There was lots of drinking everywhere.
The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.
We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”
“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”
That was enough for him, and he left.
So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.
I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.
The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.
“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.
A lot to digest
It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…
As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.
Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.
I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”
When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”
The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.
I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.
There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.
There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.
I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.
Snipers, tracer rounds
But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.
One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.
The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.
The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.
Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.
Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.
Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.
About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.
People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”
I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.
The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.
I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.
I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.
US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.
A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.
Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.
“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.
A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.
The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.
A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.
These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.
These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.
The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.
Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.
Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.
Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.
“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet made its initial flight after receiving the first US Air Force “Ghost” paint scheme, May 23, 2019.
The design was chosen by a poll held by Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing commander, on his social media account to add a new look to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS).
“I love this job, and I love what we do at Nellis Air Force Base, so I want to take any opportunity to boast about our fine men and women who do great work for their nation,” said Novotny.
“Social Media gives me a chance to connect directly with the folks who have a similar passion for military aviation.”
Aircraft painters for Mission First (M1) assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Group sand the tail of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 1, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Jesus Yanez, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, sprays the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 8, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Troy Blaschko, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, peels off letters for the masking, inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 7, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS) received new decals and stenciling inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Peter Mossudo and Troy Blaschko, both 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painters, place masking for stenciling on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressors Squadron Viper Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the flight line at Nellis Air Force base, Nevada, May 21, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Senior Airman Rodolfo Aguayo-Santacruz, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) crew chief, prepares to control an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet getting towed out of the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will soften the punishment for some hate crimes amid concerns over prison terms handed down to people for “liking” or reposting memes on the Internet.
The legislation, signed by Putin on Dec. 28, 2018, will remove the possibility of a prison sentence for first-time offenders found to have incited ethnic, religious, and other forms of hatred and discord in public, including in the media or on the Internet.
The legislation is the result of a rare climbdown by President Vladimir Putin, who proposed it amid a wave of potentially image-damaging concern over the arrests and imprisonment of Russians for publicly questioning religious dogmas or posting, reporting, or “liking” memes or comments that authorities say incited hatred.
Under the legislation, first-time offenders will face administrative instead of criminal prosecution, meaning they would be fined, do community service, or be jailed for up to 15 days.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A person who is deemed to have committed a second, similar offense within a year will then face criminal prosecution and the possibility of two to five years in prison.
But all offenders, including those found guilty for the first time, will still face up to six years in prison if their incitement to hatred involves violence, the threat of violence, the use of their official position, or is committed by a group, the bill says.
Putin proposed the change in early October 2018, following a string of cases in which Russians were charged for publishing material — sometimes satirical or seen by many as harmless — on social networks such as VKontakte and Facebook.
The bill was approved by lawmakers in both chambers of parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.
Reaction to the new legislation has been mixed, with Kremlin critics warning that the government will still retain many tools for suppressing dissent and limiting free speech.
On Oct. 2, 2018, Putin signed a law toughening punishment for those who refuse to remove information from the Internet deemed illegal by a court.
The U.S. Coast Guard was officially formed in 1915, but it traces its history to 1790 through the Lifesaving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service. Formerly part of the Treasury Department and now under the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is generally the butt of jokes from military branches under the Department of Defense.
Despite the comments about the ‘puddle pirates,’ Coast Guard history is filled with shocking exploits.
1. The Coast Guard conducted a World War II raid nearly three months before Pearl Harbor attack
The Coast Guard cutter USCG Northland was patrolling near Greenland under a defensive treaty between Greenland and the U.S. on Sep. 12, 1941, when it received a tip that a suspicious ship had put ashore a landing party in a nearby fjord. The Northland found the vessel, the Norwegian fishing boat SS Buskoe. The Northland crew boarded the ship and took the ship master to the Northland for questioning. The boarding party continued to search the Buskoe and found two sets of radio equipment, an indicator that the ship was handling communications for Nazi radio stations.
The Coast Guard conducted an interrogation of the ship master and learned the location of the landing party the ship had previously dropped off. Coast Guardsmen landed on the shore and conducted a nighttime raid against a radio station established by the enemy landing party. They captured three Norwegians, at least one acting under German orders. They also found German radio equipment, code words, and military instructions. Since the U.S. and Germany were not yet at war, the Norwegians were arrested as illegal immigrants.
2. Revenue cutters captured 18 ships during a quasi-war with France
America owed a significant amount of money to France when the French crown was overthrown during the French Revolution in 1794. The U.S. told the French Republic that they would not be repaying the debt since the money was owed to the crown.
Backlash from France resulted in the Quasi War from 1798-1799. Though neither nation declared war, naval battles became common with the French seizing American merchant ships by the hundreds. The Navy, which had been disbanded after the war of 1812, was re-instituted. While the Navy was standing up, eight Revenue Cutter Service ships were pressed into service against the French Navy.
3. A Coast Guard lieutenant commanded an Army company in combat
In 1855, Revenue Cutter 2nd Lt. James E. Harrison was ordered to accompany a U.S. Army company in the American-Indian Wars. In the Puget Sound area of Washington, the Army camp was ambushed by a group of Native Americans on December 3. The Army commander, Lt. W. A. Slaughter, was killed the next day in the fighting. Harrison assumed command of the company and beat off the attackers in a fierce firefight. He then led the company back to Fort Steilacoom, Washington on December 21.
4. The USRC Hudson rescued a Navy vessel while under heavy fire from Spanish artillery
On May 11, 1898, the USRC Hudson was part of the Navy fleet blockading Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Spanish ships had attacked the blockade the day before and were now in harbor in Cardenas, a fortified port. Navy Cmdr. John Merry ordered the Hudson and the USS Winslow to enter the port and sink the ships.
The Winslow was faster and entered the port first, but was soon damaged due to fierce fire from shore batteries. The Hudson rushed to the defense of the damaged torpedo boat, laying down thick covering fire and attempting to secure a tow cable to the Navy vessel. After more than a half hour, the Winslow crew was finally able to secure the tow cable and the Hudson pulled her out of the port. The vessels sank two Spanish ships during the attack, but the Winslow suffered the deaths of an officer and multiple crewmen.
5. The Surveyor crew bravely fought back against a boarding party over three times its size
During the War of 1812, a boarding party of 50 British sailors from the HMS Narcissus used muffled oars to sneak up on the USRC Surveyor. The 15-man crew of the Surveyor saw the British approaching but could not bring the guns to bear due to the angle of approach of the boarding party.
Capt. Samuel Travis ordered his men to take two muskets each and wait quietly for the British to get within pistol range. The British were hampered by the surprise volley but kept coming, so the crew of the surveyor fought across the decks to retain control of the ship. The British were eventually able take the ship, but they suffered three dead and seven wounded to the Americans’ five wounded. The cutter’s defense was so fierce despite the numerical advantage of the British that British Capt. John Crerie returned the American captain’s sword the next morning with the following note.
“Your gallant and desperate attempt to defend your vessel against more than double your number excited such admiration on the part of your opponents as I have seldom witnessed, and induced me to return you the sword you had so ably used, in testimony of mine.
Our poor fellows have severely suffered, occasioned chiefly, if not solely, by the precaution you had taken to prevent surprise. In short, I am at a loss which to admire most-the previous arrangement on board the Surveyor, or the determined manner in which the deck was disputed inch by inch. You have my most sincere wishes for the immediate parole and speedy exchange of yourself and brave crew.”
6. A future commandant of the Coast Guard herded reindeer 1600 miles across Alaskan Arctic
The service accepted volunteers for the mission dubbed “The Overland Expedition” which departed Dec. 16, 1897. The men made their way through the Alaskan wilderness with dog and reindeer teams pulling sleds of supplies and mail. The amount of supplies needed and the scarcity of sleds and dogs meant the men had to run alongside the sleds for most of the 1600-mile trek in temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The expedition purchased reindeer and drove them north through the nearly complete darkness of the Alaskan winter. The men arrived at Point Barrow March 29, 1898 with 382 reindeer. Though many of the whalers had become sick or emaciated before the arrival of the rescue party, only three died and the rescue was a success. When the summer thaw completed, four of the ships were able to sail south. Four had been destroyed by the ice and their crews were transported south by the USRC Bear to San Francisco. The second-in-command of the operation, 2nd Lt. Ellsworth Berthoff, would go on to become the first commandant of the Coast Guard when the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service were combined in 1915.
7. A beached crew fired the enemy’s own cannonballs back at them
When the USRC Eagle found itself outmatched by the British HMS Dispatch during the War of 1812, the crew didn’t give up. They intentionally ran the cutter aground on Long Island and dragged some of its guns to a high bluff. From there, they teamed up with local militia and began firing on the British.
By mid-afternoon, they were out of shot. They reportedly began using sheets from their logbook as wadding and fired the enemy’s own cannonballs back at them. The enemy fire was so fierce, the cutter’s flag was shot off three times. The British eventually captured the Eagle.
8. Coast Guardsman destroyed a major pirate fort
Cape Breton Island in modern day Nova Scotia, Canada was a haven for pirates such as Captain Kidd for much of the 17th and 18th centuries. During operations in 1820, the USRC Alabama and USRC Louisianaattacked the pirate fort at Breton Island. Louisiana went on to capture five pirate vessels as part of a Caribbean task force with the British and U.S. navies.
9. The Coast Guard conducted more than 1,300 search and rescue missions during the Mariel Boatlift
On April 22, 1980, Cuban President Fidel Castro opened the Port of Mariel to Cubans who wished to emigrate from Cuba. Within hours, ships were headed from Miami to pick up the refugees. Over the next 45 days, an estimated 5,000 vessels pulled more than 100,000 Cubans from the island. The vessels were usually packed over capacity and had insufficient flotation devices. Over half of the vessels needed some sort of assistance from the Coast Guard.
The Coat Guard shifted many of its active duty assets to the Straits of Florida and called up its reserves. Many vessels began running 24-hour operations just to tow damaged ships or search for lost ones. The call for Coast Guard cutters became so dire that some ships stopped being able to maintain their logs. Still, the Coast Guard logged 1,300 search and rescue missions during the operation with an unknown number not being recorded.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.
A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.
Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.
When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.
“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”
“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”
Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.
The nose of their amphibious tank entered the ocean and bobbed through the waves en route toward the reef of Saipan, the largest archipelago among the Northern Mariana Islands. Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, a radioman assigned to the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, watched helplessly as they crept over the reef toward the beach into the range of Japanese defensive positions.
“I started seeing these puffs of water all around us, and it took a second to realize what was causing them,” Terwilliger wrote in his autobiography. “Then we heard small arms fire hitting our tank, and the reality sank in: there were people on that island who wanted us dead.”
Prior to the invasion of Saipan, U.S. Navy frogmen conducted a daring reconnaissance mission in advance of the assault force. Valuable intelligence collected had provided the amphibious tanks with adjustments to successfully land on the beach — but they didn’t anticipate how their tracked vehicles would navigate earth displaced by battlefield weaponry in combat.
Wayne Terwilliger, third from the left, on the beach at Saipan during a shelling attack, June 1944. The photo ran in newspapers across the country; in 2000, it appeared as background on a sheet of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com
While the amphibious tanks attempted to land on the beach, some were destroyed and others became trapped in craters left from mortar shells in the sand. “Japanese mortars kept whistling over our heads,” Terwilliger said, describing his first hours in combat stuck inside a large, green, immobilized target. “Most of them were headed toward the beach area, but we never knew when one would come our way. We also had no idea how long we’d be stuck there. We were there at least a couple of hours, though it seemed like forever.”
Terwilliger’s crew left the disabled tank and scattered, diving into foxholes situated out of the open. Gunfire snapped overhead, and explosions from mortars and grenades flung a wall of shrapnel through the air. Before they could catch their breath the rumbling sound of an unfamiliar tank grew nearer. Their horror realized Japanese armor with the big red “Rising Sun” emblem on the tank’s side was blasting its 37mm turret gun and had stopped directly beside their foxhole.
With nothing more than a few hand grenades, his crew couldn’t defend themselves. They pulled the pins and hurled them at the tank before fleeing for cover, but there wasn’t any within crawling distance. Terwilliger ran under heavy fire across open ground until he reached an old Japanese artillery piece. His stomach dropped when he realized he had run the wrong way. He found a little path, as if all of the enemy’s attention was upon him, and sprinted toward the beach as bullets zipped passed. He looked over his shoulder to find the Japanese tank trailing his every move.
Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, front left, with Company D, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, which was created to lead the assault on key islands in the South Pacific. They fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, and were preparing for new battles when the war ended. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com
He zigzagged through the soft sand to give the tank a harder target to hit. Marines waved and yelled to get his attention, and he dashed over a small sand dune for cover. “I looked back just in time to see one of our tanks made a direct hit, which knocked the Japanese tank on its side,” Terwilliger reflected. “That was my first six or seven hours of combat.”
Terwilliger served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in the invasion of Tinian, as well as being among the first amphibious tanks to lead the invasion of Iwo Jima. During World War II, many amateur and professional baseball players joined service teams when not actively participating in combat operations.
“We didn’t have any spikes so we played in the boots the Marines issued us,” Terwilliger told ESPN. “You would have an air-raid sound during the game, you would scatter and then come back later to finish.” Terwilliger helped lead his battalion team to a 28-0 record, even winning the 2nd Division Championship — not bad for a high school second baseman.
When news of Japan’s surrender in 1945 came in, Terwilliger was in Hawaii, preparing to invade mainland Japan. He left the military that same year and went on to have a successful career as a player, coach, and manager in Major League Baseball. For 60 years, taking Terwilliger well into his 80s, he remained active in America’s national pastime. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson — the first Black player to break the color barrier — and a personal friend of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in all of baseball. However, Terwilliger’s most prized experience was his service as a U.S. Marine.
BRCC Presents: WWII Army Ranger Roy Huereque & The Best Defense Foundation
When World War I broke out in 1914, European armies rushed to war with the armies they had, not the armies they wanted to have. Some soldiers, lucky enough to serve in forces that had recently seen combat, were well equipped for an industrial war with camouflaged uniforms and modern weaponry.
Others shipped out wearing parade gear.
Historian Dan Snow made a video with the BBC that shows the common kit of British, French, and German forces at the start of the war. These are the items most of the forces wore during the chaotic first days of the war, from the Battle of Liege to the Taxis of the Marne to the first diggings of the trenches that would characterize World War I.
Germany, which had fought six wars of varying sizes from 1899 to 1914, was well served with modern weapons and uniforms, though Snow points out that their pointed helmets provided easy targets for enemy marksmen. Britain, similarly, had fought in the Boxer Rebellion and the Venezuelan Crisis, and their troops were wearing brown uniforms and modern kit.
The British even carried multiple bandages into battle, allowing them to quickly provide first aid for themselves and others on the battlefield.
Historian Dan Snow models a German army uniform from World War I in a BBC segment.
France, though, had been involved in only the Boxer Rebellion in the years leading up to the war, and their troops started the conflict in bright red pants and deep blue jackets, colors which likely added to the stunning number of French dead in the Battle of the Frontiers. France’s bloodiest day came during that battle as 27,000 soldiers died on August 22.
Historian Dan Snow models a French army uniform from early World War I in a BBC segment.
As the war progressed, the uniforms changed. France was the first to add helmets, and they adopted a uniform cloth that would incorporate red, white, and blue threads. A lack of red dye — it was manufactured in Germany — made the resulting fabric light blue instead of purplish-brown.
Britain followed suit on helmets, using them to replace the cloth caps used at the start of the war. Germany began the wear with leather helmets, but the leather was typically imported from South America, and the British blockade forced the military to turn to other materials. In 1916, steel was adopted, a better material for stopping the shrapnel from exploding artillery and mortar shells.
A model stands in a replica World War I U.S. Army “Doughboy” uniform.
When the U.S. joined the war, it changed the color and simplified the cuts of its uniforms, allowing them to be produced more quickly and without the olive-drab dye which had been purchased from Germany until 1917. It also adopted British steel helmets as producing them in America ran into manufacturing slowdowns.
World War I was also when the U.S. adopted division shoulder-sleeve insignias, the unit patches nearly all soldiers wear today. Only three divisions — the 81st, 5th, and 26th divisions — made wide use of them during the war. Most other units only adopted them for general use after the armistice.
Did you ever wonder why the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy?
Historically, marines serve as a navy’s ground troops. In fact, the word “marine” is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — “marines.”
Marines Aboard USS Wasp Engage HMS Reindeer. June 1814.
(Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 – 1981.)
Back in the day, there wasn’t much difference between a sailor and a soldier on a ship. After all, most sea battles ended with the ships tangled together and the crews fighting each other hand to hand. So, if you were on a ship, you had to be able to fight. But you also had to be able to fight once your ship got where it was going.
Italy was the first country to use specially trained sailors as naval infantry. Back in the 1200s, the chief magistrate of Venice put 10 companies of specialized troops on a bunch of ships and sent them off to conquer Byzantium in present-day Greece. That went well for the Italians, so they decided that having marines was a good idea and kept them around, later calling them “sea infantry.”
The idea of marines eventually caught on with other naval powers. The Spanish marine corps was founded in 1537 and is the oldest still-active marine corps in the world, while the Netherlands marine corps, founded in 1665, is the second-oldest. But, even today, marines in most countries are specially trained sailors who are part of the navy.
The British Royal Marines, which is what the U.S. Marine Corps was modeled on, were probably the first naval infantry to not actually be sailors. During the 1600-1700s, marine regiments would be formed by taking soldiers from the British Army, and disbanded when they weren’t needed. This practice continued until 1755, when England’s parliament made the Corps of Royal Marines permanent.
When the Continental Marines were founded in 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”
Marine Capt. Brenda Amor helps to prepare an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced) for flight operations on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Jan. 30, 2019. Arlington is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation, while also providing a forward naval presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Parker)
So, maritime knowledge has always been a critical part of being a marine, but the U.S. Marine Corps hasn’t always been part of the U.S. Navy.
Until 1834, the Marines were an independent service. President Andrew Jackson wanted to make the Corps part of the Army. However, the Marine Corps commandant at the time, Archibald Henderson, had proven that Marines were important in landing party operations, not just ship-to-ship battles, so Congress decided to put the Navy and Marine Corps into one department, forever linking these two “sister services.”