A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

It was a day like any other day. Dwight Johnson was on his way to the nearby corner store to get some food for his infant son. When he walked in the store that day in April 1971, he accidentally walked in on the store being robbed. That’s when the storekeeper shot him to death.


While he was in Vietnam, he seemed impervious to bullets. Dwight Hal Johnson wasn’t gunned down until he left his home to go to the nearby liquor store at the wrong time.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

President Lyndon Johnson puts the Medal of Honor around the neck of Sgt. Dwight H. Johnson.

In 1968, Army tank driver Spc. Dwight Johnson was part of a reaction force near Dak To, in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. With his platoon in the middle of fierce combat with North Vietnamese regulars, Johnson’s tank threw a track. It would not move. With friendly forces to his rear, and a heavily entrenched enemy coming at him, a regular person might have told Johnson not to leave the safety of the tank and just wait. That wasn’t Dwight Johnson’s style.

Since Johnson was unable to drive the tank, he figured it was time to stop being a driver. He grabbed his pistol and hopped out of it. He cleared away some of the enemy from the perimeter, and then hopped back into the tank, somehow not getting hit by the hail of enemy gunfire and rockets. He had just run out of ammo.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

He tossed his pistol down and grabbed a submachine gun. Returning to his former position, he began to take out more of the oncoming enemy fighters. Unconcerned with the situation being a well-planned and well-placed ambush, he stayed put, killing the enemy until he ran out of ammo again. After he used the stock of his rifle to kill one more, he moved to his platoon sergeant’s tank, carried a wounded crewman to a nearby armored personnel carrier, then went back to the tank to get a pistol so he could fight his way back to his own tank. Again.

Instead of hopping in, however, he mounted the .50-cal on the back of the tank, using the heavy machine gun to force the enemy back and put an end to the ambush while protecting his wounded comrades in arms. For most of the time he was engaged in close quarters combat, vastly outnumbered by an often-unseen enemy, Spc. Johnson was carrying only a Colt .45 pistol to defend himself.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

Having grown up in some of Detroit’s rough neighborhoods gave Dwight Johnson an edge in keeping his cool under fire. Johnson never quit, never left anyone behind and fought an enemy who outnumbered him ten to one while restoring American dominance to a situation that got out of hand. Sadly, it was those same mean streets that would do him in just a few years after coming home from Vietnam.

He struggled with regular life when he returned home, as most veterans did and still do. He struggled with debt and depression until he walked into the Open Pantry Market on April 30, 1971, just one mile from his home. There are conflicting reports of what happened next – some say Johnson had a gun at his side and was robbing the store, other sources say that Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we can’t be sure what motivated the store owner to open fire, we can say he shot one of America’s heroes four times, killing him. Dwight Hal Johnson was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the Army plans to conquer Japan

The U.S. had laid a lot of plans for late World War II. After the fall of Italy and then Germany, America wanted to finally crush the empire of Japan and get final payback for Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the infantrymen and other troops slated to die against a determined Japanese defense, the empire surrendered after two atomic bombs and Russia deploying troops. Here’s what the U.S. Army had planned in case that didn’t happen.


A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

U.S. plans for the invasion of Kyushu in Operation Olympic, the first phase of the planned invasion of Japan.

(U.S. Army)

The assault on Japan was expected to take 18 months, starting with an intense blockade and air bombardment of Japan. Basically, stop Japan from pulling any more men and equipment back to the main islands and bomb the sh-t out of all equipment and forces already there.

While America had already captured or isolated many of the Japanese troops in the Pacific, there was the ongoing problem of Japanese forces in China that could slip back to Japan if the blockade wasn’t firmly in place for months ahead of the invasion.

It was hoped that the blockade and bombardment would weaken the defenses on Kyushu Island, the southernmost of the main islands and the first target. This assault was Operation Olympic, the first phase of Downfall. The Army wanted to land on Kyushu with soldiers and Marines from the Philippines, the Nansei Islands, and others. A total of 14 divisions were scheduled to take the beaches and push north.

This was slated to take months starting in November 1945. Wartime realities would push the date to December 1, and there was pressure to push it even further amid concerns that the blockade needed more time.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

U.S. plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands via two amphibious landings, one at Kyushu Island and one at Honshu.

(U.S. Army)

But that invasion through Kyushu was just phase one, a way of preparing for a second, larger invasion through the Tokyo Plain on Honshu Island, the largest island in Japan and the home of the capital. This was Operation Coronet, and it was thought to require 25 divisions just for the initial assaults, not counting the Air Force’s Pacific divisions held in reserve for additional bombardment and resupply.

The tentative date of March 1 was set for the Coronet invasion, but some officers pushed for a later date as soon as March 1 was announced. They wanted to delay the invasions to allow for a much larger air and sea bombardment as well as all sorts of preparatory operations. This group wanted to hit multiple points on the Chinese coast, in Korea, the Tsushima Strait, and other places.

Worst case scenario, this would’ve made the invasion of Japan much easier, though it would have used a lot of valuable resources. Best case scenario, it might have so crippled the Japanese war machine that it couldn’t hold its territory, allowing America to force a surrender without an invasion.

But these preparations would have required a massive supply of troops and machines, and that would have necessarily delayed Operation Downfall. Worse, the operations in China could have entangled America into the civil war there, preventing them from invading Japan for months or years.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

An Army graphic showing the organization of forces for Coronet, the invasion of Kyushu Island.

(U.S. Army)

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, voted for the full invasion of Japan as soon as logistically feasible. For him, this was the third proposed course of action, and he said:

I am of the opinion that the ground, naval, air, and logistic resources in the Pacific are adequate to carry out Course III. The Japanese Fleet has been reduced to practical impotency. The Japanese Air Force has been reduced to a line of action which involves uncoordinated, suicidal attacks against our forces, employing all types of planes, including trainers. Its attrition is heavy and its power for sustained action is diminishing rapidly. Those conditions will be accentuated after the establishment of our air forces in the Ryukyus. With the increase in the tempo of very long range attacks, the enemy’s ability to provide replacement planes will diminish and the Japanese potentiality will decline at an increasing rate. It is believed that the development of air bases in the Ryukyus will, in conjunction with carrier-based planes, give us sufficient air power to support landings on Kyushu and that the establishment of our air forces there will ensure complete air supremacy over Honshu. Logistic considerations present the most difficult problem.

Nimitz agreed, and the two top commanders began to assemble their forces for the largest amphibious assault ever planned. They relied on all troops, ships, and heavy equipment in the Pacific as well as a steady flow of troops from Europe after the victory there.

And, if the fighting continued past June 1946, they would need to pull an additional four divisions per month from the U.S.

Japan, for its part, dragged its feet in preparing to counter a ground invasion. Even as late as March 1945, there had been little planning and troop buildup for the defense, but Japan finally addressed it. By July 1945, they had 30 line divisions, 2 armored divisions, 23 coastal defense divisions, and another 33 brigades of various types.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

The Japanese plans for troop deployment to throwback or slow an American invasion of the home islands in 1945.

(U.S. Army)

Those 39 U.S. divisions for Olympic and Coronet are suddenly looking like they’ll struggle, right? Like they could take heavy losses and would require those reinforcements from Europe and America?

Luckily, Japan decided to surrender instead. There are some arguments about whether this was predominantly because of the Russian invasion of Japanese islands to Japan’s north or if it was because of the atom bombs that America dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but either way it allowed America to shelve Operation Downfall and execute Blacklist instead, the plan for the peaceful, unopposed occupation of Japan.

Humor

6 worst parts about leaving a deployment

All good things must come to an end — including deployments. While getting out-of-country is the only goal, troops have a checklist of tasks that must be completed before they’re finally allowed to reunite with their families back home.


No one likes doing any of these tasks, especially when they’re already checked-out mentally.

6. Training up your replacements.

Meeting the new unit that comes in-country is the first sign that your deployment is almost over.

Getting people who are busy preparing for departure to teach the newbies that are completely lost is never an easy task, but hey, that’s the military.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
Yeah, some guys like us and some guys don’t. Good like finding out which is which. We were here 12 months and couldn’t figure it out either. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

5. Cleaning gear

In the Ancient Greek legend of Sisyphus, the protagonist is cursed with the never-ending task of rolling a boulder up a mountain just for it to roll down the hill when he nears the top.

This is much like the never-ending struggle of troops trying to sweep all of the dirt out of the motor pool in the desert. Sweep as you might, it’ll never end. It’ll get just good enough for inspection until it’s time to finally get out of country.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

4. Sending gear back stateside

All of the troubles of selecting what you need and don’t need happens all over again — but in reverse. You’ll be putting gear away that you won’t see for a few months. It’s a fine idea for the extra parts of your sleeping system, but people who bring or buy video game consoles while deployed now have to worry about bringing it back home.

Of course, if you really wanted to make things easier (and you have the money for it), you could always use the postal service to send a tough box or two with your useful stuff.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
All you have is one duffle bag, one assault bag, your weapon, and the clothes on your back. (U.S. Army Photo by Capt. William Brink, Task Force Patriot PAO)

3. Customs

Traveling through customs in the civilian world is a cinch. Flash your passport, fill out a form, and don’t bring anything that’ll set off any alarms.

Did you know that gunpowder residue trips U.S. Customs’ sensors? Damn near every combat arms troop does, too — all of our gear is covered in gunpowder residue. Even though we’re carrying our weapons with us, they’ll still look at you funny for that gunpowder residue.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
And they never let you keep all of your bootleg DVDs either. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

2. The flight

It’s like being a kid on Christmas Eve again. Just a few more hours and you get what you want. You know you should probably catch some sleep on the plane but your blood is pumping too much.

All of the “whatever amount of days and a wake-up” are now in hours. Minutes. Seconds. You watch the GPS tracker on the plane more than the actual in-flight movies. The anxiety builds; landing can’t come soon enough.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
That, and sleeping on a C-130 is only possible for troops who just really don’t care. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

1. That. Last. Formation. Before. Freedom.

Quick show of hands: Out of the countless times commanders have given a passionate speech to the friends and families of returning troops, how many are remembered by the troops?

Those months kind of fly by, but the last speech — you know, the one that starts with, “these fine gentlemen before you…” — goes in one ear and out the other. The only thing troops are focusing on is if they can find their loved ones in the crowd.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

MIGHTY MOVIES

Will peace in Westeros actually last?

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

This chilling line, spoken with gleeful malice by Ramsay Bolton in season 3 of Game of Thrones, always felt like the closest thing the HBO show had to a thesis statement. From the very beginning, Game of Thrones has made it abundantly clear that it was not in the business of pleasing its fans. Heroes like Ned and Robb Stark suffered brutal, shocking deaths that highlighted the cruel and chaotic nature of the world of Westeros. Oberyn, a man seeking vengeance for the death and rape of his sister, was instead killed by the very man who murdered his sister. A young girl was burnt alive by her own father seeking to further his claim to the throne.


Even George R.R. Martin made no efforts to hide the story’s unabashed acknowledgment of darkness, as he famously alluded to Game of Thrones ending as “bittersweet.” So naturally, heading into the final season, we all braced for the worst. Would the White Walkers end up on the throne? Would Arya’s bloodlust overcome her, sending her on a John Wick-esque killing spree of all the leaders of Westeros, including her siblings? The possibilities seemed endless, which is why it was such a surprise to see that season 8, episode 6, ‘The Iron Throne’ ended on such an uplifting and optimistic note.

If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention…

www.youtube.com

Of course, this is Game of Thrones, so obviously, its version of a happy ending is quite different than what you might expect from a rom-com or buddy comedy. Over the course of the final season, several beloved characters died, including Jaime, Cersei, Jorah, Lyanna, and, of course, Dany, who was stabbed by her lover-turned-nephew Jon Snow just as she finally reached the Iron Throne. And beyond characters that we knew, countless soldiers and innocent civilians were slaughtered during Dany’s takeover of King’s Landing. Death was always an essential part of the show’s DNA, so it should come as no surprise that it remained a core component in the final season.

However, once Drogon symbolically roasted the throne and headed off with Dany’s corpse, the show suddenly took a tonal shift that could almost be described as cheerful? Bran is chosen as the King of Six Kingdoms and absolves Tyrion’s treason charges by casually making him his Hand. As a result, Bronn, Brienne, Sam, and Davos are all appointed to the high council, despite some of their questionable qualifications. Whether or not these moments were earned is up for debate but what’s not up for debate is the fact that this is about the happiest ending Westeros could have hoped for.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
Giphy

Moving forward, the Six Kingdoms won’t be ruled by a drunken marauder like Robert Baratheon or a cruel psychopath like Joffrey Lannister; instead, they will get Bran, an emotionless, altruistic being who barely identifies as human but makes up for it by having the ability to see the present and the future. He’s basically a superhero who has no personal desires, making him the ideal ruler to an almost absurd degree. And on his high council sit a ragtag crew of the most beloved characters in the show, who joyfully trade barbs and witticisms as their King heads off to figure out if he can warg into a dragon.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
Giphy

And beyond the kingdom as a whole, the show protected the Starks with a sense of mercy that even Ned would have found excessive. In the early seasons, no family suffered more than the Starks, as each member of the family gets about as close to a happy ending as you could expect for them. Obviously, Bran is King but Sansa gets to remain Queen in the North, as Bran agrees to grant Winterfell independence. Jon might not be sitting on the throne but that’s never what he wanted. And thanks to Greyworm’s laughably bad negotiating skills, Jon’s “punishment” is abdicating his responsibility to join the free folk up north. Meanwhile, Arya ditches Westeros to explore the great unknown, for some reason.

For longtime Game of Thrones fans, the last half of “The Iron Throne” may have felt like a jarring shift of pace because we suddenly went from gritty realism to a conclusion that felt very much in line with Tolkien’s Return of the King, right down to the heartfelt goodbye at the docks. None of this is to say that a happy ending was impossible for Game of Thrones; it’s just the show needed to earn the pivot of hopefulness that feels out of step with so much of what we came to fundamentally understand about the Westeros. Was the answer really just let the Three-Eyed-Raven be king? If so, why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? Seems almost too obvious.

Lord of the Rings- The Grey Havens

www.youtube.com

Perhaps in Martin’s books, the story will be told in a way that makes the bitter aspect of this bittersweet ending more clear but for now, it’s a finale that almost feels like it was pulled from a less nuanced fantasy series, where kings are impossibly noble and good men and women get to live the long and happy lives they deserve. We can’t help but wonder with such a happy ending, were creators David Benioff and Daniel Weiss the ones not paying attention?

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most outstanding soldier of World War I actually fought in three wars

By the time Samuel Woodfill was earning his Medal of Honor in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1917, he was already a veteran of another war. The fighting of World War I just happened to be very different from the fighting he saw in the Philippine-American War. But Woodfill was practically born to be an Army man.

samuel woodfill

His father was a veteran of the Civil War and Mexican-American War and raised Samule to be an excellent shot with a rifle. By 1901, he was enlisting in the U.S. Army the way his father had 60 years before. 

Woodfill was immediately sent to the Philippines with the 11th Infantry in 1901. There, he fought Filipino Insurrectionists in the jungles of the islands for three years before returning to American territory. When World War I broke out, the growing U.S. Army needed its skilled veterans to train and lead the new recruits being sent over to European battlefields. 

He deployed with the American Expeditionary Force to France in 1917, still an enlisted non-commissioned officer. But the same need for veterans and leaders that saw Woodfill deploy with the AEF soon saw him promoted to a Lieutenant’s commission. By 1918, almost 17 years to the day he first joined the Army, he was promoted again.

Woodfill was then sent to lead men in the coming Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September 1918. In the second week of the massive offensive, Woodfill and his men found themselves near the French town of Cunel, moving through heavy fog. Despite the fog, they were spotted by German defenders, who opened up on the Americans with heavy machine gun fire. 

His men immediately took cover, but Lt. Woodfill did not. He rushed straight at the German defenders, a machine gun nest manned by four enemy soldiers. He shot three of them and, jumping into the enemy position, fought the German officer in hand to hand combat. Woodfill killed the opposing officer too. 

Signalling his men to get up and keep moving, they found themselves under fire again from another German machine gun. This time, he ordered his men to advance on the position, which they did. It was overrun and its three-man crew were captured. As they moved forward, they were again shot at by an enemy machine gun. 

Charging forward, the American dispatched the third machine gun nest, with Woodfill emptying his rifle and taking down five more Germans. They then entered a German bunker guarded by two more enemy troops. Having spent all his ammunition, Woodfill grabbed a nearby pickaxe and beat the two defenders to death. 

Throughout the whole ordeal, Woodfill and his men hadn’t noticed that the air was becoming thick with mustard gas, but they were beginning to feel its effects. He ordered his men to get out of the enemy area and go back to the American lines. The gas was only means of stopping the American advance in the area. 

None of his men were killed in the fighting, but the mustard gas knocked Samuel Woodfill out of the war. It took him weeks to recover from its primary effects, but the gas left his lungs permanently scarred for the rest of his life. He was soon awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions near Cunel. 

His exploits as a soldier were so legendary, Gen, John J. Pershing, who gave Woodfill his battlefield commission in 1917, called him “The Most Outstanding Soldier of World War I.” 

samuel woodfill

He was even chosen to be one of the pallbearers for the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Though he retired as a Master Sergeant in 1923, at the onset of World War II, the Army recommissioned him as a major and put him in charge of training new troops in Alabama. 

His second retirement from the Army came in 1942, after the death of his wife. Samuel Woodfill died nine years later and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the craziest good idea to prevent nuclear war

The question that kept many a Cold Warrior awake at night was usually one of how to keep anyone in the chain of missile launch command from starting a nuclear war without considering the consequences, if they weren’t 100 percent sure of a Soviet first strike, or worse, just firing nukes off on a whim? But someone wondered – what if someone had to die to be able to launch the U.S. arsenal?


A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

Do we get to choose who? Because I have some ideas.

Like the old urban legend of Special Forces operators being forced to murder a dog, or their dog, or whatever animal the urban legend mentioned, imagine how the thought process of launching a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union might have changed if one of the key holders had to die for the United States to be able to launch its missiles. This was the thought experiment posed by Harvard law professor Roger Fisher. Fisher wanted to consider the idea of surgically implanting the launch codes in a human body.

Right now, the President is followed around by a military officer who holds the “football,” a suitcase that contains all the codes needed to fire off a nuclear weapon – or all the nuclear weapons. But what if the President of the United States had to kill the man who held the football to be able to extract the codes? Would it be so easy to launch?

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

Imagine how pissed Reagan would have been to find out the code was “00000000.”

Fisher’s rationale was that a President being briefed by Pentagon officials would have to talk through what was about to happen in a very matter-of-fact, unemotional way. He would be repeating lines of codes, ordering unspeakable horror in the blandest way possible. Fisher thought the President should have to make an emotional stand in order to fully execute and understand what he was about to do – to ensure that it was absolutely necessary, he should kill the first casualty himself.

The codes would be in a capsule near the heart of the volunteer holding the football, and now the football included a large, sharp knife for the President to use. This way, there would be no chance the volunteer would survive the interaction with the President, and the President would see the results of what he was about to do. In Fisher’s words, “Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 signs that you’re a military parent

Military parents: we’re one great big, loving, dysfunctional family. We may have a lot of differences, but we also have a lot in common. Find out the answers we received when we asked a group of military parents to complete the statement “you know you’re a military parent when…”


A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

(Pixabay)

1. You stalk the mailman.

You can especially relate to this when your military member is a recruit or trainee. There are no phone calls, text messages, emails coming through. If you’re waiting to hear from them, all you can do is wait until the mailman comes rolling down the street and stops at your mailbox with your fingers crossed.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

2.  Whenever you hear the National Anthem your heart fills with pride.

You’re at a stadium sports arena for a game or concert, and you hear the national anthem. You stand a little taller, sing a little louder and you see that veteran in the audience still standing at attention all these years later and a tear trickles down your face, and can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

3. You can bring any conversation back to the fact your child is in the military.

Parents are the best at this, aren’t we? You often sit and listen to your friends talking about their kids at college or high school, you wait for the perfect moment to tell them all about your child in the military. “Did I tell you Johnny is getting ready to deploy right now?”

4. You wear RED on Fridays

Remember Everyone Deployed means you wear red on Fridays to let all those serving overseas on deployment know they’re not forgotten; that a nation they’re fighting for is praying for them, is thinking of them constantly, and is proud of them.

5. Your new favorite vacation destination is the Permanent Duty Station of your military member.

A non-military parent may schedule their vacations to a sunny beach destination, or maybe even an amusement park. Not military parents! Our vacations are now to wherever our child is stationed, whether it’s in the desert, the cold, overseas, or wherever else our military member is living at that time. “Woo hoo, it’s time to go to 29 Palms!”

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

(USAF)

6. You now understand and use military time and the phonetic alphabet.

You tell your co-worker you’ll be getting off work at 1630. They look at you with a confused expression on their face and you say, “Oh, I mean 4:30 p.m. I’m sorry, I’m so used to using military time with my son/daughter in the military now.” (As an aside, this a great way to start that conversation about your child in the military – see #3 above.)

7. You have a military t-shirt for every day of the week, along with pins and hats.

You can’t get enough of military swag! Whether it represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, you have t-shirts, hats, socks, earrings, necklaces, pins, stickers for your car. You name it, military parents have something for every occasion, and they wear or display it loud and proud.

8. You see the proud parent of a “insert college university name here” and you laugh.

You can’t help but giggle. Their child might have went to a top college or university, but your child is a part of the finest fighting military in the world. Go USA!

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)

9. You’ve become an expert at mailing out care packages where the items inside aren’t as much as the postage to send it.

You do this especially when your military member is deployed overseas. Baking cookies, brownies, sending wipes, toiletries, etc., are all great ways to stay connected with your loved one, and often gives them something that they truly need. A lot of the time, the cost of sending the package outweighs the monetary value of what’s inside!

10. You know that things can and will change.

If there’s one thing a military family, including military parents, has to be, it’s flexible. Your loved one’s plans can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to learn to go with the flow and be supportive.

There were over 250 comments from parents around the country when I asked for feedback. I could only choose 10. Which of these was your favorite? Share your comments below – we would love to read them!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

The Air Force Pararescue community lives according to the motto, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.” There may be none who lived that motto more fully than Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger who was killed in action in March, 1966, after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue infantryman pinned down by snipers, mortars, and machine gun fire.

For his valor, he became the first enlisted airman to receive the Medal of Honor.


A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

A1C William Pitsenbarger

Pitsenbarger, or “Pits,” as he was known, first tried to join the military as a Green Beret when he was 17, but his parents prevailed upon him to wait until after high school. In 1962, he became a graduate and answered the call — this time, with the Air Force instead of the Army. As a pararescuemen, he would be responsible for grabbing downed airmen and others from contested and enemy-held areas around the world. Becoming a PJ was no easy feat, and it wasn’t a job for the timid.

After completing SCUBA training with the Navy, paratrooper training with the Army, and survival and medical training with the Air Force, he was ready to go to work. Before his deployment to Vietnam, he was called upon to help rescue two hunters stuck in the California wilderness. After rappelling down a sheer cliff face to reach them, he and another pararescueman encountered an angry bear. Pits charged the bear, yelling and screaming, chasing it off. It was immediately clear that he was cut out for this kind of work.

Pitsenbarger finally got orders overseas — to Okinawa, Japan. Wanting to go where his help was needed most, he requested to go to Vietnam instead, and his request was approved. Before shipping out, his parents later said that they were sure they would never see him alive again. Sadly, they were right.

In Vietnam, Pits proved himself an exceptionally capable medical and rescue professional. He helped treat lepers at a colony in Vietnam, escorted singer Mary Martin during a USO tour, and inserted into a burning minefield to rescue a South Vietnamese soldier who had lost a foot trying to stomp out a grass fire. For the minefield rescue, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Airman’s Medal.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

A1C Pitsenbarger receiving the Airman’s Medal in Vietnam.

But Pitsenbarger’s most consequential moments came in 1966. On April 11, three companies of the Big Red One, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, were engaged in a risky sweep across two provinces in search of Viet Cong units. Charlie Company was on one end of the formation and realized too late that it had drifted from the others — and was exposed to sniper fire.

Company leadership realized they were in danger and set up a defensive perimeter, but they were already outnumbered and surrounded. The North Vietnamese triggered their attack, sending mortar and sniper fire ripping through the American formation. The other companies attempted to come to their aid, but mounting casualties quickly made it clear that Charlie Company needed a rescue.

The Air Force sent two rescue helicopters to begin getting the wounded out. The first flight was challenging but, for a jungle firefight in Vietnam, fairly uneventful. Both helicopters took the first flight of wounded to a nearby hospital and doubled back for more. Once back in the field, it became clear to Pits that the Army soldiers no longer had the manpower necessary to hold back the attacks, treat the wounded, and put them on litters for extraction. He volunteered to insert into the jungle and help out.

The pilot reluctantly agreed to the risky request, and Pits began sending men up to the two helicopters despite bursts of fierce mortar and machine gun fire. Pitsenbarger was responsible for getting nine wounded men out in three flights, refusing his own extraction each time, before ground fire nearly downed one of the helicopters and forced them to leave.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

Poster art for ‘The Last Full Measure’ depicting Pitsenbarger’s rescue in Vietnam.

On the ground, Pits continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to recover rifles and ammunition from the dead to redistribute to the living. He was wounded at least twice before he reached his final position. He had given away his pistol to a soldier too wounded to use any other weapon, and so Pits used one of the recovered rifles to resist a North Vietnamese advance until he was hit again — this time fatally.

The Army fought on through the night, relying on danger close artillery and airstrikes to survive the night. When the Air Force was able to get rescue helicopters back in the next morning, an Army captain told the next pararescueman on the ground what had happened to Pits.

Charlie Company had 134 men when the battle started. 106 of them were wounded or killed in the fighting, but Pits had gotten an extra nine of them out and kept others alive overnight.

Five months later, on Sept. 22, 1966, the Air Force presented the Air Force Cross to Pitsenbarger’s parents. It was the first awarding of the Air Force Cross to an enlisted airman for service in Vietnam. After decades of campaigning from the men he saved from what seemed like certain demise, Pitsenbarger’s citation was finally upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Pitsenbarger is the first enlisted airman to receive such an award.

Now, Pits’ story is headed to the big screen. The Last Full Measure is scheduled to release on Jan. 24, 2020. Be sure to watch the trailer below and secure your tickets to honor this true American hero.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE Official Trailer (2020) Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan Movie HD

www.youtube.com

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What we know about the B-2 emergency landing in Colorado

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing on Oct. 23, 2018, at the Colorado Springs Airport following an unspecified inflight incident.

A number of local photographers have posted photos of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac at the joint use civilian/military airport located about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.

An Air Force statement from Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, read, “Our aviators are extremely skilled; they’re trained to handle a wide variety of in-flight emergencies in one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and they perfectly demonstrated that today.”


Numerous media outlets and local news reports have said the two crew memberson board the aircraft were not injured in the incident.

The incident is unusual since there are only 18 known B-2s currently in operation with one additional aircraft allocated for dedicated testing purposes (and one crashed 10 years ago). The 18 operational aircraft are flown by the historic U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

The unit is descended from the 509th Composite Group, the only aviation unit in the world to operationally employ nuclear weapons in combat using B-29 Superfortresses during the 1945 airstrikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies overhead after returning from a local training mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

The 509th Bomb Wing and its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit are critical U.S. strategic strike assets. The loss of one aircraft, even if temporary, reduces the global precision low-observable strike capability by 5.5%. Because the aircraft have previously initiated ultra-long range strikes directly from their home base at Whiteman AFB, this reduction in capability is noteworthy.

Social media posts on Facebook shared parts of what is claimed to be radio communications from local air traffic control facilities during the incident. In the recordings, the controller is heard saying, “There is another issue with the aircraft coming in, they are unable to change radio frequencies”. The same tape also says the local fire department at the airport was called.

The B-2 was initially directed to runway 17L but actually landed on runway 35R, a runway at 6,134 feet of elevation that is 13,500 feet long, the longest runway available at Colorado Springs Airport.


B-2 Stealth Bomber emergency landing in Colorado Springs

www.facebook.com

The tower controller in the audio relays that, “I’m just relaying through Denver Center, all of the information, but as far as I now it is just the number 4 engine out”. Tower control finally says that he is unable to talk to the aircraft and is going to use a light gun to signal the aircraft, “But I am unable to talk to them. I’m just going to give them the light gun.” What appears to be an additional controller in the communications says, “No, they were unable to switch radio [frequencies] to me. I could only give them the light gun.”

Emergency response team on scene provided the pilot with oxygen, according to the reports but the reason for administering oxygen is unclear and subject to speculations.

On the other side, analysis of the (unusual) back shots of the aircraft: the U.S. Air Force usually prevents shorts at the rear of the aircraft.

“Photos taken of the B-2 on the ramp in Colorado show the aircraft’s auxiliary air inlet doors open on the left side and closed on the right. This is unusual. We don’t know if the right-side inlet doors were stuck closed during landing — they are open during terminal phases of flight — or if the left side failed to close upon shutting down,” Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone noticed.

As of Oct. 24, 2018, plane spotters in the area have since reported the B-2 is “gone”. The aircraft was not seen departing the airport so it is probable it has been moved discreetly to an indoor hangar.

On Feb. 26, 2010, a somehow similar incident occurred with a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber forward deployed in Guam. The aircraft aborted a takeoff with an engine fire. The official USAF spokesperson for the incident at the time, then- Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, characterized the incident as “minor”. A subsequent report published on Jan. 6, 2014, in “War Is Boring” by writer David Axe went on to reveal the B-2 involved in that incident received more than minor damage. It took over two years to return the aircraft to operational flying condition.

Each of the B-2 spirit fleet aircraft has a name designated by state. In the case of the Feb. 26, 2010 incident, the aircraft involved was the “Spirit of Washington”, aircraft number 88-0332. The photos from Oct. 24, 2018’s incident may show aircraft number 89-0128, the “Spirit of Nebraska” being involved in Oct. 23, 2018’s emergency landing.

The future of the small and crucial B-2 fleet will certainly be influenced by the ability to maintain existing aircraft and repair any aircraft damaged in normal operations.

As the B-2 fleet continues to age and remain exposed to normal operational attrition the new, secretive B-21 Raider is expected to assume the low-observable strategic strike mission as it comes on line as early as 2025. Basing options for the B-21 Raider were announced earlier this year and could include Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives ” to base the new B-21 bomber. These facilities already host strategic bomber assets including the B-1B Lancer long-range, supersonic heavy bomber.

The B-1B is also expected to be phased out in conjunction with the introduction and operational integration of the B-21 Raider. The plans for the B-21 Raider fleet include significantly more aircraft than the operational B-2 Spirit program with some estimates suggesting as many as “100-200” B-21 Raiders could be built. The unit cost of the B-21 could be half the single aircraft cost of the B-2 partially because the B-21 Raider will share the Pratt Whitney F135 engine with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Australian Navy enlisted a little girl as its mascot

In November 1920, a little girl was playing in the bushland of Tasmania when she slipped and fell to the ground. Nancy Bentley surprised a snake which proceeded to bite her wrist, threatening her life. Because of the remote location where she was bitten and the fact that she was a woman, the Royal Australian Navy enlisted her into the service as a mascot to save her life.

Yup. Really.


A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

The light cruiser HMAS Sydney which once had a living human girl as its mascot.

(Public domain)

The problem was this: The closest doctor was in the town of Sorrell, and it was unlikely that Nancy’s father could get her there in time. So dad desperately rowed out to the HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser conducting exercises on the coast.

The ship’s medics were willing to assist the injured girl, but regulations from the crown and instructions from admirals ordered the commander, Captain Henry Cayley, to prevent women from boarding the ship. He felt he needed to create some official pretext to explain the little girl on his ship. But women, even little girls, were forbidden from serving in the standard ranks of the navy.

So Cayley turned to the office of mascot, an official rank in many military forces at the time that was typically assigned to animals adopted by the unit or crew. Basically, a crew could acquire or purchase an animal and then use the “wages” assigned to the mascot to feed and house it. Understandably, the rules regarding this rank were lax since, you know, it was typically for dogs and cats.

So Cayley ordered that Nancy be admitted onto the crew with service number 000001 and given a rating of “mascot” on November 15. Her terms of enlistment were even more lax. She was to remain in the navy “till fed up.”

The ship’s medical staff gave her rudimentary treatment and sent her to Hobart, Tasmania, for further treatment. She was also allowed to see a movie at the town’s theater after her treatment before the ship carried her back home. In all, she spent eight days in the navy.

“I was the crew’s official mascot and everybody from the Captain down gave me VIP treatment,” Nancy said in 1970.

She was well-reviewed by the navy. Her character was reviewed as “very good,” and she was “exceptional” in her naval duties.

It would take another 21 years before women were allowed into the actual ranks of the Royal Australian Navy as World War II required manpower that only women could provide.

Nancy’s story is now available as a children’s book, and her image adorns a trophy given to the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Australian Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More recruits will see longer training in expanded program

The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.

About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.


Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.

“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].

“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)

Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.

“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.

The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.

“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.

“That is a long time in training.”

The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.

But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”

The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.

“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Messerschmitt made micro cars after WWII

The Luftwaffe terrorized Europe during WWII. Blitzkrieg attacks by panzers and motorized infantry were supported by German fighters and bombers. Bearing the names of their designers, Junkers, Heinkel, and Messerschmitt became infamous among the Allied nations. Messerschmitt was best known for its fighter planes including the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, and the jet-powered Me 262. Although the company survived the war, it was barred from producing aircraft for ten years.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a fearsome fighter (Bundesarchiv)

The war left Germany in a poor state. Its economy was in shambles, infrastructure was badly damaged, and manufacturing was nearly nonexistent. As the country and the continent rebuilt, fears of roadway congestion weighed heavy on people’s minds. Coupled with the scarcity and high cost of resources, European engineers turned to a radical new automobile design: the micro car.

Fritz Fend was a former Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer and technical officer. In 1948, he began building invalid carriages for disabled people. He noticed that his most popular model, the gasoline-powered Fend Fitzler tricycle, was also being purchased by able-bodied people for personal transport. Fend concluded that a two-seater model would be even more popular and adapted his design. He struck a deal with Messerschmitt to produce his new micro car at their Regensburg factory.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
A 1959 FMR-made Messerschmitt KR200 (Public Domain)

In 1953, Messerschmitt introduced the Kabinenroller, or “Cabin Scooter.” Based on the Flitzer, the Kabinenroller featured a monocoque chassis and a bubble canopy. Contrary to popular belief and despite their design similarities, the Kabinenroller canopies were not surplus Messerschmitt fighter canopies. The Kabinenroller platform was used to make the Messerschmitt KR175, the more powerful KR200, and the KR201 roadster. In 1956, another German company named FMR took over Kabinenroller production from Messerschmitt. Although the KR series micro cars still bore the Messerschmitt name and logo, Fend later adapted the platform into a sports car that was badged FMR.

Introduced in 1958, the Tg500 featured the same monocoque chassis, tandem seating, and bubble canopy as the Kabinenroller tricycles. However, it was fitted with a larger engine for increased speed and four wheels for improved performance. Unofficially, the “Tg” stood for Tiger, a name that stuck with the car. Confusingly, the name “Tiger” was not only the name of the most feared German tank of WWII, but also the name of a post-war truck produced by former tank maker Krupp. Despite being manufactured by FMR, the micro car Tiger is sometimes referred to as the Messerschmitt Tiger, a name that can confuse even the most ardent of WWII enthusiasts.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
An advert for the KR175 and KR200 models (Messerschmitt)

Because three-wheeled cars could be driven with a more affordable motorcycle license, Kabinrollers were extremely popular in Britain where they still maintain a loyal following. Overall though, the Kabinenroller was not a commercial success. Today, Kabinenroller examples are novelties that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars depending on their condition.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
A Messerschmitt KR200-based record car (Wikimedia Commons)

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TRENDING

Court ruling: VA now considers pain to be a disability

From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.


Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.

Pain is now a VA disability

For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.

Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.

Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
Senior Airman Joseph Suarez, 99th Medical Operation Squadron physical therapy journeyman, connects Master Sgt. Jeramie Brown, 99th Air Base Wing broadcast journalist, to an electrical stimulation machine Sept 21.
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)

Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.

The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.

What the ruling means for veterans

The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery
Staff Sgt. Rebecca Gaither, physical therapy NCOIC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), helps Soldiers get back on their feet at Combat Operations Base Speicher, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)

Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.

This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.

Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.

This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.

This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information