This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Although women were not allowed in combat positions in the military until way after the Vietnam War, that doesn’t mean that women were not in harm’s way during their service as nurses. Women have held nursing positions aiding the military as far back as the Civil War, and the Vietnam War was no exception. Sharon Ann Lane was the first woman killed in action in Vietnam. 


This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Lane upon graduating from nursing school.

Sharon Ann Lane was one such nurse. She joined the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve on April 18, 1968, as a 2nd Lieutenant. Her first assignment was at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colo., where she was promoted and sent off to Travis Air Force Base with orders to Vietnam.

During her time in Vietnam, Lane was assigned to the 312th Evac Hospital at Chu Lai. She was attached to the Intensive Care Ward before being appointed to the Vietnamese ward 4, where Lane worked five days a week, 12 hrs a day. Lane continuously denied transfers because she dedicated herself to nursing our critically injured American soldiers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which she volunteered to do in her free time.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Lane’s photo on the Virtual Wall memorial page.

Although the hospital had been attacked many times, she constantly reassured her patients that things were “still very quiet around here…haven’t gotten mortared in a couple of weeks now.”

Also read: These daring Russian women in aging aircraft haunted Nazi dreams

On June 8, 1969, a rocket hit the Evac Hospital, striking ward 4 and killing two people, while injuring twenty-seven. Lane was among the two that perished in the attack, due to fragmentation wounds to the chest. Lane was only twenty-five years old when she was killed in action and also the only American nurse of eight to die due to enemy fire.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
The statue of Lane erected in front of her nursing school.

Lane was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her valiant efforts in providing the best medical care to our wounded warriors and giving her life for her country. The Daughters of the American Revolution honored Lane in 1969, by naming her Nurse of the Year. A statue was erected in her image in front of Aultman Hospital, her Nursing school Alma Mater, a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice she made for her country. Although she was killed in Vietnam, this is one woman who is not forgotten.

Articles

That time US sailors got a bounty for capturing a Nazi ship

Prior to America’s official entry into World War II, the U.S. Navy was involved in “short of war” operations against Nazi Germany. In some cases this involved escorting merchant ships that were steaming to help supply England.


Tensions between the U.S and Germany increased after a Nazi submarine fired on the destroyer USS Greer (DD 145).

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Theodore E. Chandler, the commanding officer of USS Omaha during the Odenwald incident. (US Navy photo)

But, as Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out in the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the U.S. was still operating under neutrality legislation. So, when they did stuff to Nazi vessels, they needed to have some legal grounds outside of a war declaration.

On Nov. 6, 1941, the light cruiser USS Omaha (CL 4) and the destroyer USS Somers (DD 381) were on patrol in the South Atlantic looking for a German raider. Two months had passed since the Greer had been fired on, and since then, the destroyer Kearny (DD 432) had been torpedoed and the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) had been sunk.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
USS Omaha (CL 4) in 1943. (US Navy photo)

The Omaha and Somers then came across a ship claiming to be an American merchant vessel out of Philadelphia. The interaction with the vessel drew suspicions, and the Omaha, under the command of Capt. Theodore E. Chandler, ordered the vessel to stop. A boarding party came aboard just as scuttling charges went off. The boarding party kept the ship from sinking, and determined its true identity as the German blockade runner Odenwald.

The ship was taken to Puerto Rico, where the cargo – over 6,200 tons, including 103 truck tires and lots of rubber – and the vessel were sold off. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, the Navy justified the intercept by claiming that the Odenwald was a suspected slave trader.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
The Navy prize crew on board the Odenwald. Each of them received $3,000 in 1947. (US Navy photo)

In 1947, the Odenwald’s owners sued the Navy over the seizure. It didn’t pan out for them at all. The boarding party and prize crew assigned to the vessel, though, made out big-time: $3,000 each. Crew on board the Omaha and Somers got two months of pay and allowances.

That’s a prize worth as much as $34,000 today.

Chandler, though, never got that bonus. Although he was promoted to rear admiral, in January 1945, his flagship, the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA 28), was hit by kamikazes off Iwo Jima. While assisting in fighting fires, his lungs were badly injured, and he died of his wounds soon after.

Articles

The first woman to receive the Soldier’s Medal saved 15 patients from a fire

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Lt. Edith Greenwood after receiving her Soldier’s Medal. She was the first woman to receive the medal. (Photo: Public Domain)


The Army’s highest award for noncombat valor, the Soldier’s Medal had been bestowed exclusively to men since its creation in 1927.

But in 1943, a female nurse who braved a raging fire to save her fellow Joes was given the award at the explicit order of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Edith Greenwood was  a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II, and in 1943 she was serving patients at a hospital on the massive California Arizona Maneuver Area.

The CAMA served as a practice stage for troops headed to the battle front in North Africa and stretched from Southeast California into Arizona and Nevada. Across this expanse of desert and mountains, troops practiced all aspects of deployed life.

The hospital where Greenwood worked had an attached  kitchen where cooks prepared the meals for all the patients and staff. Greenwood oversaw a 15-bed ward near the kitchen.

On the morning of Apr. 17, 1943, a cooking stove exploded and started a fire in the ward. Greenwood tried to fight the flames but quickly realized the building was lost. So Greenwood and her assistant, Pvt. James F. Ford, grabbed the 15 patients and ferried them outside to safety.

With the flames racing through the wooden structure, the entire ward burned down in about 5 minutes. But thanks to the quick actions of Greenwood and Ford, all of the patients made it out alive.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
The US Army Soldier’s Medal is awarded for noncombat valor. (Photo: Public Domain)

When the story of the fire reached Roosevelt, he ordered that both Ford and Greenwood receive the Soldier’s Medal, the highest award that he or the military could recommend under the circumstances.

On Jun. 10, 1943, Greenwood became the first woman to receive the medal. She survived the war and died of old age in 1999. The synopsis of her medal citation is below:

By direction of the President of the United States, The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood, Army Nurse Corps, United States Army. At 0630 on April 17, 1943, a stove exploded in the 37th Station Hospital’s diet kitchen, setting fire to the nearby ward where Lieutenant Greenwood was responsible for overseeing the care of 15 patients. Greenwood sounded the alarm and attempted to extinguish the blaze, but the fire quickly spread, with reports indicating that the ward burned down within five minutes. Greenwood safely evacuated all of her patients with the assistance of a young ward attendant, Private James F. Ford. By direction of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both Greenwood and Ford were awarded the Soldier’s Medal on June 10, 1943.
MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

In 1986, a pair of aviation movies took America by storm. Both Doug Masters in Iron Eagle and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun took to the skies and dominated America’s enemies (we all know who the better pilot was). But in the five months between those two blockbuster releases, U.S. Navy pilots did some butt-kicking for real in the Mediterranean Sea. The butt-kickee? Libya, who endured several days of naval battles that were originally intended to just be some exercises.

Those exercises were planned in response to constant Libyan claims over the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, the newly-elected President Ronald Reagan ordered the United States Navy to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises in the area. Just days into the exercise, two Libyan Su-22 Fitters attacked a pair of F-14 Tomcats. The Fitters were quickly were shot down, shutting down Libyan aggression for a while.

But similar exercises in March 1986, involving three carriers, their air wings, and over a dozen other vessels, would evolve into an epic brawl that made the 1981 incident look very tame by comparison.


According to the Air Combat Intelligence Group, the Libyans tried to approach the American carriers (USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66)) that were on the scene during the exercises. Each attempt was turned back by American F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Libya started the fighting in the Gulf of Sidra by firing SA-5 Gammon missiles at American fighters.
(Photo by George Chernilevsky)

On March 24, things got serious. Libyan MiG-25 Foxbats once again tried to approach the American carriers. F-14 Tomcats went toe-to-toe with the Russian-built fighters and wound up in a non-lethal dogfight. After the Foxbats were chased away, Libyan commanders ordered SA-5 Gammon batteries to open fire. The F-14s dodged the missiles — with help from an EA-6B Prowler.

Such aggression couldn’t go unanswered. The counter-attack came shortly afterwards. A mix of A-7E Corsair attack planes armed with AGM-88 high-speed, anti-radiation missiles and A-6E Intruder all-weather attack planes armed with a mix of CBU-100 Rockeye cluster bombs and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were launched. Within a half-hour, first blood had been drawn.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
Libya’s MiG-25 Foxbats tried to tangle with F-14 Tomcats, but had little luck.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

A pair of A-6 Intruders located and attacked a Libyan Combatante II-class missile boat. The first one fired a Harpoon, damaging the vessel, making it an easy target for Rockeye cluster bombs dropped by the second. Then, A-7s fired off HARMs, destroying a SA-5 site. Two A-6s followed that up by disabling a Nanuchka II-class corvette with a Harpoon missile. That corvette was later towed back to port.

But aircraft weren’t the only ones that got in on the action. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) fired two Harpoon missiles that disabled yet another Combatante II. The Libyans continued to fire SA-5 and SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles at the American planes. A-6 Intruders responded to those attacks by sinking a Nanuchka II-class corvette.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam
The Navy came out on top. The memory of two Libyan vessels was left on the side of planes — as bragging rights.
(US Navy)

When all was said and done, 35 Libyan personnel were killed during the fighting. The United States Navy, conversely, suffered no losses.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army’s desperate World War I fight for privates’ parts

When America entered World War I, it brought more radical changes than just fresh troops and a huge manufacturing base. It also introduced novel tactics in the fight against venereal disease — the war for infantrymen’s penises.


This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Specifically, “go and don’t bring back venereal diseases.”

(The Museum of New Zealand)

See, while World War I was a bone-crunching and horrible war, those who rotated off the front were still willing to stand at attention for a little morale improvement. Unfortunately, troops wouldn’t always report it if their li’l Joes encountered some biological warfare on the battlefield.

All euphemisms aside, lots of troops were sleeping with lots of women whenever they got the chance, leading to an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases. Because of social stigmas, many troops wouldn’t report it when they contracted one of the STDs, further propelling the problem.

As American troops and their physicians made their way to the front, leaders had to decide how to prevent the same issue among U.S. ranks. While the European powers had embraced a program of abstinence, the U.S. Army created a four-pronged attack on venereal disease.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Alcohol wasn’t popular in the U.S. before or after the war. Remember, America entered World War I just three years before it enacted Prohibition.

(United Committee on War Temperance)

The first two prongs were social: First, the U.S. cracked down on access to alcohol and prostitutes in the ranks. While this, obviously, eliminated American forces from most of the fun trenches of France, it would also serve to cut down on how often the soldiers were exposed to venereal disease. Then, authorities launched an education campaign, ostensibly to help men “Just Say No” to diseased genitals.

Oddly enough, this second prong, “education,” was actually controversial. Birth control education was actually illegal in America during World War I and had been since 1873. In fact, a high-profile arrest in 1916 occurred when a woman opened America’s first birth control clinic.

The next prong represented the biggest shift from Europe abstinence program. The U.S. distributed “prophylactics,” or condoms. Condoms help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia, which were big threats in France at the times. Condoms also cut down on the transmission of syphilis, another widespread disease.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

It wasn’t just prostitutes that American G.I.s were able to attract, either. Remember that Britain and France had been at war for almost three years when America came along, and huge numbers of their military-age males were already dead. Plenty of women looking for boyfriends and husbands had few options beyond traveling soldiers.

(Imperial War Museum)

This was also illegal in World War I in some parts of the country and would remain so until 1965 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning birth control — but hey, troops get certain exemptions. When you bend the rules to ask a guy to kill for you, you should probably loosen the rules about teaching him how to get laid without contracting disease or conceiving a baby.

These three prongs helped but, of course, even if the troops never got drunk with a prostitute and used a new condom every time they had sex, some guys would still get unlucky and contract a disease or two. So, prong four of the plan was an emphasis on medical care. Report the disease when you’re sick, come to the clinic, and get diagnosed and treated.

All of these efforts were buffed by other programs advocated by Army doctors, like the “furnishing of healthy social conditions and of opportunities for diversion….” Basically, keep the troops too busy with the YMCA and and other social organizations that they wouldn’t get so bored they’d slip out of camp to look for prostitutes.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

This was the treatment for gonorrhea in those days, an injection into the urethra. We can’t understand why troops might’ve avoided seeing the doctor.

(Public domain)

And there was a stick that backed up the carrot. Any soldier who contracted an STI and didn’t seek treatment would face trial and imprisonment.

Yeah, get the drip-drop and don’t report to the docs, you’re going to the stocks.

And the policies worked, to an extent. Of course some guys got sick and passed the disease along before getting treatment, but disease levels were lower in the U.S. camps than in British and French ones.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Front and back cover on a War Department pamphlet advocating veterans engage in a war against venereal disease back in the U.S.

(War Department)

So the allies followed suit, distributing condoms and providing distractions. Again, no plan was perfect, and there were limits to what medicine was capable of at the time, so not all troops who got sick were guaranteed recovery with treatment.

The efforts to protect troops from STDs in World War I were repeated in World War II — and led to the slow expansion of birth control and disease prevention at home. Troops were sent home with books about venereal disease, but these typically advocated abstinence in place of the condoms and medical treatment provided in the trenches.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Berlin Wall

This week in history, East German soldiers closed the borders between East and West Berlin. What started as a makeshift wall in 1961, pieced together with barbed wire, soldiers and tanks, eventually morphed into a 15-foot high symbol of division that blotted the landscape. However, the citizens of Berlin proved time and again where there’s a will, there’s a way. In its 28-year history, over 5,000 people risked life and limb to successfully across the border. For today’s history lesson, let’s take a look at a few more things you probably didn’t know about the Berlin Wall.


The wall was built to keep people in 

At the height of the Cold War, Germany was politically divided. East Germany represented life under Communism, and West Germany held the promise of democracy. Consequently, between 1949 and 1961, over 2 million East Germans fled from East to West.

By August 1961, it is estimated that East Germany was losing approximately 2,000 of its citizens every day. Many of whom were skilled laborers in professionals, and their exodus was wreaking havoc on East Germany’s economy. To stop the bleeding, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev advised East Germany to cut off access between the two sides. So, on August 13, 1961, East Germany closed the border between East and West Berlin.

The streets were torn up to build the wall

Initially, a hasty perimeter was set up, and the wall in the city center was made of men and armored vehicles. On the morning of August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) soldiers laid down barbed wire and ripped up the street known as Friedrich-Ebert Strasse, to build a makeshift wall. More armed guards kept watch, ready to shoot anyone who tried to cross as the wall was erected.

Over time the Berlin wall was shored up, reaching up to 15 feet high in some spots, and barbed wire and pipes perched atop the wall made climbing over impossible.

Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous checkpoint, but do you know why?

Along the Berlin Wall, there were a few checkpoints where those with the proper documentation were able to cross between sides. Among them was Checkpoint Friedrichstrasse — more commonly known as Checkpoint Charlie. The U.S. Army maintained Checkpoint Charlie, and it was the only checkpoint where foreigners and allied forces were allowed to cross into East Germany.

Checkpoint Charlie also gained notoriety because it was the preferred crossing for prisoner swaps. The most notable prisoner swap occurred in 1962, on Glienicke Bridge, which stood only a short distance from Checkpoint Charlie. During this exchange American U-2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers was traded for Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy convicted of espionage.

Checkpoint Charlie has often been depicted in film and books as well, perhaps most notably in the James Bond classic Octopussy and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré.

You can own a piece of the wall

On November 9, 1989, East Germany announced relaxed travel restrictions to West Germany, and thousands gathered to demand passage. As East German guards opened the borders, the demonstrations reached a fever pitch. Berliners climbed the wall, defaced it with graffiti, and began chipping away at it, some keeping fragments as souvenirs. While East German guards began dismantling the wall on August 10, 1989, Germany was not officially united until 1990.

Today pieces of the Berlin Wall are available for sale on eBay. You can own a piece of history for .99 plus shipping and handling.

More than 100 people died trying to cross the wall

According to the Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam and the Berlin Wall Foundation, more than 140 people were killed or died at the wall between 1961 – 1989. While many were shot by armed guards, many more perished in an assortment of suicides after failed attempts, freak accidents, and drownings. Perhaps the most bizarre death was the last one to be recorded on August 3, 1989, when Winfried Freudenberg died in a failed attempt to cross the border in a hot air balloon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.

The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.

It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.


“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”

The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.

The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.

“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.

Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Navy Cross.


Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.

His hometown paper in North Carolina, the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.

According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.

With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.

Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

A Delta Force Marine

Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.

The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.

He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.

The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.

Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Purple Heart.

(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.

Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.

The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.

The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.

“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”

By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Sean Smith.

The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.

“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.

“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”

They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.

”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”

In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.

Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.

“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”

Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.

Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.

Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.

“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.

Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.

“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”

It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.

Bracing for the worst

That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.

Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.

As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.

Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.

Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.

“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.

They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.

“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”

The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.

(State Department photo)

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”

The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.

Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.

The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.

It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.

“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The evolution of military timepieces from pocket watches to Rolexes to G-Shocks

The year is 1945 and U.S. forces are taking back Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and his 133 Rangers are staging a daring rescue of allied POWs at the Cabanatuan prison camp. Mucci checks his watch; it’s time. At 1700 hours on January 30, the Rangers step off from their staging area at Platero. At 1745 hours, they reach their checkpoint at the Pampanga River and split into the two elements for the impending raid.


At 1800 hours, a P-61 Black Widow takes off from Lingayen Field. At 1855 hours, the pilot cuts the engines over the prison camp, drops altitude, and restarts his engines to produce loud backfires and simulate a crippled plane. He circles the camp at low altitude, continuously cutting and restarting his engines and causing an aerial spectacle for the next 20 minutes. This distraction turns the attention of the Japanese soldiers skyward and allows the Rangers to crawl undetected through the low grass leading up to the camp and take their positions for the raid. At 1944 hours, Lt. John Murphy and his support by fire element open up on the Japanese guard towers with a murderous crescendo of gunfire that signals the start of the raid.

The raid at Cabanatuan is just one example of the necessity for precise timing and synchronization in military operations. Before the advent of timepieces, the rising of the sun often served as a method of synchronization, with attacks occurring at first light. Although pocket watches were becoming more popular and commonplace in the late 1800s, they were not standard-issue in the military. The history of U.S. Military watches begins in the trenches of WWI.

The British Army experimented with the idea of a wrist watch a few decades before WWI in the Boer War, but the need for a timepiece worn on the wrist became more apparent in the trenches. During the war, officers would often signal the start of a synchronized charge against an enemy trench with the blow of a whistle. The timing of these attacks was crucial, with some being miles long. Holding a whistle in one hand and a pistol in the other, fumbling with a pocket watch just wasn’t practical.

As a quick-fix solution, metal lugs were soldered on and leather or canvas straps were fashioned to convert a pocket watch to a wristwatch. Trench watches, as they were known, were generally made of chrome plate or solid silver to prevent rusting in the damp trenches. The crystals that covered the face of the watches were made of vulnerable glass. Officers with a bit more money would fit their watches with a protective metal cage called a shrapnel guard to prevent damage to the crystal.

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Three examples of trench watches with shrapnel guards (photo from hodinkee.com)

By America’s entry into the war in 1917, many doughboys headed for the western front were issued wristwatches. American watch companies like Waltham and Elgin provided the timepieces which were rushed into service. Because of the haste, only some of the watches were marked “ORD” (U.S. Ordnance).

The development of military wristwatches continued in the inter-war period. Following military specifications, Swiss manufacturer Longines released the A-7 pilot’s watch for the Army Air Corps. Though new technology allowed watches to be made smaller while maintaining high levels of accuracy, the A-7 was oversized and resembled a canted pocket watch. Designed to be worn on the outside of a flight jacket, the watch’s large size made it more legible for pilots who could check the time with a quick glance without having to remove their hands from the controls.

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The A-7 featured a single-button chronograph integrated into the onion-shaped crown. (photo from wornandwound.com)

By WWII, the military wristwatch had evolved into something more recognizable today in the form of the “field watch.” The most notable of these was the A-11 (though this refers to a mil-spec production standard and not a specific model name). The Army required the watch to be water or dustproof, resistant to extreme temperatures, powered by a hacking (stoppable for synchronization) 15-jewel minimum movement (jewels are used to reduce friction on the gears of a mechanical watch) with a power reserve of 30-56 hours and accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day, and feature a black dial with white numerals and markings.

Though they were primarily issued to the Air Corps, A-11 watches also found themselves on wrists of infantry and other ground-based troops. American watch manufacturers Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova produced watches to A-11 specifications in such large quantities that it has been given the nickname “The Watch That Won The War”. Similar to A-11 specification, watches produced under the “Ordnance Department” specification utilized a sub-seconds register and were intended specifically for ground troops.

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An A-11 spec Bulova (photo by User STR via MWRFoum)

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An Ordnance Department spec Elgin (photo from emedals.com)

This is the first woman killed in action in Vietnam

By the Vietnam War, watches were becoming more specialized. Radioactive paint illuminated the hands and indices of a watch, allowing it to be read in the dark. Dive watches provided exceptional underwater performance at previously unheard of depths, and rotating bezels allowed for timing or the tracking of multiple time zones.

The MIL-W-3818 wrist watch specification saw minor changes throughout the war, but the general guidelines remained the same. Watches featured a parkerized stainless steel case, a black dial, white numerals and indices, hands with green luminescent paint, an acrylic crystal, and a 17-jewel movement with hacking, 36 hours of power reserve, and an accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day. Manufacturers Benrus, Hamilton, Marathon and Altus produced watches for the military under this specification.

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The Benrus DTU-2A/P was the first watch produced to MIL-W-3818B spec. (photo from 60clicks.com)

Increasingly, service members were buying their own watches from the PX for use in combat. The Glycine Airman was the first watch capable of tracking multiple time zones via a rotating 24-hour bezel. Because of this feature, it became immensely popular with pilots who crossed multiple time zones in a single day. This popularity extended to military pilots who famously purchased Airman watches from PX’s in Southeast Asia and wore them into combat.

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An unnamed captain returns from a sortie and gives a thumbs up with a Glycine Airman on his left wrist. (photo from wornandwound.com)

Although Rolex was not the luxury brand that it is today, the Swiss-made precision tool watches still came at a considerable cost in the 1960’s. On August 13, 1969, Army Specialist Alex P. Saunders purchased a Rolex Submariner 5513 from the PX at Quan Loi, Vietnam. Saunders paid 4.50 (id=”listicle-2646188536″,638.23 adjusted for inflation in 2020) which he recalls, “…was a whole month’s take home for a Buck Sergeant at the time.” The next day, Saunders went out on a mission with his 5-man MACV-SOG Recon Team.

Upon helicopter infil, Saunders and his team came under heavy enemy fire. “During things going on, I had my watch band popped off and I lost the Rolex for a while. I remember digging around in the brush looking for it while we were in contact,” Saunders recalls. “I also remember catching hell from the other guys in my unit. In retrospect, maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the bad guys and less to my investment in the Rolex. Years later, not so much.” Today, a Rolex Submariner 5513 sells for an average of ,000 with exceptional examples fetching as much as ,000.

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Saunders wearing his Rolex in Vietnam. (photo from QualityTyme.net)

These days, most service members are seen wearing personally bought Casio G-Shocks which are famous for their affordability and durability. The Suunto Core and GPS watches have also become increasingly popular with ground troops. However, many service members may be surprised to learn that the military still has mil-spec wristwatches available through the GSA Global Supply Catalog. Issued more commonly during the 1990’s, Marathon wristwatches are Swiss-made and can be purchased by unit supply clerks to be issued to formations. Of course, with the proliferation of affordable watches like G-Shocks and military budget limitations, these watches are rarely ordered and issued in the 21st century.

Since WWI, personal timekeeping has been a necessary function in the U.S. Military. Horological technology has evolved through the 20th century making accurate timekeeping available to the masses in the form of affordable, battery-powered quartz watches. Despite the more commonplace use of smartphones and smartwatches to tell the time, the humble wrist watch continues to be a mainstay in the formations of the U.S. Military. Just don’t expect that digital G-Shock you bought at the PX to be worth thousands of dollars in 50 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Was Oak Ridge Tennessee a top secret town?

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, isn’t a secret anymore, but in 1942, Tennessee’s fifth largest town didn’t exist on a single map. Adding to the mystery – residents weren’t allowed to talk about it, either. So what was going on in Oak Ridge that was so important that the government needed to keep it top secret? Well, it turns out, a lot.

The History of Oak Ridge

Before it was the Atomic City, Oak Ridge was just a sleepy blip of a town in Tennessee. The earliest settlers to the region probably never thought it would the future home of the nuclear bomb. But that’s exactly what happened in WWII when the American government needed a place to conduct top secret atomic bomb research.

Nicknames like the City Behind the Fence and the Secret City were all deployed to keep the true nature of Oak Ridge a secret. Now it’s just a suburb of Knoxville, but Oak Ridge was a major nuclear development powerhouse during WWII.

Established in 1942, Oak Ridge was the production site for the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. It has a pretty spooky origin story if you believe in that kind of thing. Legend has it that after his wife and daughter’s death, local resident John Hendrix started telling anyone who would listen that he saw visions. In one of these visions, Hendrix reportedly described a pretty accurate depiction of what Oak Ridge would come to be. Relatives and neighbors have all reported Hendrix saying that eventually Bear Creek Valley would be filled with buildings and factories with one mission to help win the “greatest war that will ever be.”

Hendrix’s visions even went so far as to describe where roads would be during the development of Oak Ridge.

Whether or not his “visions” have been embellished over the years will forever remain a mystery. But what we do know is the government chose Oak Ridge with care.

Location, location, location

As with all real estate, it’s location location location. And that’s exactly what Oak Ridge had to offer. Not only was it nestled deep in a valley, but there were also very few people who called the region home. That meant that the government bought the land super cheap. Adding to that, Oak Ridge is accessible by both road and land. Those are very important details when you’re trying to build the world’s deadliest bomb, which is exactly what happened with the Manhattan Project.

And since no one was living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and those who did weren’t too keen on asking questions, the government set up shop without a lot of fanfare or fuss.

By 1943, the region was officially a military district making it off-limits to anyone without confirmed access. Cut off from the rest of the state and country, Oak Ridge really was a complete and total secret. At least it was until the end of WWII. Now it’s still a hotbed site for tech and scientific development – but there aren’t any top-secret projects … that we know of.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Richard Nixon almost sparked an invasion of Venezuela

The Cold War was a worldwide war that often manifested in bizarre ways that aren’t fully understood, even today. In 1958, Richard Nixon was veep to Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidency and the Cold War was in full swing. Latin America was experiencing a tide of anti-American sentiment, and Nixon was sent to Venezuela on a goodwill tour to help stem that tide.

By the end of his trip, Ike almost had to send the Marines in to get him out.


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Crowds begin to form around the Nixon motorcade.

In truth, the U.S. government should have been prepared for what (at the time) was called the most violent attack ever perpetrated on a high American official while on foreign soil. The United States had just granted asylum to Venezuela’s recently overthrown dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez and awarded him the Legion of Merit. Nixon was on a goodwill tour of the entire continent and had already visited Uruguay and Ecuador, and it was well known that Nixon was on his way.

With the wounds of the departed Jimenez still fresh, anti-U.S. sentiment running high, and a long-planned visit from a high-ranking American official in the works, Nixon should have been ready for anything. Instead, he was largely “uninterested,” according to his biography. The VP and his wife arrived to an angry crowd of demonstrators who threw stones and spat at them. Instead of a planned visit and wreath laying at the Tomb of Simon Bolivar, the Nixons went right to the U.S. Embassy. It seems a crowd of Venezuelans had met the Vice-Presidential team at the tomb, attacked them, and destroyed the wreath anyway.

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The car’s “shatterproof” glass.

As their car made its way through the capital of Caracas, traffic began to build, slowing down Nixon’s motorcade. As the procession slowed, crowds of angry Venezuelans began to mob the vehicle, banging on the windows and shattering the glass. As they attempted to flip the car, the 12 Secret Service agents protecting the Veep drew their pistols and prepared to fire into the crowd. Nixon stopped them and ordered them to fire only on his order. According to Nixon, the Press Corps’ flatbed truck kicked into high gear and began to push through the crowd as protestors began to climb aboard. The truck cleared the way for Nixon’s car to escape to the Embassy.

When news of the incident reached Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke, he immediately prepared “Operation Poor Richard,” an invasion of Venezuela using the 2nd Marine Division, the 101st Airborne, and the USS Tarawa Carrier Group, all coming from Guantanamo Bay. The Venezuelans weren’t going to have Dick Nixon to kick around.

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But despite a lack of protection from the Venezuelan military during the incident, they were omnipresent in the hours and days that followed. The streets had been cleared with tear gas, and infantry and armor units protected Nixon’s motorcade as it went to the airport the next day. The invasion of Venezuela would never have to materialize.

Nixon never forgot the events in Caracas that day, as the violence of the crowd would certainly have led to the death of almost everyone involved. His experience later helped form his foreign policy decisions regarding South America during his Presidency.

Articles

The Navy is looking for a ship that was a hero of the American Revolution

A team of sailors and scientists from the United State, Great Britain and France searched for the wreckage of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard in early September in the frigid waters off the coast of England.


Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, sailors from Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center, sailors from the French Mine Clearance Dive Unit and members from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration embarked on the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) to survey a late 18th or early 19th century-shipwreck in the North Sea.

The site is interesting to researchers since it’s considered a region of the sea where the final battle of John Paul Jones’ famous warship Bonhomme Richard went down. While some evidence from the site suggests the wreck researchers found could be Jones’s ship, other information suggests it sank much later.

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Joe Gregory, an able seaman aboard the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), watches as the ship’s workboat is driven alongside Grasp during a magnetometer survey of a shipwreck site. Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command are aboard Grasp conducting a remote sensing survey of a shipwreck that may be that of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard was lost Sept. 23, 1779 following her victory over the much more heavily armed HMS Serapis. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“The site has potential to be from the late 18th to early 19th century,” said George Schwarz, an underwater archaeologist from NHHC. “Although the site has some intriguing features, including a buried wooden hull, well-preserved organic artifacts and large concentrations of concreted iron objects, we also have later material on site such as sections of 19th century iron chain.”

Different Navy units surveyed areas around the shipwreck site using various pieces of equipment. NHHC used a magnetometer towed behind a rigid hull inflatable boat to map possible concentrations of iron along a predetermined grid over the site. NOMWC used unmanned underwater vehicles to survey other areas of the site and MCDU used a towed side scan sonar. MDSU 2 accompanied the mission and provided logistical and small boat support.

“The teams worked well together to collect seafloor and sub-seafloor features in and around the wreck,” said Schwarz. “These new data sets will aid considerably in the interpretation of the site, and we’re looking forward to future collaboration with project partners.”

Both NHHC and NOMWC often had to trade off using the RHI, but MCDU had their own and surveyed the site whenever weather and sea conditions allowed. The many hours they spent out on the water allowed them time to reflect on their mission and their part in it.

Acknowledging Bonhomme Richard was given to Jones and the U.S. Navy by France, one of the participating French scuba divers explained he’s glad to be a part of the survey mission.

The identity of the shipwreck under investigation is currently unknown but future surveys of the site are in the works. In addition to the wreck site surveyed, the teams conducted remote-sensing operations over an additional 2 square nautical miles, expanding the previously surveyed areas.

During the Revolutionary War, the French crown loaned Bonhomme Richard to the United States. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard’s crew was an early example of sailor toughness. The ship and her squadron were ordered to the United Kingdom to cruise for prizes off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England.

About a month into her mission Sept. 23, 1779, she encountered a convoy of merchant ships underway from Flamborough Head, which immediately turned back once they caught sight of Jones and his ships. Jones pursued and around 6:30 p.m. engaged HMS Serapis, which had been covering the retreat. More than three hours later, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious-but mortally wounded. Jones shifted his colors to Serapis, the wounded were transferred over and her riggings were repaired. Bonhomme Richard sank somewhere in the North Sea.

Her logs were not updated in her final hours and so her resting place remains a mystery.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. The command is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

Articles

This is how NATO could go to war against itself

If you think that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the mutual-defense alliance founded in 1949 – is one big, happy family, you’d be wrong.


There have been deep tensions between NATO countries in the past. For a while, France was not even part of the military structure.

Then, there’s Greece and Turkey. To say they have provided a bit of intra-alliance drama is one of the biggest understatements in the existence of NATO.

Greece and Turkey have had a fair amount of historical animosity. In 1897, the two countries went to war, after which Greece secured the autonomy of Crete. From 1919-1922, the two countries went to war again. Turkey won that second round, pushing Greece out of Asia Minor for the most part.

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A Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000EG. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1950s, the Cyprus issue renewed tensions despite both countries’ memberships in NATO, as did maritime territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, leading to a near war in 1987, according to the New York Times.

A March 1996 report by the Congressional Research Service described the Imia/Kardak Crisis of 1995, another near-war.

War loomed again in the Cyprus Missile Crisis of 1997-1998, with the Independent reporting Turkey threatened strikes against Russian S-300 missiles sold to the Greek Cypriots. That crisis wasn’t defused until Greece bought the missiles and based them in Crete.

In the past year, the maritime territorial dispute in the Aegean Sea has heated up again, thanks to Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, according to recent news reports.

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Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

So, what would happen if Greece and Turkey went to war? History can be a guide.

Past crises have usually seen NATO apply a lot of diplomatic pressure to avert war. The North Atlantic Treaty, in fact, gives NATO a very big vice to apply that pressure.

According to quora.com, Article V would still be potentially relevant for the country that was attacked. The text of the treaty makes no exceptions if the aggressor is a member of NATO.

There have been incidents between the two countries in the past where troops have exchanged fire planes have been shot down. So, while wars have been averted so far, the possibility remains that an incident could prompt a full-scale war between these two NATO allies.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The misfits of D-Day and World War II

If you are a regular reader of Coffee or Die Magazine (you are here, after all), then you have likely read countless stories from military history about the misfits who served during World War II. Some of these may be familiar, while others are new additions to your store of knowledge. We’ve covered soldiers who carried peculiar weapons into battle, such as a longbow or an umbrella, and special operations and guerrilla warfare units that thrived with a diverse cast of characters.

Here’s a roundup of 10 misfits of D-Day and World War II who inspired many to follow them into hell and back.

Oldest Soldier on D-Day

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Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was 56 years old when he stormed Utah Beach. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the oldest soldier to land as part of the first wave of the invasion force on D-Day. The 56-year-old veteran of World War I and Distinguished Service Cross recipient rallied his men armed with a pistol in one hand and his walking cane in the other to take Utah Beach. One month later, Roosevelt died after suffering a massive heart attack. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry and courage at Utah Beach on D-Day.

The Rice Paddy Navy

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A C-46 employed by the SACO waits for a bomb crater on the runway to be repaired by Chinese soldiers. Photo by W. Elsworth Smith, courtesy of computersmiths.com.

The Rice Paddy Navy was a scrappy group of river pirates, peasants, coast watchers, and saboteurs who were provided weapons and training by a Chinese secret service general and a team of hand-picked US Navy sailors and Marines. The Rice Paddy Navy, better known as the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) — pronounced “socko” — served mainly as a paramilitary unit. 

They collected intelligence and conducted espionage operations but also launched ambushes, assassinations, and sabotage on key officers and infrastructure. In just three years — between 1942 and 1945 — they rescued 76 aviators shot down behind enemy lines, built a guerrilla army of nearly 97,000 fighters, and had 18 camps organized in China, Burma, Indochina, and parts of India.

Fly-Fishing Commando

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Ernest Hemingway with sons Patrick, Jack “Bumby,” and Gregory “Gigi” at Club de Cazadores del Cerro, Cuba. Photo courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Jack Hemingway, the eldest son of novelist Ernest Hemingway, famously completed his first combat jump with the OSS on a Jedburgh mission over France while towing along his fly-fishing rod. He even almost got caught by a German patrol midstream carrying his rod, reel, and a box of flies. But the Germans just made jokes about the silly fisherman, not realizing he was an American commando caught in the act. 

Prior to Hemingway’s service in Europe, he got into an altercation in a café in Algiers. He and a few other OSS commandos were there for a nightcap when a thief snatched his jump boots and ran down an alley. As the commandos gave chase, the thief linked up with friends around the corner who were wielding knives. The knives were no match for the commandos though — despite their heavy drinking, all were unarmed combat instructors for the OSS, and they easily disarmed the perpetrators without suffering a scratch.

The Safecracker

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Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

In 1951, a newspaper reported that a detective from Scotland Yard had instantly pointed the finger at “Gentle Johnny” Ramensky, one of the most well-known safecrackers in the criminal underworld. Ramensky was a repeat offender, in and out of jail, yet he had no equals. In World War II, criminal types weren’t overlooked by special operations units. Crooks were even sought after because of their advanced knowledge in demolitions, skill with hand-to-hand combat, and situational awareness. Ramensky in particular was recruited for lock-picking and safecracking and joined Ian Fleming’s crackshot commando unit known as 30 Assault Unit (30AU). 

For the 30 AU, he conducted sabotage missions against German railroads and bridges carrying Nazi supplies. He also snuck into the North African headquarters of Erwin Rommel and stole top-secret materials. He targeted Hermann Göring’s luxurious Carinhall estate in the Schorfheide and was dropped by parachute into Rome to investigate Germany’s plans for withdrawing from Italy. In one afternoon, he blew open as many as 10 to 14 safes. “How did you do it?” his officers would ask, and he’d reply, “That, gentlemen, is my secret.”

The Ghost Army

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Screenshot from YouTube.

The art of deception is a strategy that must be perfected by military strategists in order to trick the enemy into the belief of authenticity. In the summer of 1944, the US Army had a specialized unit known as the “Ghost Army,” or 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, armed to the teeth with inflatable tanks, phony vehicles, and phantom divisions. The Ghost Army staged more than 20 deception operations across France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  

“Its complement was more theatrical than military,” writes the Ghost Army Legacy Project. “It was like a traveling road show that went up and down the front lines impersonating the real fighting outfits.”

The Gas Pipe Gang

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Capt. Nieves Fernandez shows an American soldier how she used her long knife to silently kill Japanese soldiers during occupation, 1944. Photo courtesy of rarehistoricalphotos.com.

Capt. Nieves Fernandez was a schoolteacher before World War II. She had witnessed violence at the hands of the Japanese against the Filipino populace in Visayas, a group of islands in the Philippines. One day she’d had enough and recruited men in her community, known as Waray guerrillas to American forces in the area, to join her resistance force. They were sometimes called the “Gas Pipe Gang” for their use of improvised weapons such as gas pipes loaded with a combination of gunpowder and nails that acted as makeshift shotguns. 

The guerrilla commander, born circa 1906, led a loyal following of 110 resistance fighters for two and a half years killing as many as 200 Japanese soldiers. She ran through the port city with a bolo knife and set up ambushes in the forest while barefoot. The Gas Pipe Gang violently defied their Japanese occupiers, since it was the only way to protect themselves. 

Motley Crew of Fishermen

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The Shetland Bus were fishermen to some, and giants to others. Screenshot courtesy of YouTube.

The Shetland Bus was an operation led by a motley crew of volunteer Norwegian fishermen that received support from the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). They used the disguise of hiding in plain sight to deliver British commandos and saboteurs into Norway to help Norwegian commandos in their irregular warfare campaigns against the Germans. The Shetland Bus also acted as a highway for Norwegians to escape from Nazi oppression.

Skipper Lief Larsen was the most notorious fisherman of the operation, journeying through the harsh North Sea on 52 trips, sometimes for weeks at a time. By the war’s end, the Shetland Bus had transported 400 tons of weaponry and carried out hundreds of missions to the benefit of those in Norway who would have been cut off from the rest of the world without them.

Bagpiper, Swordsman, Archer

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Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“Mad Jack” Churchill, or “Fighting Jack,” was the last British officer to kill an enemy combatant in war with a longbow. This World War II misfit also dressed in a kilt and played the bagpipes during coastal raids to inspire his troops from No. 2 Commando. During Operation Archery, sometimes called the Måløy Raid, he played “March of the Cameron Men” while they were assaulting German positions on the island of Vågsøy, Norway. In Salerno and Sicily, during the Italian amphibious landings, Churchill famously captured 42 German soldiers and an 81 mm mortar team armed with only his sword.

“In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” he reasoned. After a botched nighttime raid in Yugoslavia, Churchill was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he and a Royal Air Force officer tunneled to freedom. At least that’s what they intended, because they were captured and transferred to a more secure prison camp. Churchill escaped again and was discovered eight days later by an American reconnaissance unit. 

La Dame Qui Boite: “The Lady Who Limps”

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Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The CIA’s predecessor during World War II was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and one of its most heralded officers to serve in the outfit was a woman known to them as Virginia Hall and to the French Resistance as La Dame Qui Boite, or “The Lady Who Limps.” Hall served more than 20 years with the OSS, the British SOE, and the CIA, gaining notoriety for her actions as well as for her appearance during the war. She named her wooden prosthetic leg “Cuthbert” and famously received a response from an unsuspecting staff officer that added to her legend. From the snow-covered Pyrenees mountain range she sent a message to London: “Cuthbert is giving me trouble, but I can cope.” An unknown staff officer replied, “If Cuthbert is giving you trouble, have him eliminated.”

Hall was the first woman in SOE to establish resistance networks out of Vichy, France, and went on daring undercover missions for the OSS, often adopting disguises and aliases to remain hidden from the Germans who called her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” She transmitted coded messages as a wireless operator detailing German troop movements and also coordinated airdrops for the Maquis guerrillas. 

The Limping Lady had earned the respect of the most seasoned paramilitary officers. Hall was a “gung-ho lady left over from the OSS days overseas,” CIA official Angus Thuermer later commented. “Young women in sweater sets and pearls listened raptly to Virginia Hall gas with muscular paramilitary officers who would stop by her desk to tell war stories.” Hall was the only civilian to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross medal during the war.

The Umbrella-Wielder

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Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Maj. Allison Digby Tatham-Warter was a British officer who worked as a safari guide shooting tigers and hunting wild boars with a spear in India. During World War II, Tatham-Warter joined the Parachute Regiment, famously known as the “Paras,” and trained his men to rely not on the radio but on a musical instrument, the bugle horn, for communications. The unorthodox officer had difficulty remembering passwords, and thus he carried an umbrella to mark himself as friendly.

“It would be quite obvious to anyone that the bloody fool carrying the umbrella could only be an Englishman,” he later said.

His battlefield heroics could be remade into a satirical comedy film, yet they were completely real. Near the German-held Arnhem Bridge, the battalion’s chaplain became pinned down by enemy fire. Tatham-Warter ran to his aid and quipped, “Don’t worry, I’ve got an umbrella!” His craziest endeavor involved him charging a row of panzers and armored cars and thrusting the point of his brolly into the eye of an operator of an armored car to incapacitate him. When the Germans surrounded his battalion, he was captured, yet Tatham-Warter escaped, stole a bicycle in broad daylight, and rode through the streets until he linked up with Dutch resistance forces to reach safety.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.