Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.

Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.


Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.

The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.

(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.

“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.

“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.

The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.

Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.

The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.

Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.

In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.

The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)

But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)

The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.

The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.

“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.

“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

The bonds that members of the military make with their comrades during their service are unlike any other. There’s a special kind of trust and faith that you have in a person that you would risk your life for and know would do the same for you. Fighter pilots are a breed of service member that understand this bond well. In aerial combat, your wingman is someone you have to trust completely and be willing to do anything for.

These fighter pilots demonstrated this commitment with unwavering loyalty and bravery.


On September 15, 1952, Air Force Capt. James Risner was escorting a flight of F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers on an attack on a chemical plant along the Yalu River. Flying his F-86 Sabre fighter jet, Risner engaged an attacking enemy MiG and chased it at nearly supersonic speed at ground level. Risner pursued the MiG across the Yalu River and into Chinese airspace. He landed several solid hits on the MiG with his .50-caliber machine guns which shot off the enemy jet’s canopy and set it on fire. Risner chased the MiG over a Chinese air base where it crashed into more MiGs parked on the ground. Throughout this engagement, Risner’s wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was flying in pursuit and covering Risner’s six.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Risner poses in front of an F-86 (Photo by the United States Air Force)

As the flight headed for home, Logan’s Sabre was hit by enemy flak—fuel and hydraulic fluid gushed out of the wounded jet’s belly. Logan had only five minutes of fuel left; not enough to get him out of enemy territory. Refusing to abandon his wingman, Risner told Logan to shut his engine down and lined up behind him. He skillfully inched the upper lip of his Sabre’s air intake toward the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre until they made contact. Despite fuel and hydraulic fluid obscuring his canopy and turbulence constantly separating the two aircraft, Risner persisted in his endeavor to push his wingman to safety.

After almost 60 miles of pushing, the two planes were finally over the ocean and in range of rescue swimmers. Logan called out to Risner, “I’ll see you at base tonight,” and bailed out of his stricken aircraft. Despite being a strong swimmer, Logan became tangled in his parachute shroud lines and tragically drowned off the coast of Cho Do Island. Having burned extra fuel to push his wingman, Risner’s Sabre ran out of fuel and he glided to a dead-stick landing at Kimpo Air Base. Over a decade later during the Vietnam War, two Air Force fighter jet crews would find themselves in a similar situation to Risner and Logan.

In 1967, Capt. Bob Pardo with Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Steve Wayne and his wingman Capt. Earl Aman and his Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Robert Houghton flew F-4 Phantom II fighter jets from Ubon Air Base in Thailand. On March 10, they were a part of a bombing run on a steel mill just north of Hanoi in North Vietnam. Heavy anti-aircraft fire cut through the skies, damaging both Phantom IIs. Aman and Houghton’s plane took a direct hit to the fuel tank and quickly lost most of their precious fuel. Without the range needed to make it to the KC-135 refueling tanker over Laos, Aman and Houghton would have to bail out over the unfriendly skies of North Vietnam. To prevent this, Pardo decided to push the stricken plane.

First, he had Aman jettison his drag chute so that he could insert his fighter’s nose into the drag chute compartment, much like Risner did with the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre. However, the aerodynamic properties of the two aircraft created a suction that threatened to pull Pardo and Wayne up into Aman and Houghton’s plane. Pardo then had the idea to push the Phantom II from its tailhook. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the F-4 Phantom II was equipped with a tailhook to snag arresting cables and land on aircraft carriers.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

An F-4 Phantom II’s drag chute in its compartment (Photo by David Wallace, Jr.)

With the tailhook lowered, it provided about 4 feet of standoff distance between the two planes—just enough to prevent the deadly aerodynamic interference. Pardo then maneuvered his F-4 under and behind Aman’s until the tailhook was resting on the front of his windscreen. Aman then shut down his engines as Pardo pushed to keep his wingman airborne. The stunt worked to slow the rate of descent of Aman and Houghton’s aircraft. However, every 15 to 30 seconds, the tailhook would slide off of the windscreen and Pardo would have to line back up and re-establish connection.

Pardo and Wayne were also struggling with a fire in their port-side engine, eventually having to shut it down. After 88 miles of pushing, both aircraft reached Laotian airspace at an altitude of just 6,000 feet.

Aman and Houghton ejected safely, but Pardo and Wayne had burned so much fuel that they were forced to eject just ahead of them. All but Wayne had to evade enemy forces on the ground before they were located by friendly forces and rescued. Pardo and Wayne were initially reprimanded for losing their aircraft and putting their own lives in danger. It wasn’t until 1989 that the military re-examined “Pardo’s Push”, as it came to be known, and awarded the Silver Star to both Pardo and Wayne.

Both Risner and Pardo persisted in their commitment to their comrades in arms. During the Vietnam War, Risner was shot down over North Vietnam and was imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for seven years, four months, and 27 days. During this time, he and Navy Commander James Stockdale led the American resistance in the prison and organized the other POWs to present maximum resistance to their captors.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Risner answers questions at a press conference after he is released from captivity. (Photo by the United States Air Force)

After retiring from the Air Force, Pardo learned that Aman had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease and lost both his voice and mobility. He created the Earl Aman Foundation to raise money and buy his wingman a voice synthesizer, a motorized wheelchair, and a computer. The two men remained close friends until Aman’s death in 1998.

The bonds formed by these airmen in the crucible of aerial combat manifested in their refusal to abandon their wingmen and willingness to risk life and limb to save them. It is a commitment that is difficult to understand for people who have not experienced it firsthand, but Risner, Wayne and Pardo’s selfless actions help to demonstrate its power and magnitude.

Military Life

This is how much sleep you should be getting before a mission

On deployment, troops are asked to complete some pretty intense missions under hostile conditions. Half of the time, they leave the wire with little-to-no sleep and still have to perform at a high level. Due to our crazy schedules, we are required to be up at the butt-crack of dawn for PT, eat chow, and prepare for the 12-16 hour workday ahead. After all that, we try and get some rest before we have to do it all over again the next day.

That sh*t can burn a troop out in no time.


Since we’re dedicated as f*ck, we suck it up and move on. Unfortunately, being sleep deprived increases the risk of some significant health problems, like diabetes, strokes, and even heart attacks. Aside from these major problems, running on too little sleep can cause troops to make dumb mistakes and severely lowers reaction times.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Soldiers from the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment try to sleep during a 19-hour flight.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to maintain a high quality of life. Unfortunately for some troops, that simply can’t happen. In fact, some people don’t even produce the sleep hormone called “melatonin” until way later on in the night. We call those guys and gals “night owls.”

Now, we can’t blame this hormone entirely — today’s technology plays a unique role among those who might have a little insomnia.

In 2002, scientists found a sensor in our eyes called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells that, apparently, do not like many forms of blue light — which is likely found in the very computer screen you’re using right now.

When blue light interacts with those cells, they send messages to our brain that tell us the sun is still out, which can inhibit your body’s natural melatonin production. The takeaway from that study is you might want to start reading a book (instead of staring at your phone) on your way to sleepy land.

For those who have naturally lower melatonin production in their brains, food like almonds, raspberries, and gogi berries can help boost levels.

Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to get a humorous take on catching enough sleep.

Articles

This Iraq war veteran has been running with the bulls since 2007

A former Army officer has been running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain since 2007 — all while filming a documentary on the event which was released last month.


Each year in July, Pamplona hosts a fiesta that brings together approximately one million people for a massive party, but most people know the city for just one reason: the crazy event that sees people running as bulls chase them from behind.

Dennis Clancey, a West Point-educated Army officer who served in the Iraq War, wanted to document the run, while trying to understand why some people risk their lives in this way each year.

“This is beyond me just asking them what it is like to run,” Clancey told The Chicago Sun-Times. “The film is an accurate stamp of what it means to be a runner. The experienced runners are running out of a sense of obligation. They run in part to protect other runners. If someone falls, you do what you can to distract the bulls and protect your fellow runners.”

Clancey self-funded his documentary — called “Chasing Red” — from 2007 to 2011, until he met a fellow filmmaker who helped him put together a trailer for the project. The trailer helped generate interest in the project, and led to a successful backing on Kickstarter that helped raise nearly $23,000.

“It’s a character-driven documentary following eight runners,” Clancey told Outside Magazine. “They each have their own goals and aspirations and we follow them in their pursuits of those dreams.”

The film is now available to rent or download. Here’s the trailer:

NOW: This powerful film tells how Marines fought ‘one day in hell’ in Fallujah

Articles

This is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor

In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.


Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.

Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

So far he is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor.

On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.

“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”

Still, Shields kept fighting.

“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”

But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.

“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.

The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.

Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.

“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.

Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.

At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”

The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie

Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.

The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.


Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.

The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.

He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”

“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”

There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.

As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.

On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.

Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.

On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.

LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”

Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie

www.military.com

His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”

In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”

Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.

For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.

In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.

“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.

Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”

The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.

“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”

Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.

“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.

Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.

“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.

‘He Cradled It Like a Football’

Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.

Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.

He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.

From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.

The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.

Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.

Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”

Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.

There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.

Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”

Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.

The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.

Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.

“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”

Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.

Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”

On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.

Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.

“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”

Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.

In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”

Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”

In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.

“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This future President and First Lady fought with US troops in China

When you think of badass U.S. Presidents, you likely aren’t thinking of Herbert Hoover. In fact, he’s probably very low on your list of presidential badassery, right there with James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Chester A. Arthur.


But what if you saw him and his wife fighting with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry, his wife brandishing a .38 Smith Wesson, to fight Chinese rebels trying to murder tons of foreigners?

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Better start packing heat if you want to be top FLOTUS, Melania. Lou Henry Hoover don’t play.

Before he became President of the United States, Hoover was the general manager for the Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation. He and his wife lived in China around the turn of the 20th Century and was generally well-regarded by the Chinese for his progressive views regarding their treatment.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

But the Boxer Rebellion soon broke out in 1900, a semi-spiritual effort to rid China of foreigners, often by ridding their heads of their bodies. It spread from sporadic acts of violence against Western influence to a full-on peasant uprising. That’s when the Chinese Empress Dowager Tsu’u Hzi declared war on all foreign nations at the same time.

Good call, lady.

The powers allied against China included France, Germany, the British Empire, the United States, Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Japan, who mobilized a multi-national force (called the Eight-Nation Alliance) to protect foreign interests and recuse the besieged foreign legations and citizens around the country.

The Hoovers were in Tianjin, and they were ready for the Boxers.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
I told you, Lou Henry Hoover does not f*ck around.

For a month, Hoover and his wife – along with the rest of the city – resisted the siege of Tianjin. Future First Lady of the United States, Lou Henry Hoover, defended herself with a Smith Wesson .38 caliber pistol while traveling from the battlefield to the hospital.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Initially, the Hoovers enlisted the 800 other Westerners and Chinese Christians (also a target of the Boxers) to maintain a defense of the west end of Tianjin. They reinforced the area with bags of grain and sugar while arming U.S. Marines and sailors who happened to be there.

Hoover was known to have rescued Chinese children caught in the crossfire during the street-to-street fighting. Both Hoovers did duty manning the barricades. It’s not known if the Hoovers — devout pacifist Quakers — actually killed anyone, but they did keep the Boxers from doing it.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Scenes like this don’t happen when there are Hoovers around.

The beginning of the end came as the multinational relief column — including the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment, to this day known as the “Manchus” — arrived in Tianjin. Hoover himself led U.S. Marines, along with columns of British, French, and Japanese troops around the city. His knowledge of the area and its terrain was critical to their success there.

Later, biographer David Bruner recalled Mrs. Hoover’s account of her time in his book, Herber Hoover: A Public LifeShe said she “had a splendid time during the Boxer Rebellion and would not have missed it for anything.”

Tianjin was the bloodiest battle of the entire Boxer Rebellion.

popular

This is why most military aircraft have ashtrays

Just as with civilian flights, ashtrays on an aircraft make little sense. According to both civilian and military guidelines, smoking is forbidden while the aircraft is in flight. The no-smoking signs are a constant sting to every smoker with the urge to light up.


And yet…there are ashtrays on aircraft.

In 1990, the U.S. banned smoking on all flights. In 2000, international airlines followed suit. But before then, smoking was allowed on planes. Even in the military, older Blackhawks were outfitted with ashtrays that required cleaning before each and every flight. John F. Kennedy’s Marine One had been made with several “smoking pits.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
JFK loved his cigars.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines were changed after the crashes of Varig Flight 820 and Air Canada Flight 797 were believed to have each been caused by smoking passengers — killing 123 and 23 people respectively.

New rules were enforced, but aircraft models were still required to have ashtrays installed…just not used.

However, if someone does light up, risking a $100k fine and the lives of everyone on-board, the flight attendants need a place to dispose of the cigarette butt. The trash bins are filled mostly with paper waste, so that’d be a terrible (read: flammable) idea.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Don’t try it. Even if you tamper with the large smoke detector, there are more hidden through out the lavatory.

The FAA doesn’t have much jurisdiction over the U.S. military. Military operations are exempt from FAA guidelines but as a show of good faith while flying in U.S. National Airspace they follow them willingly.

Even down to the size of the UH-60 Blackhawk, an ashtray is still installed to adhere to FAA guidelines. Military helicopters still treat the cigarette butt as foreign object debris and that needs to be disposed of properly so as not to damage the aircraft.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US ‘mini carrier groups’ could change how Navy, Marines operate

US Marines are not only experimenting with a new aircraft-carrier concept, but they are also taking a fresh look at forming “mini” carrier strike groups to fill in when the carriers are called away.

The capable fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters are changing the way the service’s big amphibious assault ships — the centerpieces of the “gator navy” — go to war.

The Marine Corps is aggressively pushing ahead with the experimental “Lightning-carrier” concept, which involves arming the large flattops with a literal boatload of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to turn the traditional troop-transport ships into light carriers capable of boosting the overall firepower of the US carrier force.


Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The USS Essex sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Greenberg)

At the same time, the service and the US Navy are looking at making changes to amphibious readiness groups (ARGs), transforming them into miniature carrier strike groups (CSGs). An ARG typically consists of an amphibious assault ship, an amphibious transport dock, a landing-dock ship, and a contingent of Marine expeditionary forces.

“We’re definitely changing the way amphibs are employed, especially on the blue side — we’re no longer just the trucks that carry Marines that we used to be,” Lt. Cmdr. David Mahoney, the Amphibious Squadron 1 operations officer, said, according to a USNI News report on April 16, 2019.

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the lead capital ship for the Essex ARG, sailed into the Persian Gulf in fall 2018 as the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and its escort ships, which were initially expected to deploy to the Middle East, sailed into the north Atlantic in support of NATO.

“There was no carrier in 5th Fleet, so a lot of the CSG-like duties we started taking over just because we had to,” Mahoney said. “The ARG is now becoming almost like a mini CSG.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

F-35B Lightning II on the USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“You can see that layered defense,” he said, pointing to the ARGs cooperation with destroyers and other warships and the increased capability provided by the multi-mission F-35s with advanced stealth and a powerful sensor suite. “This is what has to happen as the carriers are being sometimes sent elsewhere because the needs are rising elsewhere.”

The ARGs, especially in this time of a renewed great-power competition, are “definitely in high demand to fill those [CSG] roles as the Navy is spreading out further and further around the globe.”

Marine Corps F-35Bs, which are short-take-off vertical-landing aircraft built for operations aboard amphibious assault ships, flew into combat for the first time during the Essex ARG’s deployment. Amphibious assault ships lack the catapults and arresting wires used on aircraft carriers, and support only these jump jets and helicopters.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

F-35B Lightning II takes off from the USS Essex.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

In February 2019, the F-35B achieved another first as fighters aboard the USS Wasp and carried out simulated strikes in “beast mode” — meaning it was operating with an external ordnance loadout — in the Pacific.

Recently, the Wasp sailed into the South China Sea with an unusually heavy configuration of at least 10 stealth fighters, significantly more than normal, for joint drills with the Philippines. During the Balikatan exercises, the ship was spotted running flight operations near the disputed Scarborough Shoal as part of the light-carrier experiment.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The USS Wasp in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

At the heart of the new “mini” CSGs is the “Lightning carrier,” an amphibious assault ship loaded up with as many as 20 F-35s for carrierlike operations. This concept, which the Marines began experimenting with in 2016, is a rebranded version of the “Harrier-carrier” concept, an earlier variation with AV-8 Harrier jump jets that served the military well for decades.

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the Marine Corps said in a 2017 report, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army enlists Nine Inch Nails member for new coronavirus-themed recruiting video

The U.S. Army recently released a new advertising video targeting young people living in a society crippled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The short video, titled “Unbelievable,” is the latest addition to the “What’s Your Warrior” ad campaign, which is designed to show members of Generation Z how their service is needed.

The video first aired Friday on YouTube and is making its way around social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It features stark images that hint at post-apocalyptic life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shows soldiers with medical and research specialties responding to the crisis.


When the unbelievable happens, we get to work. Learn more at https://go.usa.gov/xv9wN . #GoArmypic.twitter.com/HkKQqAftD4

twitter.com

The Army launched the “What’s Your Warrior” campaign Nov. 11, focused on trying to get young people to think about what type of warrior is inside them.

“We don’t want to sound opportunistic at all but, at the same time, we are very involved in the fight. The Army has a role in this,” said Laura DeFrancisco, spokeswoman for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office.

The video flashes the message, “When the unbelievable happens … the unbelievable rise to meet it.”

“There is the one shot of the soldier looking at a microscope; that is real world,” DeFrancisco said. “But just in general being a part of an organization that is involved in something that supports your community right here at home, which is an unusual role, especially for the active Army.”

The Army has deployed thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers in communities across the country, as well as hundreds of active-duty troops to provide medical support to hospitals trying to cope with the virus.

The video’s eerie background music, which builds in intensity, “was actually done for us by [Atticus Ross from] Nine Inch Nails,” DeFrancisco said. Ross, an English musician from the alternative rock band, wrote and performed the music for the ad.

“He created it for us just in the last two to three weeks,” she said.

The Army tested out the concept for the video last week by running 15-second, picture-to-picture stories on Instagram with the same “call to service” theme, DeFrancisco said.

“We were getting really good response from that, so that’s why we went forward with this video,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote and clarify who wrote and performed the music for the ad.

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

Articles

Pentagon says rules of engagement haven’t changed after Mosul strike

The Pentagon is disputing reports that its rules of engagement in Iraq have been loosened following a deadly strike in Mosul that killed more than 100 civilians.


But its own spokesman seemed to confirm last month it did exactly that.

Previously, American advisors on the ground were required to go through an approval process with a command center in Baghdad before strikes were carried out. But in February, the AP reported the military had dropped this requirement to speed up strikes, with some advisors operating on the ground being “empowered” and no longer required to coordinate with Baghdad.

From the AP:

The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, confirmed to The Associated Press the rules of engagement in the fight against IS in Iraq were adjusted by the December directive, explaining that some coalition troops were given the “ability to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell.”

More coalition forces have been “empowered” to have the ability to call in strikes in the Mosul operation, Col. Dorrian told a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday.

Now contrast that with reporting from The New York Times, in which spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said rules had not been loosened. Besides its easing of the process, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces have increasingly gotten closer to direct combat.

Also read: Intel from Yemen raid prompted latest TSA electronics ban

Davis told The Times the strike that killed hundreds in Mosul was “at the request of Iraqi security forces,” and did not mention American advisors. This seems to suggest that US military planners may have received a direct request for air support from Iraqi troops, which may not have attempted to minimize collateral damage.

The idea of putting Iraqi troops in the driver seat with the ability to call in American air strikes seems a result of the “adjustment” of rules the AP had reported. In that story, published on Feb. 24, an Iraqi Army general is able to call an American lieutenant colonel to report a mortar attack and request support directly, something that had not been possible last year.

Col. Dorrian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon may be technically accurate when it says rules of engagement have not changed. Rules of engagement guidelines help troops understand when they can and cannot fire at an opposing force. Typically, troops are required to get positive identification of a target, only fire when under threat, and are required to minimize collateral damage when calling in air strikes.

While the overarching guidelines may not have changed, the process for carrying out air strikes certainly has — and it may be the reason why Mosul could be the site of the largest loss of civilian life since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that it would investigate the March 17 strike, accordingto The New York Times. The process is expected to take at least a few weeks.

“Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians,” a release on the coalition website says.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter with his 1911

When Army Air Forces bomber pilot Owen Baggett was trying to take out a bridge in WWII at Burma, he ended up having to bail out in the skies over the bridge. He landed in the history books.


In March 1943, Baggett and other airmen in his B-24 Liberator squadron were met by a baker’s dozen of Japanese Zero fighters as they went over their target. Baggett’s B-24 was hit numerous time in its fuel tanks and Baggett and his crew were forced to bail out.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
What a B-24 looks like when its fuel tanks are hit by AA fire.

Baggett, the co-pilot, covered their escape in the B-24’s top gun turret. He and the rest of the crew barely got out before the plane exploded.

The deadly Japanese attack kept coming, however, attacking the pilots in their parachutes as they gently fell to earth. Baggett decided to play dead in his rig, trying to avoid getting strafed by a fighter plane.

That’s when one of the Zeros got a little too close.

A Japanese pilot approached Baggett in his chute with the Zero’s nose up and at near-stalled speed. The enemy pilot opened his canopy to get a look at the American. Baggett, who was sneakily holding his M1911 pistol, snapped up and angrily fired four rounds into the Zero’s cockpit. The Zero spun to the ground.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
This alleged photo of Baggett shooting down the Zero is not real.

Colonel Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group, was also shot down that day. He said he saw the Japanese pilot’s body thrown clear of the downed plane and that the pilot was killed by a bullet to the head, not the plane crash.

But Melton himself was killed on a ship that was sunk as it headed toward Japan. If Baggett really did take down a fighter with a pistol, he would be the only person to ever shoot down an aircraft with a pistol.

When Baggett hit the ground, the enemy pilots were still trying to strafe him. He hid behind trees until ground forces captured him. Baggett spent two years as a POW in Rangoon, Burma. He was later rescued by OSS agents and stayed in the newly-created U.S. Air Force after the war’s end.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Baggett during WWII.

Baggett retired from the Air Force as a Colonel and later worked on Wall Street. He died in 2006 and firmly believed he was successful in shooting down the Zero with his 1911.