When American servicemen fall and are buried, it’s generally assumed that their resting place will be their last. Whether it’s a troop who was killed in World War I and buried in an American cemetery in France or a hero brought to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, the honored dead are not to be disturbed. However, some of these fallen heroes, whose identities were once unknown, are being disinterred.
One such ceremony took place in mid-July, 2018, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific near Honolulu, Hawaii. This cemetery, also known as the Punchbowl, is where thousands of servicemen who fell during operations in the Pacific Theater of World War II and the Korean War have been buried (some prominent civilians and non-KIAs are also buried there).
The reason for disturbing this rest is a damn good one, though.
U.S. service members with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) conduct a disinterment ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Devone Collins)
Perhaps the most high-profile disinterment for the purpose of identifying a fallen serviceman was of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, who had been interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1984. In 1998, evidence pointing to the identity of that soldier resulted in the decision to disturb the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to conduct DNA testing.
In 1998, the Department of Defense disinterred the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War to conduct DNA tests to determine his identity,
The tests eventually led to identifying the remains asthose of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, killed in action when his A-37 Dragonfly was shot down. Blassie’s remains were turned over to his family and he was buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. You can see the July 2018 disinterment at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the video below.
During a US and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise, a Russian destroyer created a “dangerous situation” by sailing into an area restricted for live-fire drills, the Ukrainian Navy said in an statement.
On July 10, 2019, the Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy purposefully sailed into an area reserved for naval gunfire exercises, part of the latest iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, the Ukrainian Navy said in a Facebook post.
“The Russian Federation once again showed its true face and provoked an emergency situation in the Black Sea, ignoring international maritime law,” the post explains, according to a translation by Ukrainian media.
The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy attempted to communicate with the Russian ship, but the latter is said to have feigned communication problems.
The Russian military, which has been conducting drills in the same area, says that the Ukrainian Navy is lying.
“The Ukrainian Navy’s claim that the Black Sea Fleet’s Smetlivy patrol vessel has allegedly entered a closed zone where Sea Breeze-2019 drills are held is not true,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said in a statement carried by Russian media. “Smetlivy acts in strict compliance with the international law.”
A US Navy spokesman told Defense One that the Russian ship was present but declined to offer any specific details on the incident. “The presence of the Russian ship had no impact to the exercise yesterday and all evolutions were conducted as scheduled,” Lt. Bobby Dixon, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, told the outlet.
He added, without elaborating, that “it can be ill-advised to enter an area given the safety hazard identified in a Notice to Mariners.”
The 19th iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze began on July 1, 2019, and will conclude July 19, 2019. The drills involved around 3,000 troops, as well as 32 ships and 24 aircraft, from 19 different countries and focused on a variety of training areas, including maritime interdiction operations, air defense, amphibious warfare, and more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.
K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.
“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”
Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.
After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.
75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love
Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.
“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.
“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.
The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.
“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.
“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.
“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.
While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.
Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.
The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.
Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.
The trailer for “Rambo: Last Blood” has been released, and this time, John Rambo’s fighting right here at home. It’s been 37 years since the first Rambo film hit theaters, yet somehow the titular character remains a fan favorite among veterans young and old. At first glance, this new movie looks just like Rambo’s previous outings: ripe with gritty violence and fiery explosions, but just beneath the surface, the Rambo franchise offers America’s veterans a whole lot more.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) Teaser Trailer— Sylvester Stallone
The Rambo franchise has always filled a unique role in the American cultural lexicon. Over the decades (yeah, decades), the franchise has shifted under the weight of popular sentiment across a wide spectrum of themes, delivering vastly different stories through the lens of the same main character.
From a troubled special operations veteran struggling to find his place in the “civilized” world, to a killing machine with a heart in the jungles of Burma, John Rambo’s character has long been a reflection of American fears about what war is, and more importantly, what it does to us. While Rambo may not offer us the most poignant approach to society’s ills, it has always been there like a cultural Rosetta Stone, translating contemporary fears into blockbuster action using the same visual language sold to the coveted blockbuster demographics that came before us. The world changes, but Rambo stays the same.
Okay, so maybe his knives get bigger.
In Rambo’s newest (and likely last) outing, the legendary character appears to have finally come home – working on a farm that, logic dictates, is close enough to the Mexican border to find the legendary warfighter squaring off against a powerful cartel. Unlike in previous Rambo films, which have shown the character traveling the world to fight the enemy, Last Blood brings the fight right to Rambo’s door. Of course, in keeping with the character’s (perhaps repetitive) journey, he seems reluctant to get involved at first, until an unseen catalyst forces his hand.
In many ways, the Rambo franchise has taken on its own sort of veteran journey, starting with the character’s struggle to find a place for himself after a war that gave him purpose, maturing into the story of a reluctant expert in his field, and now, proving that we veterans can still fight for what matters even as we get older. Rambo is indeed warrior-wish-fulfillment, but not in the ways its critics might imagine. The violence depicted in Rambo may be rad, but the violence isn’t the message, it’s the medium.
Rambo films are always about finding a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. Purpose, for many veterans, is exactly what we feel like we lack after we put up our boots for the last time. We may not see ourselves in John Rambo, but in the ludicrous universe these movies inhabit, we do see one of our own — struggling and winning, thanks to the same hard work, grit, and determination we prize in ourselves.
Unlike most veterans, John Rambo has always been able to pull off a bandana, though.
While it may seem lofty (and even silly) to attribute such serious thought to a film with the almost comical title of “Rambo: Last Blood,” it’s just as silly to dismiss the lasting effect John Rambo has had on generations of moviegoers. The first Rambo film hit theaters three years before I was born and twenty-four years before I put on a uniform for the first time, but somehow, the movie weaseled its way into my brain, informing some of my expectations about service and its social and political costs. The movie gave Vietnam veterans like my father a melodramatic and passionate spokesman — because hard emotions don’t trade in nuance, and neither does Rambo. And it spurred a series of sequels, each tailored specifically to their times and the conflicts weighing on American minds.
Last Blood’s Rambo is no different; as an aging veteran offers us one more wish fulfilled, proving that even as we get older, we can still fight just like we always have, and we can still sacrifice for a cause that’s worthy.
Is Rambo realistic? Of course not. Is it ham-fisted storytelling? Absolutely.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.
In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.
The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.
“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.
“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.
Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.
Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.
“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”
Just before the end of 2017, the Russian Navy commissioned its newest frigate, the Admiral Makarov. The ship, which will be based in Sevastopol, is an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, a multi-purpose ship that is certainly loaded for bear.
Each frigate in the Admiral Grigorovich class is armed with eight Club-N land-attack cruise missiles, a variant of the Kalibr missiles used to strike ISIS targets deep inside Syria. Two Kashtan CIWS air defense missile/gun systems and 24 Shtil-1 anti-aircraft missiles make up each ship’s air-defense component, as well as one A-190E gun at its bow.
The frigate boasts a range of 4850 nautical miles, a top speed of 30 knots, an endurance of 30 days, and a crew of 193.
The bulk of the Russian Navy’s current fleet are corvettes, small craft armed with long-range missiles that cannot stray too far from the coast for long. Frigates have traditionally been the backbone of most of the world’s navies, and Russia still hasn’t given up on having large surface warships like it did during the Cold War.
“Russia has realized that capabilities matter far more than platforms,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Business Insider.
“The Russian Navy is quite able to carry out its key missions, such as coastal protection and (increasingly) conventional deterrence with cruise missiles in addition to the SLBM role in nuclear deterrence,” Gorenburg said in an email.
The Admiral Makarov will be the third Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate in the Russian Navy. Russia originally planned to have of six of the frigates in total, but recent events have put the program’s schedule in an uncertain state.
Shipbuilding problems in the Russian Navy
The Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is essentially a thorough modernization of the Krivak IV-class frigate, a ship that was built for and exported to the Indian Navy from 1999 to 2012.
There were originally no plans for any more modernization of the Krivak series, but the Russian Navy began to have problems with the building and integration of the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate — the ship intended to be the center of the Russian Navy’s modern frigate fleet.
“It was just taking to long to finish,” Gorenburg said. “There were issues with some of the systems — it was a kind of brand new construction — and so they realized they really needed new ships more quickly than those were going to get approved.”
Russia then turned to and modernized the Krivak IVs, which they knew could be built and fielded faster, creating a new class in the process.
Construction of the ships hit a snag when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and war broke out in Ukraine. The ships needed a specific gas turbine engine that came from a Ukrainian company, which, after the annexation and breakout of war, was prevented from selling them.
As a result, Russia announced that it would sell two of the three Grigorovich-class frigates under construction to India, who will be able to buy the engines separately themselves.
Russia maintains that it will eventually have a total of six frigates for the Black Sea Fleet, after a domestic gas turbine engine is produced.
“There are still some problems in the shipbuilding industry, but they are not as bad as five years ago,” Gorenburg said in an email. “On the whole, the Navy is going to be quite successful at building effective small ships while putting off big ships (destroyers, aircraft carriers) for the indefinite future.”
Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.
On Nov. 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.
They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.
The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.
After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.
Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported in October 2019 that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
First, recipients of all these awards should be proud of themselves. Earning one of these medals show dedication to the U.S. military and is worthy of respect. However, that doesn’t stop service members making fun of their own awards.
1. Purple Heart
The Purple Heart, originally an award for merit established by General George Washington, is now given to any service member injured by enemy forces or recognized terrorist organizations. Since the award is given whenever an enemy successfully shoots an American, it’s jokingly called the “Enemy Marksmanship Badge.”
2. Special Warfare Insignia
Also known as the “SEAL Trident,” the badge of some of America’s most elite operators has a funny nickname. “Budweiser” refers to one of the classes SEALs recruits have to graduate to earn it, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs, or BUD/S.
3. National Defense Service Medal
The National Defense Service Medal is awarded for active duty service in the armed forces during times of war. For many recruits who receive it though, it can feel a bit hollow. After all, it’s typically given to recruits when they graduate basic training. Since it’s given so easily, service members have different nicknames for it.
One nickname used by the Marine Corps and Army is “Fire Watch Ribbon,” since doing overnight fire watch is about as hard as basic training gets. The Navy calls it the “Geedunk Ribbon,” referring to the sailors’ term for items available in a vending machine. Finally, some people from across the services call it the “Pizza Stain” because of its looks.
4. Army Commendation Medal
The Army Commendation Medal can be awarded for either merit or valor, with the valor award typically being the more impressive. On the merit or combat valor side, it’s one step below the Bronze Star. When awarded for noncombat valor, it’s just beneath the Soldier’s Medal. Soldiers call it, “The Green Weenie,” especially Vietnam vets.
5. Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
All of the branches award a Good Conduct Medal for every three years an enlisted members serves in a branch without receiving any criminal or military punishments. Most of the branches will make a joke when they give the award, saying something like, “Oh, you went three years without getting caught, huh? Must’ve been pretty sneaky!” The Marine Corps created its own joke by nicknaming it “The Good Cookie.”
6. Basic Parachutist badge
The nickname for the parachutist badge is so widespread, that some people think it’s the proper name. “Jump Wings” is pretty self-explanatory, since it’s a pair of wings given to military jumpers. They’re also sometimes called “Silver Wings” due to their color on the dress uniform.
Near-peer competition and the United States retaining its military competitive edge were among the issues the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed in an interview with Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius.
The interview — broadcast as part of the Post’s “Transformers” series — looked at the ways warfare and security are changing.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford addressed the challenges coming from Russia and China first off, using the Russian seizure of Ukrainian boats off Crimea as an example. “What took place in the Sea of Azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to Georgia, then Crimea and then Donbass in Ukraine,” he said.
Russia is stopping short of open conflict, the general said. Instead, he explained, Russian leaders push right to the edge. “What the Russians are really doing is testing the international community’s resolve in enforcing the rules that exist,” Dunford said.
Army Sgt. Samuel Benton observes and mentors soldiers during the Bull Run V training exercise with Battle Group Poland in Olecko, Poland, May 22, 2018.
(Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)
In this case, he said, clear violations of sovereignty and signed agreements have taken place. The international community “has got to respond diplomatically, economically or in the security space,” he added, or Russia “will continue what it’s been doing.”
No discussion of military response
The chairman stressed there has been no discussion about a military response to the Sea of Azov incident. The United States has assisted Ukraine in defending its sovereignty, he said, and will continue to do so.
Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987, and the United States will withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not get into compliance with it, Dunford said, noting that the arms-control treaties negotiated starting in the 1980s have provided strategic stability.
“In a perfect world,” he said, “what I would say would be best is if Russia would comply with the INF, it would set the conditions for broader conversations about other arms-control agreements, to include the extension of [the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty].”
Ignatius asked Dunford about China, and more specifically, how China is challenging U.S. military dominance. America’s greatest military advantages are its network of allies and the ability to project military power worldwide, the chairman said. Both China and Russia understand that, he added, and Russia is seeking to undermine NATO while China is seeking to undermine America’s network of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
On the military side, China is working on capabilities that would stop American power projection capabilities in the Pacific in all domains: sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace. “China has developed capabilities in all those domains to challenge us,” Dunford said. “The outcome of challenging us in those domains is challenging our ability to project power in support of our interests and alliances in the region.”
China’s clear aspirations
Reading China is tough, he acknowledged. The nation has been “opaque” with what it spends on defense, the chairman said, but Chinese leaders have not been opaque with their aspirations. “[Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] was very clear last year … where he wants China to be a global power with global power-projection capability,” Dunford said. “Among the capabilities they are developing is aircraft carriers, which would certainly indicate a desire to project power beyond their territorial waters.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China’s technological advances concern U.S. officials. China has sunk enormous sums into artificial intelligence research, and Dunford said the nation that has an advantage in AI will have an overall competitive advantage. Speed of decision is key in today’s warfare, he said, and a usable man-machine interface would give the country that perfects it an advantage.
The U.S. competitive advantage has reduced over the past decade, the chairman said. “I am confident in saying we can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments today, and we have an aggregate competitive advantage over any potential adversary,” he said. “I am equally confident in saying that if we don’t change the trajectory we are on, … whoever is sitting in my seat five or seven years from now will not be as confident as I am.”
The U.S. military depends of private firms to provide the military advantage. Today, that means getting the best in the world to get behind artificial intelligence research. Yet, employees at Google — arguably the best in the world — protested and backed away from engaging with the Defense Department. Ignatius asked Dunford what he would say to those employees.
“If they were all sitting her right now, I would say, ‘Hey, we’re the good guys,'” he said. “It is inexplicable to me that we would make compromises to make advances in China where we know that freedom is restrained, where we know China will take intellectual property from companies and strip it away.”
The United States has led the free world since the end of World War II, and even with some failings, the values of the United States infuse the free and open world order today, the general said, and if the United States were to withdraw, someone would fill that gap. “I am not sure that the people at Google would enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China,” he said.
No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.
Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.
Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.
This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.
2. The police may not have been the good guys.
There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.
3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.
Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.
However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …
4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.
Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.
The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.
5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.
And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.
Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.
6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.
Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.
7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.
You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.
However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.
In 1937, a young Chicago woman named Aida Garaffa lived across the street from a young man named Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto.
A trip to a local shop would join the two hearts together in love.
“My sister and I were walking to the corner of Throop Street. There was a grocery store where we bought ice cream. When we came out of the store we saw Jerry,” explained Aida Bonsonto who recalled that first meeting with her future husband.
“He asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with him. He wasn’t a big fellow. He was about five-feet four-inches but he was handsome,” she said.
But world events, specifically World War II, would interrupt their courtship.
“The war was going on. He was drafted,” explained the youthful 97-year-old. “He was inducted on Dec. 12, 1942. We were engaged and then he left for training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.”
Aida Bonsonto with her husband Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto pose for a photo, circa 1946.
Bonsonto trained as a medic and paratrooper and was assigned to the 307th medics of the 82nd Airborne Division.
“He landed in Africa first,” explained Bonsonto. “And he also served in Sicily, Italy, Ireland, England, France, Holland, and Germany. He was in the Battle of the Bulge.”
It was there where bullets fired by a German sniper found their mark hitting Pfc. Bonsonto. When she found out, she went to Holy Family Church in Chicago. The same church where the couple would be married later on June 8, 1946.
“When we found out he was wounded, I crawled from the door to the altar of Holy Family Church. I asked God to spare his life,” she said.
“They didn’t know if he was going to live,” she said. “He was badly wounded.”
But Jerry lived.
He was evacuated and sent to hospitals in England and Capri, Italy before he was discharged and sent home to the United States.
“He was never the same after that. He had a lot of pain,” she said.
Before he came home he sent the woman who would become his wife two boxes containing a parachute. Rationing was in effect, even after the war ended, and fabric was expensive. But a parachute made of silk and nylon provided Bonsonto with the material she needed for her wedding dress.
Aida Bonsonto wears a wedding dress, circa 1946, made from a parachute, that was sent home to her by Army medic Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
“I told the seamstress I wanted a sweetheart neckline with long sleeves,” said she said. “And the bridesmaids dresses were all made in Chiffon.”
“An Italian woman made the wedding dress and the bridesmaid gowns out of the parachute,” explained Bonsonto.
It turned out the wedding dress was not the only thing she owned that was made from a parachute.
“While he (Jerry) was in Normandy, he had a French lady make me a nightgown out of a parachute. It was all made by hand,” she said.
And the cost was not what one might expect.
“It cost him two packages of cigarettes. That’s all she asked for it”, said Bonsonto.
Bonsonto shared that she still keeps the nightgown.
“I only wore it when I got married,” said Bonsonto. “I kept it as a souvenir with the wedding dress. She also stitched my name on the nightgown. It’s very pretty.”
While she waited for Jerry to return home, life went on in her neighborhood in Chicago.
“We used to sit outside at night and have coffee and pastries. We slept near the fire hydrant when it was hot at night,” explained Bonsonto. “My brother put a loudspeaker on our parlor window and we would have a street dance.”
The family of Aida Bonsonto pauses for a photo with Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, Commanding General, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command and a wedding dress made from a World War II parachute that her husband sent home.
(Photo by Sgt. David Lietz)
But the party to end all parties was when World War II ended Sept. 2, 1945.
“It was remarkable how people celebrated. I think people celebrated at least three days on this block. People danced in the streets. It was like a festival,” she said.
When Jerry returned home he started working for his dad driving a truck and never talked about his wartime experiences, according to Bonsonto.
“He wore his combat boots every day working on the truck to remind him of what he went through,” said Bonsonto. “He wore them until he couldn’t wear them anymore when they fell apart.”
Her beloved Jerry passed away in 1980.
“Everybody liked him. He was funny. He minded his business, he worked and came home,” recalled Bonsonto.
Now Bonsonto has stated that she will loan the parachute wedding dress she wore on her wedding day to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Her next concern was how to get the wedding dress to the museum.
On Memorial Day of 2019, Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, South Carolina native and commanding general of the Chicago-based 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, traveled to suburban Orland Park to meet with Bonsonto and her family and pick up the dress.
A religious card taped into a scrapbook compiled by Aida Bonsonto showcases her husband’s military service during World War II.
“My mom has wanted to (loan) this parachute wedding dress for years,” explained her daughter-in-law, Caroline Bonsonto. “She has been contacting different museums for years. This is something she has been pursuing.”
“There’s lots of stories about these parachute wedding dresses but not a lot of actual dresses in museums,” explained John Aarsen, museum director for the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum. “We love them. It helps tell the stories about the families.”
The museum currently has one parachute wedding dress on display.
“By having this parachute wedding dress we can rotate them for display,” according to Aarsen who also serves as a U.S. Army Reserve brigadier general at the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Wichita, Kansas.
At the end of the evening, completed by a hearty meal and good fellowship, Bonsonto turned the dress over to Belanger.
Belanger is scheduled to bring it to the 82nd Airborne Division War Museum where a wedding dress made from a parachute will help tell future generations about the love story of a soldier named Jerry and his bride Aida.
“I thought it was quite an honor to be a part of taking a piece of history and making it public,” said Belanger. “Making history in such a way that it means so much to a family. It was an honor they trusted me to take a historic family heirloom and then display it for all to see. It is really incredible.”