How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last surviving head of state to serve during WWII is … Queen Elizabeth II?

Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch. However, she was breaking barriers even before the crown became hers. Elizabeth was also the first female of the Royal family to be an active duty member of the British Armed Forces. This also makes her the last surviving head of state to have served during World War II.

When Elizabeth was born in 1926, she was not destined for the throne. Her father, Albert, was the second son of King George V. It wasn’t until 1936, when Elizabeth was 10, that her world was turned upside down. It was in this year that her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in the name of love and her father became King George VI. This made 10-year-old Elizabeth the heir presumptive.


It wasn’t until World War II that King George VI found his footing as the leader of Great Britain. During this time, despite the repeated aerial attacks by the Nazi air force, the King refused to leave London. The British government urged the queen to take her daughters to Canada, however. She refused stating, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.” Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret did end up leaving the city, though, just like thousands of other children who were evacuated at the time. The girls spent much of the war at Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

HRH Princess Elizabeth (centre) with officers of the ATS Training Centre. (Wikimedia Commons)

As the war continued, Elizabeth, like many other young Britons, yearned to do her part for the cause. Her very protective parents refused to allow her to enlist. Elizabeth was head-strong though, and after a year of debate her parents relented. In early 1945, they gave the then 19-year-old Elizabeth their permission to join the Armed Forces.

In February 1945, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). ATS provided key support during the war. Its members were anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, mechanics and drivers. Elizabeth attended six weeks of auto mechanic training at Aldershot. During this training she learned how to deconstruct, repair and rebuild engines. By July of that year she had risen in the ranks from Second Subaltern to Junior Commander. For the first time, Elizabeth worked alongside her fellow Brits, and revelled in the freedom of it.

She took her ATS duties very seriously. However, the future queen repairing automobiles proved to be irresistible to the press. Her enlistment made headlines around the world as they applauded her commitment to the war effort. The Associated Press deemed her “Princess Auto Mechanic.” In 1947 Collier’s Magazine wrote, “One of her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains in her hands, and display these signs of labor to her friends.”

Elizabeth was still serving in the ATS when Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. She and Margaret famously snuck out of Buckingham Palace to join the celebrations in London. Her military service officially ended when Japan surrendered later that same year.

Later, Elizabeth once again overcame objections from her family when she married Philip Mountbatten, a Greek-born officer in the Royal Navy, in November 1947.

Her father, King George VI, led his country through its darkest hour, but the war coupled with a life-long smoking habit left him in poor health. On February 6, 1952, King George VI died in his sleep after a long-suffering battle with lung cancer. This meant that at 25 years old, Elizabeth became Queen.

Even now in her 90s, Elizabeth maintains a love of automobiles. She can still be found behind the wheel of one of the many cars in the Royal collection. She’s also been known to jump at the chance to diagnose and repair faulty engines, just as she trained to do more than 70 years ago. She also holds on to her pride in the journey that brought her from military mechanic during World War II to the Crown.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This group believes in the power of pups to treat vets’ invisible wounds

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among soldiers returning from war and cannot always be treated with medication or talk therapy, causing some organizations to turn to service dogs to provide support and emotional relief.


Jordan Covin, founder of The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, has a husband and brother that served in the U.S. Army. Neither one of her family members suffers from service-related illnesses, but she says that her proximity to them gives her a unique sense of empathy, which she uses to help others.

“We are a coalition of nonprofits that only work with military veterans and focus on meeting their specific needs with service dogs,” Covin said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “But it’s not only about the dog. The dog is just a tool. What we actually provide is a place where veterans can gather to share their feelings of isolation and alienation. We help create a sense of community and purpose, by bringing the right people together.”

Covin said that groups within her organization have become a network — sharing information and resources instead of competing against one another. She hopes to continue expanding the association, adding more groups who share her vision and goal.

In fact, the idea of using a service dog for psychiatric or emotional reasons is relatively new. Service dogs were originally tasked to perform physical functions for those were incapacitated, such as a seeing eye dog. Covin said that’s all changing now, thanks to a demand for more alternative treatments to address PTSD.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

“We all know about dogs for blindness and injuries, but using dogs as a psychiatric tool is very new. It’s an alternative treatment program and that presents challenges. But the niche group that looks only at this and is specializing in this, we can push this into mainstream. It’s not alternative anymore. That is how we want to be seen,” she said.

Eighty-two percent of voters from military households where at least one member is active support the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll. These numbers show that once-taboo treatment methods are beginning to find their way into the mainstream. Covin hopes this will continue happening with service dogs.

“We hope to bring in some grant money for research — bring together a group of experts, and help refine a programmatic model for these veterans that serves their needs best, and maximizes the efficiency of their service dog,” she said.

The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday with several lawmakers that supported passing the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act. The bill has bipartisan support and, if passed, would allocate grant money to eligible organizations that pair service dogs with soldiers suffering from PTSD.

“Veterans have given enough and need to be treated with dignity, respect and honor — that’s what our association ensures,” Covin said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Same-sex couples aren’t unicorns

Mallory and Stacy “Lux” Krauss are deeply proud of how far things have come since the riots of Stonewall, but they also know this country still has a lot more work to do.

“When I joined the Coast Guard, it was right after they repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Honest to God, I went to the recruiter that very next day,” Lux shared.

She explained that prior to the repeal, she had wanted to join, but said she couldn’t be a part of something that wasn’t inclusive and accepting of all people.


When the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal was being discussed within congress, the Coast Guard and the Navy were the only two branches of service that didn’t initially oppose it.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Mallory and Lux met at the 2013 pride parade in San Francisco, while they were both in California attending “A” schools for the United States Coast Guard. It was the first year that the military was allowing participation in pride events and both had been asked to walk in the parade.

“The pride parade is important because it’s a remembrance of Stonewall, but it’s also to say, ‘Hey, we are here and this is who we are’,” Lux shared.

Following that parade, they began dating. They returned to that same parade a year later. It was there that Mallory proposed to Lux. They married not long after that and eventually Mallory decided to leave the Coast Guard. They now have two sons, born in 2016 and 2020. Both boys were carried by Lux and Mallory is also listed on both of their birth certificates as their mother, something that only became legal shortly before their first son was born.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Although things are moving forward, a lingering fear is always present for both of them.

“It still makes me nervous to go to any new command and share that I have a wife and children. You never know, you could have that one person who may be of the extreme who has the ability to ruin your career because you are gay,” said Lux.

She explained that even now when the Coast Guard puts something official out about pride or inclusivity on their social media, the comments can turn hateful fast and many of those commenting negatively are in the Coast Guard themselves.

That feeling of nervousness is ever present in everything they do and it’s something that many in the LGBTQ community are deeply familiar with. Despite multiple laws being passed to assure equality, there are still those in this country who are adamantly opposed to acknowledging and accepting them.

Once while standing in line at a candy story in Tennessee, a man behind them asked if they were gay. Although this was the first time they’d ever been rudely asked that question, they were very familiar with stares of others. Everywhere they go, especially in the southern states, they wonder if they’ll be accepted.

Now, they have to worry for their children too.

While getting one of their boys registered for a recent medical procedure, Mallory was filling out the paperwork when she was asked who the mom was. She explained that both she and Lux were his moms. The response was one they had always dreaded hearing, ‘but who is the real mom?’ This is a question that most straight couples will never have to face hearing.

Most will also never have to worry about legal custody being questioned either.

“There’s a grey area, if something were to happen to Lux and her parents wanted to take our children, they might legally be able to,” said Mallory.

She explained that although she is on their birth certificates, because she isn’t biologically related to them that risk is present unless she legally adopts them or specific laws are passed to protect them. Although Mallory said she knows her in-laws would never do that, it’s still something that no parent should ever have to think about.

Every time they move on Coast Guard orders, they wonder how the new doctor or school will react to their family. They both shared that so far, their experiences have been positive but they look forward to the day they don’t have to think about it. Although this country has come a long way since Stonewall, more work still has to be done. When asked what pride month means to them and what they want other military families to know, it was easy for them to respond.

They don’t want to be treated like unicorns.

“People need to realize, we are not any different from any other family,” said Mallory with a laugh. “We have our kids and we are worried about their future, there’s nothing special about us. We just want to be like everyone else,” Lux shared.

To learn more about the history of oppression and violence those in the LGBTQ community experienced and the inequality they still face today, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog are livestreaming a comedy show tonight. Here’s how to watch.

One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.

If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.


How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The what

Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.

Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.

Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The where

Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.

The who

The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.

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Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.

The why

For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:

We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.

The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.

After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”

The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.

Articles

This is the true story of the pier master at Dunkirk

Chritsopher Nolan’s new “Dunkirk” movie features Sir Kenneth Branagh as the cool-under-fire Commander Bolton, but his character is largely based on a real British officer who underwent greater hardships to save British and French forces and was tragically lost at sea during the evacuation.


Operation Dynamo, as the evacuation of Dunkirk was known, was a desperate play by the British to salvage as much of their expeditionary force as they could after Hitler’s war machine tore through allied forces and nations in Europe faster than nearly anyone anticipated.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
The German blitzkrieg took many by surprise. Here, the Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, thought to be one of the world’s best fortresses and practically impregnable, sits occupied after a single morning of fighting thanks to a daring German paratrooper attack on May 10, 1940. (Photo: Public Domain)

The original goal was to get 45,000 men out in two days before the defensive line at Dunkirk, the last Allied-held territory in the area, collapsed. A Canadian member of the Royal Navy, Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston, was assigned to getting as many men as possible off the “East Mole.”

The East Mole was actually one of two breakwaters used to protect the beach and channel from ocean currents. It was about a mile long and just wide enough for four men. It was a clear target for German planes to attack and provided little opportunity for cover. But, it was an efficient way to get large numbers of men off.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
British troops board the destroyer HMS Vanquisher during low tide by using scaling ladders to climb down from the Mole (at left). (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Clouston quickly got the Mole operating as the top method of evacuating troops. He ordered evacuating troops to move in groups of 50 to cut down on the chaos on the span and positioned as many ships as possible along the length for simultaneous boarding.

On the first day that Clouston and other members of a commanding party under Capt. William Tennant were operating on the beach, the number of troops evacuated rose from 7,669 to 18,527. Many of these men made it out thanks to Clouston’s efforts on the Mole, which was averaging 1,000 evacuations per hour.

But German air raids targeting the Mole began to take real effect. The third of three air raids on May 29, 1940, three ships were lost including the destroyer HMS Grenade, which had been providing defensive support of the operation as well as embarking evacuating troops.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
170802-DLN-The Royal Navy’s HMS_Grenade_(H86) which was later sunk by a dive bomber while evacuating troops at Dunkirk. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Panic broke out on the Mole after a bomb blew a hole in a section. Troops attempted to rush off, but Clouston ordered a lieutenant to draw his revolver and restore order. The troops on the Mole were quickly corralled onto a trawler and sent away.

A panicked junior officer drove to a resort northeast of Dunkirk and called an officer in England to erroneously report that the harbor was blocked by one of the sunken ships. Evacuations slowed as most vessels headed to other places instead the East Mole.

But word got out that the Moles were still in operation, and the pace picked up. One of the best days for the Mole came on June 1 when, despite a devastating air raid, over 47,000 men made it onto ships from the pier.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

That night, six days into what was supposed to be a 48-hour operation, Clouston was recalled to Dover to take part in a planning meeting for a massive lift on June 2. After the meeting ended, Clouston was headed back to Dunkirk in the pre-dawn hours in a small motorboat when he was attacked by German bombers. His boat quickly sank.

Clouston waved off the assistance of a second boat. Survivors said that he was worried the Germans would spot it and attack while the boat was stationary. He attempted to swim to another vessel a couple of miles away but was lost at sea.

In the end, a total 338,226 men were evacuated through June 4. Almost 240,000 of them made it off from the harbor and the Mole.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the actual footage of George Bush’s WWII sea rescue

During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.

“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”


His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.

He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel “Flyboys: A True Story of Courage,” their livers even eaten by their captors.

After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.

President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO chief demands that Russia release Ukrainian sailors

The head of NATO has demanded that Russia release Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels it seized in a confrontation at sea, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea are “absurd.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke on December 3 as Russia continued to hold the 24 Ukrainian seamen in Moscow jails on border-violation charges Kyiv rejects.


NATO chief warns Russia over Crimea incident after chairing emergency talks

www.youtube.com

“Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships,” Stoltenberg said on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers who will address that issue, among others.

Russia, he said, “must also allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels — military as well as civilian — have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”

Russia has been holding the sailors — crewmen from three Ukrainian naval craft — since the confrontation on November 25 in which Russian Coast Guard ships rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on the boats before special forces boarded them.

The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and took over from Ukraine in March 2014, and raised fears of a flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.

NATO chief on Russia and hacking allegations

www.youtube.com

Peskov dismissed concerns that Russia could seek to gain access by land to Crimea by seizing or helping the separatists to seize territory on the Azov shore from Mariupol to the isthmus further west that links the Ukrainian mainland to Crimea.

“It’s an absolutely absurd claim. It is another attempt to generate tension. Regretfully, attempts like this will most likely continue as we approach” the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled for March 31, he said.

Peskov claimed that “Russia has never invaded anything or created any corridors anywhere.”

But in addition to occupying and taking over Crimea, Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say there is ample evidence that Russia has given the separatists in eastern Ukraine major military support in the war.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for one of the Ukrainian sailors confirmed on December 3 that all 24 had been charged by Russian authorities with “illegal border crossing.”

Nikolai Polozov, who is representing Denys Hrytsenko, said the sailors were formally charged on November 27.

Dzhemil Temishev, an attorney for another of the sailors, said on November 29 that 21 of the detainees were being transferred from Russia-annexed Crimea to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.

Russian authorities say three other Ukrainian sailors wounded on November 25 were receiving medical treatment at a different, unspecified detention center.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on December 3 that the detained Ukrainian sailors had food, “clothes, and all the necessities.”

In remarks that appeared aimed to portray the jailing of the sailors as a strictly legal issue and tell the world that they were not being mistreated, Moskalkova said on state-run Rossia-24 TV that rights monitors “have visited the sailors and spoken with every one of them.”

She said the sailors “have no complaints about custody conditions or medical aid” and that lawyers had access to their clients. Her comments could not be independently verified.

The incident has raised tensions between Kyiv and Moscow to their highest point since Moscow seized Crimea.

Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in 10 regions, including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov.

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the altercation. Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all sea traffic during the incident, and Kyiv says Russia has continued to deny passage to Ukrainian commercial traffic in and out of Mariupol and Berdyansk, another port on the Sea of Azov.

Western leaders — including all members of the G7 leading industrialized states — have called on Russia to release the Ukrainian crew and return the seized navy ships to Kyiv.

popular

Watch this Spirit decimate an airfield with 80 JDAMs

The B-2 Spirit is perhaps the most expensive bomber ever built, costing over $1 billion per aircraft (when all the R&D costs are factored in). For that money, though, there is a lot of capability this plane brings.


For instance, the B-2 is capable of dropping precision-guided weapons, namely the Joint Direct Attack Munition.

The GBU-31 is a 2,000-pound bomb, with the smaller GBU-38 packing a 500-pound warhead. Either can use Global Positioning System guidance to hit within about 35 feet of a target. Let’s just say your day won’t go well after that, nor will you have any chance of future improvement.

Its stealth technology also means that the only warning someone has that a B-2 is overhead with hostile intentions will be when the bombs hit.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A few years ago, the Air Force ran one test of the B-2 with the 500-pound JDAMs. The plane was loaded with 80 inert versions of the GBU-38 and was sent to hit a simulated airfield in Utah. In addition to two runways, there were other targets simulated, including a SA-6 “Gainful” missile site, a SS-1 Scud launch site, an aircraft revetment, a hangar, and the other accoutrements that one finds around an airfield.

Think of it as a stealthy version of an Arc Light.

A video of the test not only shows the number of bombs a B-2 can carry, but it also shows just how accurate JDAMs are. Note, the runways are also thoroughly cratered, meaning any planes that survived the pass of the first B-2, will be kept at the field until the next strike arrives.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions at the Utah Testing and Training Range.

Of course, America only has 20 B-2 Spirit bombers available, per an Air Force fact sheet. You can see the video of the strike below.

MIGHTY BRANDED

9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr


The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.

1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.

Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.

2. Someone to actually answer your call.

The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.

3. One call does it all.

Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”

4. Total online resource.

Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback.  All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!

5. Now you can actually find your service center.

Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.

Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.

Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.

6. There’s an app for that.

Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.

 7. No more waiting.

When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.

8. Claims are processed faster.

In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.

9. Taking out the middleman.

Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.

These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.

Military Life

Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Take a look at the naming convention of any combat arms battalion. Chances are that alpha company is “Assassins,” bravo company is “Barbarians,” and, because there’s no clever, hardcore, historical fighter that starts with ‘C,’ charlie company will be “Reapers” or something.


Toss in the occasional Spartans, outlaws, rebels, anarchists, dragons, zombies, gladiators, and make sure to leave some clever pun for headquarters (something like “Troubleshooters” — get it? It’s an IT thing and it’s because they shoot trouble. Hey, don’t you roll your eyes at me, I didn’t make it up…).

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Let’s not forget everyone who uses The Punisher’s skull on everything…
(Courtesy Photo)

Recently, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, issued a directive to ban any and all “death symbology and iconography” from the Australian Army, effective immediately. This includes all of the above-mentioned names and forbids the use of symbols like skulls and weapons in logos (which, technically, should include the most Australian special operations unit, the 1st Commando Regiment, whose logo pictures a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife stabbing a boomerang. Just sayin’).

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said,

“Such symbology… is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession — the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Because infantrymen from a country where everything can kill you shouldn’t be associated with things that can kill you.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

With the utmost respect towards the Australian Chief of Army, hardcore names and symbols don’t take away from the seriousness of combat. It never has and never will. It boosts the morale of our troops while demoralizing the enemy. If even a single life of any American, NATO, ANZAC, and any other allied troop is saved by the psychological impact of these symbols, then repeatedly telling troops they’re hardened killers is worth it.

Death iconography bands the troops together because it’s a fun symbol to be associated with. It’s powerful. It hypes them up for the ultimate reality — some of them will fight in combat and see real consequences. The symbols serve as warnings to the enemy that these people are not to be messed with.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines tackle training in terrain that is ‘unlike anything else’

Accompanied by nothing but sand, rocks, and the desert sun, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division continue to prepare for the unrelenting forces ahead by training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 15-July 19, 2019.

U.S. Marines of Invictus participated in a five-day field operation where they were evaluated as squads, based on how well they shoot, move, and communicate towards their objective.

When asked what the purpose of the evaluation was, Cpl. Zorenehf L. Yabao, a squad leader said, “To see where their performance is at and what they need to improve on for the duration of the pre-deployment training. From here on out, it is not going to be easy.”


With temperatures reaching more than 110 degrees, the constant running, yelling and shooting takes its toll. Yabao added “At the end of the day, you are taking control of your squad. You should not freak out or worry about anything else. You have to focus on the mission, what your commander’ task and purpose is and what you need to do. Just focus on caring about your squad, controlling them and getting the mission done.”

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)

1st Lt. Michael Mursuli, a platoon commander with the company said, “Morgan’s Well is one of the most difficult terrains to navigate being that there are so many hills and crevices. The terrain here is unlike anything else.”

The company trained with a variety of weapons systems varying from rifles and grenade launchers to machine guns and anti-armour launchers.

While speaking to the Company, Capt. Richard Benning, the company commander asked what the difference between the tiger, the lion, and the wolf is.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)

After being met with faces of confusion he stated, ” The wolf is not in the circus. The wolf cares about the wolf pack and the wolf pack alone. Invictus is the wolf pack.”

When asked about the training area, Mursuli said, “Twentynine Palms is the varsity league. There are more areas and opportunity’s to train here. Negotiating the terrain is very difficult and there are more ranges, bigger ranges and the ranges themselves are a beast to tackle. You are doing what the whole Marine Corps is doing but you are doing it on more difficult terrain.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Breaking: Air Force veteran and host of Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton, dead at 93

James Lipton, best known for his role in creating and producing Inside the Actors Studio died earlier today from bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan. His wife, Kedaki Turner, told TMZ, “There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with.”


While Lipton was known for his conversational style with countless actors during the show’s run from 1994 through his retirement as host in 2018, less is known about his early life. Lipton was born in Detroit on Sept. 19, 1926 to Betty and Louis Lipton. His mother was a teacher and librarian and his father was a columnist and did graphic design for The Jewish Daily Forward. Following high school, Lipton enlisted in the Air Force during World War II.
How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

In an interview with AOPA Pilot, Lipton said, “I always wanted to fly.” Unable to afford lessons he joined the military and qualified as an aviation candidate. When peace broke out—like any performer Lipton doesn’t want to reveal his age, but we’re guessing it was sometime after World War II—pilots were suddenly required to sign on for four years. “I didn’t want to spend the next four years doing that,” he said, so he mustered out and moved to New York to study law. Being in law school he couldn’t afford not to work, so to pay for law school he worked as an actor.

While his career may have had a slow start in the acting business, Lipton went from unknown to iconic with the launch of his project Inside the Actors Studio.

“James Lipton was a titan of the film and entertainment industry and had a profound influence on so many,” Frances Berwick, president of NBCU Lifestyle Networks and home to Bravo, said in a statement on Monday. “I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 20 years on Bravo’s first original series, his pride and joy Inside the Actors Studio. We all enjoyed and respected his fierce passion, contributions to the craft, comprehensive research and his ability to bring the most intimate interviews ever conducted with A-list actors across generations. Bravo and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Jim’s wife, Kedakai, and all of his family.”

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

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Inside the Actors studio was incredibly popular, with such A-list guests as Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, James Cameron; after 22 seasons the list goes on and on. Lipton was always prepared for his interviews and humbled by the show’s continued success.

According to The Daily Mail, one of Lipton’s favorite moments in the show’s history was when a former student returned as a guest.

‘What I’ve waited for is that one of my graduated students has achieved so much that he walks out and sits down on that chair next to me,’ Lipton said.

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‘It happened when Bradley Cooper walked out on that stage. We looked at each other and burst into tears. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.’

As Lipton told THR‘s Scott Feinberg in June 2016: “If you had put a gun to my head and said, ‘I will pull the trigger unless you predict that in 23 years, Inside the Actors Studio will be viewed in 94 million homes in America on Bravo and in 125 countries around the world, that it will have received 16 Emmy nominations, making it the fifth-most-nominated series in the history of television, that it will have received an Emmy Award for outstanding informational series and that you will have received the Critics’ Choice Award for best reality series host — predict it or die,’ I would have said, ‘Pull the trigger.'”

Rest in peace, Sir.

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