Surviving members of Merrill's Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

In an action that has been long overdue, Congress has approved the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the famed Merrill’s Marauders of World War II. The House passed the resolution last week after the Senate had approved it last fall. It is expected that President Donald Trump will sign it shortly.

Only one Congressional Gold Medal is awarded each year to a person or institution. It is deemed, “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” according to the award’s official website.

Merrill’s Marauders were named after General Frank Merrill. The 3,000-strong unit was officially the 5307th Composite Unit. It was trained to work behind Japanese lines during the Burma campaign of World War II.


Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Marauders move under fire against Japanese positions.

Unfortunately, combat, disease, and time have taken their toll. Today there are only eight surviving members of the famed unit. When the push for awarding the medal began in 2016, there were still 28 Marauders still alive.

“I feel like I’m floating on air,” Robert Passanisi, a 96-year-old veteran of the unit, who is also the spokesman for the surviving members and a historian, said when hearing the news.

“It has been a long journey, and we’ve had to struggle through three congressional sessions to obtain this great honor,” Passanisi said. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”

Some individual members of the unit, including Japanese-American interpreters as well as OSS troops who fought with the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, had already been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

The House passed the bill one day after the 77th anniversary of 2,000 volunteers boarding the SS Lurline on Sept. 21, 1943, in San Francisco to ship out to New Caledonia. There, another 1,000 veterans from the South Pacific front joined them.

After the U.S. troops had been driven out of Burma by the Japanese in 1943, the Americans decided that they needed a “Long Range Penetration” mission behind Japanese lines. The plan was to disrupt and destroy the enemy’s supply lines and communications, to attack him from behind, and to try to regain the Burma Road.

General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell grimly summarized the campaign: “I claim we got a hell-of-a-beating. We got run out of Burma, and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake [Burma].”

The call went out for volunteers for “A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission.” Over 3,000 men answered that call, some from far-flung bases in Panama and Trinidad; others were veterans from New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and elsewhere. Thus the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was born.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Merrill (holding the map) with members of his staff.

The unit got its nickname from Time correspondent James R. Shepley. Reporters sent to cover the fighting in Burma were looking for a hook to capture the imagination of the American public back home. Nicknaming the unit served that purpose.

Frank Merrill didn’t look like a man whose job it was to lead a Special Operations Task Force behind enemy lines. Although he was a powerfully built man, he was plagued with a bad heart and poor eyesight. He had graying hair and smoked his pipe non-stop. He had little experience commanding troops but was a brilliant and unshakable leader.

During training and operations, Merrill drove himself even harder than his men; because of that, they loved, respected, and believed in him. The Chinese troops, part of General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell’s command, loved him nearly as much as General Chenault, the commander of the “Flying Tigers.”

Merrill was born in the small town of Hopkinton, Mass. (the starting point for the Boston Marathon.) He tried unsuccessfully to get into West Point before joining the Army as a private. Working his way up to Staff Sergeant, he was finally accepted to the U.S. Military Academy on his sixth application. He graduated and was commissioned as a cavalry officer.

Merrill spent time in Japan as an assistant military attaché and learned Japanese while stationed there. Just prior to Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the Chinese-Burma Theater and was with Stillwell on his long march out of Burma.

He trained his unit hard, working them for three months with Orde Wingate’s Chindits, the British unit that had already carved a name for themselves in the theater.

The Marauders were divided into three battalions and formed into six combat teams (400 per team), color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange, and Khaki. There were two teams to a battalion. The rest of the men formed the H.Q. and Air Transport Commands.

Originally the Marauders and Chindits were to serve together under Wingate’s command but Stillwell, a noted Anglophobe, would have none of it. He wanted the 5307th for his own plans. His noted feelings and bitterness toward the British would later prove costly.

During the next four months, Merrill’s Marauders would take part in five major and 30 minor engagements with the Japanese veteran 18th Division which had taken both Singapore and Malaya.

In their first action against the Japanese 18th Division, they moved to set up blocking positions at Walawbum 10 miles behind the Japanese lines. General Tanaka, who commanded the Japanese forces, fearing that Stillwell was trying to encircle his forces, promptly attacked the Marauders.

The Americans beat back several bayonet attacks and caused significant casualties. The Japanese had 650 dead and as many wounded. The Americans had just seven killed and 36 wounded.

In the south, Wingate’s Chindits were hitting Tanaka hard cutting the railway lines and forcing him to withdraw northward. After two months of near-constant fighting, the Marauders were reeling; many of them were already sick with malaria. But their biggest mission lay ahead.

Less than a year after its creation, the unit was tasked with conducting a long and dangerous mission over the mountains. They had to trek across nearly 1,100 miles over the mountainous, nearly impenetrable jungle, in the foothills of the Himalayas, with no tanks or heavy artillery, to attack the Japanese. Their goal was to capture the important Japanese airfield at Myitkyina. The Operation would be known as “End Run.”

Capturing the airfield would benefit the supply aircraft since it would no longer have to fly over “the Hump” to ferry supplies to Kunming, China. It would also allow the Allies to construct the Ledo Road through which supplies could also travel to Kumming.

Augmenting the Marauders, who were down to about 50 percent strength due to casualties and tropical diseases, were two Chinese regiments and 300 Kachin tribesmen who were led by the OSS.

Merrill, having just returned to duty after his second heart attack, was beside the men and encouraging them all the way. The trek was so steep, muddy, and treacherous. Merrill’s men would lose half of their pack animals, along with their necessary equipment. And nearly half of the men became sick with amoebic dysentery after drinking water from streams that the Chinese were using the streams as a latrine.

After wiping out a small Japanese garrison at Ripong, 149 of the men came down with typhus. Several of the men died including Colonel Henry Kinnison, one of the team leaders. The Marauders arrived at their target location on the night of May 16.

The next morning they began their assault which was led by Lt. Colonel Charles Hunter. The Marauders and two Chinese regiments snuck past the Japanese undetected and attacked the airfield from the north, south, and west. They took the Japanese completely by surprise.

Not only did they seize the airfield but the Chinese troops also took a ferry landing on the Irrawaddy River. By 1530 hrs on the 17th of May, Merrill had radioed the code words “Merchant of Venice” which meant that the airstrip was already set for taking in C-47 transport aircraft.

Lord Mountbatten sent Stillwell the following message:

“By the boldness of your leadership, backed by the courage and endurance of your American and Chinese troops, you have taken the enemy completely by surprise and achieved a most outstanding success by seizing the Myitkyina airfield.”

The airfield seizure was considered a brilliant military move. Yet the Americans had lost a major opportunity in not capturing the town of Myitkyina. The town was only defended by about 700 Japanese troops but Hunter had been given no orders to take it.

Additionally, a fresh division, the British 36th, could have easily joined the Americans but Stillwell wanted no part of the British in this operation. This was a big mistake. Stillwell then sent anti-aircraft crews and engineers to fix an airstrip that was already totally operational, instead of securing badly needed arms and ammunition. By the time Merrill’s Marauders’ 2nd Battalion attacked the town, the Japanese had been reinforced and now had 3,500 well dug-in troops. The Marauders’ attacks failed.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Merrill and Stillwell in Burma.

Diseases, typhus, malaria, and dysentery, kept reducing the Marauders’ numbers until only 200 effective riflemen were left. In response, Stillwell scraped together more engineers and support troops; yet these men were totally green.

The Japanese managed to hold onto the town of Myitkyina until late summer. By then, the Marauders were no longer an effective fighting outfit. They were pulled out of the line finally in June and disbanded by August.

But by the excellent efforts of both the Marauders and the Chindits, the airfield at Myitkyina saved the transports from flying over the dangerous “Hump” into China. And with the Ledo Road complete, the 1,100-mile supply route to Kunming was now open.

Merrill was promoted to Major General and was transferred to the Pacific Theater. He was the Chief of Staff of the 10th Army under General Buckner during the Okinawa campaign. Later he held the same position for the Sixth Army in the Philippines. He was present on the battleship Missouri for the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

After the war, he was briefly the Deputy Chief for the Military Advisory for the Philippines but a third heart attack forced him into retirement. He returned to his native New England and retired in New Hampshire where he was given the job of State Highway Commissioner by the governor. Merrill died of a heart attack in Fernandina Beach, Florida on December 11, 1955. He was only 52 years old. He was buried at West Point next to General Stillwell per his wishes.

On August 10, 1944, the surviving Merrill’s Marauders were consolidated into the 475th Infantry, which continued service in northern Burma until February 1945. In June of 1954, the 475th Infantry was redesignated as the 75th Infantry. Thereby, the men of Merrill’s Marauders became the parents of the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which descended the 75th Ranger Regiment of today. This is why the six colors that represented the Marauders’ combat teams are now worn on the beret flash of the Ranger Regiment.

Merrill was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992. In his honor, Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia, is home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The first combat qualified female naval aviator died in a crazy accident

When Lt. Kara Hultgreen died while trying to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the event touched off a national debate about women in combat roles and the military pushing women who weren’t ready into active service. Except Hultgreen was more than qualified to be a naval aviator – she was just a victim of a well-known deficiency in the F-14’s Pratt & Whitney engine.


Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

“Top Gun” doesn’t mention engine deficiencies.

Hultgreen’s mom thought she would be the perfect debutante. Instead, her little Kara set out to be a Naval Aviator, flying the F-14 Tomcat. The goal didn’t stop at the F-14, Kara Hultgreen wanted to be an astronaut one day. But she didn’t start with the Tomcat, she started her career flying the less-pretty EA-6A. She made it to the Tomcat 18 months later.

“Yes, it’s a macho job in a number of ways,” she told Woman Pilot magazine before she died. “But that’s not why I wanted to do it. I did this to become a fighter pilot. It makes me feel no less feminine and it should not make men feel less masculine. The F-14 is a humbling jet and I’ve been humbled.”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Call Sign: “Revlon”

What she meant by being humbled is that Hultgreen narrowly failed her first attempt at F-14 carrier qualification. But she passed easily her second time around, ranking third in her class overall. Tragically, it was a similar event that would result in her death.

On Oct. 25, 1994, she was attempting to land her F-14 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. She overshot the landing area’s centerline and attempted to correct the mistake. Her correction disrupted the airflow into her Tomcat’s left engine, which caused it to fail. This was a known deficiency in that particular engine. What she did next caused the plane to tilt over to the left. When her Radar Intercept Officer realized the plane was not recoverable, he initiated the plane’s ejection sequences. He was fired out, and .4 seconds later, Hultgreen was fired out of the plane.

But by then, the Tomcat had turned over by 90 degrees and Hultgreen was launched into the ocean, killing her instantly.

By the time she died, Lt. Hultgreen had more than 1,240 hours of flying time in the F-14 Tomcat and had landed on a carrier some 58 times, 17 times at night. She was ranked first in defending the fleet from simulated attacks by enemy aircraft and in air refueling, and second in tactics to evade enemy aircraft and in combined familiarization with tactics and aircraft. The Aerospace Engineer was a Distinguished Naval Graduate of Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Yet, despite all of her achievements, training, and preparation, there were some who blamed the military for her death, alleging her superiors overlooked her mistakes in training in trying to beat the Air Force in training the first female fighter pilot. One group, the Center for Military Readiness, claimed to have obtained Hultgreen’s training records in 1995, records which they said would have disqualified her as an aviator.

These records are contradicted by records released from Hultgreen’s family the year prior, however. Her colleagues and fellow pilots praised her performance as a naval aviator and reminded people that 10 F-14 pilots were killed in accidents between the years of 1992 and 1994. Hultgreen once even brought an EA-6A Intruder to a safe landing, despite flying it with crippled landing gear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how the Marine Corps is changing its promotions policies

Corporals need the opportunity to be corporals before they become sergeants.

That’s what Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told Marines last week when introducing new enlisted promotion and retention policies.

Starting in January 2019, corporals won’t be able to pick up sergeant until they’ve been in the Marine Corps for four years. That’s twice as long as the current requirement.

And sergeants won’t make staff noncommissioned officer status until they’ve served at least five years — a year longer than currently required. Sergeants will also need 36 months time-in-grade before they can make staff sergeant. That’s up nine months from the 27 required now.


Black told Marines that about a third of new sergeants are leaving the service within a year of picking up rank.

“Quite frankly, we can’t afford to lose about 30% of our sergeants every single year,” he said. “… We need sergeants on flight lines, we need sergeants in squads, we need sergeants doing what they’re supposed to do, and we need corporals to … master their responsibilities to reach the next higher paygrade.”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hector J. Marchi Ramos, a radio operator with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is promoted to sergeant by his wife during a promotion ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Sept. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps/Capt. Joshua P. Hays)

Starting in July 2019, new staff sergeants will also owe the Marine Corps at least two years of service once they pin on their new rank.

“Marines who are selected to the rank of staff sergeant must have at least 24 months of obligated service remaining on contract beginning on the date of their promotion,” states Marine administrative message 612/19, which announced the changes.

The service already requires gunnery sergeants to serve at least three more years after pinning on that rank, Black told the Marines in Yuma, Arizona, where he discussed the policies last week.

“What’s the benefit of that?” asked Black, who previously served as the top enlisted leader of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “If about 30% of people who get selected to staff sergeant … and don’t stay at least 24 more, that speeds up promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant, that speeds up promotion from corporal to sergeant. You start to lose experience along the way.”

That’s because the Marine Corps promotes to fill vacancies, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman. A lot of corporals were picking up sergeant before they hit the end of their first four-year enlistment, only to leave the service at that point, she said.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

(Screenshot via YouTube)

To fill those voids, the Marine Corps would again tap into the corporal ranks to promote more Marines to sergeant, and the same pattern was repeated.

“The reason we’re doing this,” Carlock added, “is to reduce the churn.”

The move hasn’t been popular with everyone. One Reserve Marine career planner told Stars and Stripes “nobody is going to want to wait four years to pick up sergeant.” And a corporal told the outlet if the changes leave fewer Marines making sergeant, that could mean “less structure in the ranks.”

Marine officials say the opposite will be true — that the moves will keep more newly promoted noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs from immediately leaving the ranks.

Along with the new promotion rules for sergeants and staff sergeants, the Marine Corps is introducing new initiatives to help retain enlisted leathernecks. Carlock said the moves are meant to improve processes.

Marines who demonstrate “high levels of proficiency and talent must be given the most efficient means by which to request and be approved for reenlistment and subsequently be provided opportunities to excel in critical leadership roles,” the administrative message states.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A select number of Marines will be allowed to submit their reenlistment packages a year ahead of schedule. The move could also leave them eligible to receive reenlistment bonuses and other initiatives that apply to Marines choosing to stay on another term in that fiscal year.

“Under current policy, [a Marine] with an end of current contract (ECC) of April 2022 is considered an FY22 cohort Marine and is currently required to wait until July 2021 to submit for reenlistment,” the administrative message states. “Under Early Reenlistment Authority, this Marine, if a computed Tier 1 Marine with no jeopardy on current contract, will be allowed to reenlist as early as July 2020 during the FY21 Enlisted Retention Campaign.”

General officers will also be given the authority to approve some Marines’ reenlistments without sending requests to Headquarters Marine Corps.

“[Major Subordinate Command-level] General Officers will be allocated a specified number of reenlistments for approval based on the percentage of the eligible cohort assigned to their command,” the message states.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

9/11 1st responder and U.S. Marine Luis Alvarez dies after congress testimony

On June 29, 2019, Luis Alvarez, retired NYPD detective and proud military veteran, passed away from advanced-stage colorectal cancer as a result of his work at Ground Zero in New York following the 9/11 attacks. Just days before, he had testified in Congress alongside Daily Show host Jon Stewart in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He was 53 years old.

His speech in Congress came after sixty-eight rounds of chemotherapy — and just before he was about to begin his sixty-ninth.

“I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there. We were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism and that we would all work together. No races, no colors, no politics,” he said.


9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez gives emotional testimony

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9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez gives emotional testimony

“This fund is not a ticket to paradise. It is there to provide for our families when we can’t. Nothing more. You all said you would never forget. Well I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”

The next day, his doctors told him there was nothing more they could do to treat his cancer. He died in hospice care the following week, a true hero to the end.

Matt McCauley

www.facebook.com

His family shared an official statement on his passing: “It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today. Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ We told him at the end that he had won this battle by the many lives he had touched by sharing his three year battle. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing!”

Also read: VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

WATCH: Jon Stewart says Congress ‘should be ashamed’ over inaction on helping 9/11 first responders

www.youtube.com

Thousands of 9/11 first responders were exposed to dangerous carcinogens in the dust and gases at Ground Zero, putting them at risk of multiple myeloma and other cancers. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to “provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

The original VCF operated from 2001-2004, then was extended in 2010 and again in 2015, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020. On Feb. 15, 2019, it was determined that the funding would be insufficient to pay all the pending and projected claims, which is what brought Alvarez before Congress.

According to NBC New York, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill that would ensure the VCF never runs out of money.

Rest in peace, Luis, and Semper Fi.

Articles

The Pentagon is worried about the missile threat from these countries

The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.


North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.

“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.

The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.

Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.

High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.

Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.

“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
Photo from Tasnim News Agency.

Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.

Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.

North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
North Korean Missile. (Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.

MIGHTY TRENDING

93 year-old ‘Rosie the Riveter’ makes appeal to Congress

Mae Krier was on Capitol Hill, hoping to get Congress to recognize March 21 as an annual Rosie the Riveter Day of Remembrance.

Rosie the Riveter was an iconic World War II poster showing a female riveter flexing her muscle.

Krier also advocating that lawmakers award the “Rosies” — as women involved in the war effort at home came to call themselves — the Congressional Gold Medal for their work in the defense industry producing tanks, planes, ships and other materiel for the war effort.


During a visit to the Pentagon March 20, 2019, Krier told Air Force airmen that her lifelong mission is to inspire the poster’s “We Can Do It!” attitude among young girls everywhere.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, right, points out a Pentagon display to Mae Krier, center, March 20, 2019. With them is Dawn Goldfein, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(DOD photo by David Vergun)

The spry 93-year-old walked around the Pentagon’s Air Force corridors, gazing at pictures and paintings of female airmen who were pioneers, telling every airman she met — both men and women — how proud she is of their service and giving away red polka-dotted Rosie the Riverter bandannas.

Humble beginnings

Krier said she grew up on a farm near Dawson, North Dakota. “Times were hard for us and for everyone else,” she said, noting that it was the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression in the 1930s.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Krier said, she and her sister had gone to a matinee. Upon their return home, they found their parents beside the radio with grave expressions. They had just learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

She said she remembers never having heard of Pearl Harbor. “Nobody had,” she said.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, arrives at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., for her first-ever visit March 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Call to duty

Young men in Dawson and elsewhere were soon streaming away from home to board vessels that would take them to Europe and the Pacific war theaters, she said.

Among them was her brother. After seeing him off at the train station and returning home, she said, she saw her father crying — something he never did. The war “took the heart out of our small town and other towns across the country,” she said. “People everywhere were crying.”

Krier’s brother served in the Navy and survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. “Our family was lucky that no one was killed during the war,” she said.

Adventures in Seattle

As a restless teen seeking adventure in 1943, Krier said, she set off by train to Seattle. She recalls the windows of her train being stuck open, with snow flying in.

The big city life was exciting to the farm girl. She said she loved to listen to big-band music. She also loved to go to the dance hall, and was particularly fond of the jitterbug.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Gwendolyn DeFilippi (left) the Headquarters U.S. Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personal and services, and a Rosebud, takes a moment to speak with Ms. Dawn Goldfein, spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Mae Krier an original Rosie the Riveter during Krier’s first-ever visit to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

While dancing the Jitterbug one day in 1943, she said, she was charmed by a sailor, whom she would marry in 1944. He, too, was lucky, she said. He participated in the Aleutian Islands campaign in Alaska, where the Japanese had landed on the islands of Attu and Kiska.

They would be married for 70 years. He died recently at 93.

Becoming a Rosie

Krier said she doesn’t remember the exact details of how she ended up as a riveter, but she found work doing just that in a Boeing aircraft factory in Seattle, where she riveted B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers.

“We loved our work. We loved our flag. We all pulled together to win the war,” she said. “It was a good time in America.”

Meeting Air Force leaders

Krier said she enjoyed her visit to the Pentagon and meeting dozens of leaders and enlisted personnel. Among those she met were Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and his wife, Dawn.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Lt. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Headquarters Air Force director of Staff, gives Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, a tour of the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., during her first-ever visit March 20, 2019. Krier was accompanied by Dawn Goldfein, the spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Goldfein gave Krier a hug, and she exclaimed that she could now say she hugged a general. Goldfein replied: “Now I can say I hugged a Rosie the Riveter.”

Krier also met Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, who, along with Dawn Goldfein, led her around to see the various wall exhibits in the corridors. Krier was pleased to hear that Van Ovost was an aviator as are so many other female airmen today.

“Women have come a long ways,” she said.

Articles

Will the Air Force build more new F-22s?

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin


Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.

The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.

The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.

“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.

The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.

The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.

“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.

Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.

“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.

Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.

As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.

Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.

“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.

On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.

“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.

If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq

Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.

“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.

F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.

For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un never leaves home without his own toilet

The leaders of North Korea and South Korea are scheduled to meet face-to-face for the first time on April 27, 2018, in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.

It will be the first leadership summit between the countries in more than a decade. It’s a first for a North Korean leader to agree to visit South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s. And the South Korean government, led by President Moon Jae-in, has pledged to create an environment conducive to diplomacy.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to bring several high-ranking officials and guards from his Escort Command. Ri Sol Ju, Kim’s wife, and Kim Yo Jong, his sister, may make appearances.

Kim Jong Un will also most likely bring a toilet.

Whenever he travels, the North Korean leader is said to always bring his own toilet. And not just one — he has numerous toilets in different vehicles in his motorcade.

Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”

The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country,” using a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
Kim Jong Un

Kim is also said to have a chamber pot in his Mercedes to use if he doesn’t have time to stop to hop out and jump into one of the purpose-built traveling toilets.

Aside from Kim’s apparent dislike of public restrooms, there’s an important reason for the portable conveniences.

Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before coming to South Korea in 2005, told The Washington Post that “the leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”

Kim’s urine and fecal matter are routinely tested to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.

But his personal preference might be his undoing.

Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea, has jokingly suggested that the US should strike Kim’s personal toilet to demonstrate its precision.

“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of US precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote in the Daily Beast.

“It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”

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

Articles

Group asks Army to end probe into alleged recruiting bonus fraud

A large association of enlisted National Guardsmen is calling on the Army to end its six-year criminal probe into a now-defunct recruiting bonus program, accusing investigators of inflicting “relentless harassment” on targeted soldiers.


The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command since 2011 has been investigating soldiers who participated in the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program, or G-RAP. It created a new cadre of recruiting assistants who received up to $2,000 for each recruit they helped sign up to meet a soldier shortfall during two wars.

Army auditors found fraud in the form of recruiting assistants receiving money for people they did not assist and full-time recruiters receiving illegal kickbacks. But the amount of fraud has not come close to the $100 million figure predicted by the Army in 2014.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

“We believe those still being investigated are unfairly being targeted and that the result of the investigation has ruined lives, careers, marriages, and credit; indeed, some have opted for suicide to end the relentless harassment,” said the open letter from the 40,000-member Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

“This harassment must stop now and complete restitution to those innocent Guard members must be made,” proclaimed the letter signed by the group’s 25 officers.

Frank Yoakum, executive director, said he plans to talk directly to top Army officials at the Pentagon next week. He said the enlisted group was trying to facilitate a joint letter with the larger National Guard Association of the United States, but that group never signed on.

“We’ve been kicking around what action to take for almost a year,” said the retired sergeant major.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
Recruitment fraud has been much less pervasive than originally thought – U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy

The Washington Times has published stories on, and spoken with, Guardsmen who have been under investigation for years without a final outcome. Meanwhile, their uncertain status has played havoc with private-sector jobs, military careers and personal lives.

The Times recently published two stories on a Virgin Islands Guardsman, full-time recruiter First Sgt. Trevor Antoine, whose 18-year career is slated to end abruptly based on a CID report. Handed to his commander, the report says he committed theft and identity theft by sharing personal information with recruiting assistants.

There is no proof in the CID report that he received any money from recruiting assistants. The Times reported that the rules sent out by a private contractor changed frequently.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
The G-RAP program was designed to increase recruitment in a time of need – Photo Courtesy of the DoD

At one time, assistants were urged to acquire ID information from recruiters such as Sgt. Antoine. The Army itself did not forbid the sharing by full-time recruiters it oversees until 2010, when the program was five years old. The Army ended G-RAP in 2012.

The enlisted association letter states, “We, the undersigned, as officers of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, call upon the Congress of the United States and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army in the strongest possible way to stop the investigation of National Guard members by Army Criminal Investigation Division agents relative to the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).”

It is unclear how many Guardsmen remain under investigation. The Times reported last year that the Army had identified $6 million in fraudulent payments.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
DoD Photo by Jeffrey Castro

Out of more than 100,000 National Guard and Army recruiting assistants during the G-RAP period, 492 were determined to be guilty or suspected of fraud, though the majority (305) received $15,000 or less each. Of that group, 124 assistants took less than$5,000 each.

The Times has asked the Army to update these figures. A spokeswoman said the Army is working to acquire updated numbers.

Liz Ullman, a business owner in Colorado, became so alarmed at CID’s long nationwide probe, she started a campaign to expose what she considers overreaching.

She started a webpage, Defend Our Protectors, communicated with Guardsmen under investigation and posts court discovery documents.

“Their lives are being turned upside down,” she said. “They are losing their jobs.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

George “Speedy” Gaspard: A Special Forces legend

‘A Warrior’s Warrior’ in MACV-SOG

During America’s long war in Vietnam, many of the Green Berets who fought there became legends within the Special Forces Regiment. And among those warriors were the men of MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group); the SOG warriors were among the finest the country has ever produced.

LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard was one of the most well-known and respected officers from that generation. After serving with the Marine Corps in World War II, Gaspard joined the Army. He was an original, volunteering for the newly formed 10th Special Forces Group and attending Special Forces Class #1. He would run cross border operations in the Korean War but really made his mark during the war in Vietnam, working in Special Forces A-Camps as well as running some of the most secret operations across the border into North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.


Gaspard became a “Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment” in December 2010.

Shortly after I moved to SW Florida I got into contact with Chapter XXI of the SF Association. I was checking out their excellent website, saw a large segment dedicated to LTC Gaspard, and remembered a brief meeting I had with him years ago. More to that soon.

George Wallace Gaspard Jr. was born at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Ala., on August 5, 1926. He was the son of the late George W. Gaspard of MN, and Annie Lou Bamberg of AL.

He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946 and fought in the final battle of World War II on the island of Okinawa with the 6th Marine Division. He first entered the U.S. Army on June 11, 1951.

In May 1952, Gaspard was a student in the first all-officer-class at the Ranger course. He then attended a special course at the Air Ground School located at Southern Pines, N.C. Afterward, he volunteered for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), which had just been organized at Fort Bragg, N.C.

His first assignment was as a team leader of the 18th SF Operational Detachment. In November 1952, he attended Special Forces Class #1. The fledgling Special Forces unit, much of it comprised of World War II vets from the OSS, was anxious to get involved in the Korean War and conduct missions similar to those conducted in occupied areas of Europe and the Pacific during the war.

The SF troops were put in an active intelligence operation that utilized Tactical Liaison Offices (TLO). Although they were initially manned only by anti-communist Koreans, the TLO would eventually conduct “line-crossing operations” which included using Chinese agents to gather intelligence on the enemy.

However, the Far East Command (FEC), assigned the SF troops as individual replacements rather than as 15-man A-Teams that SF was employing at the time using the OSS WWII Operational Group model.

In March 1953, then 1Lt. Gaspard was assigned to FEC/LD 8240AU FECOM. He commanded four enlisted men and 80 South Korean agents, who were dispatched behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on the North Koreans. Obviously the threat of double agents, something that would later haunt SOG operations in Vietnam, loomed. An excellent piece on this facet of the Korean War, written by former SF Officer and USASOC Historian Eugene Piasecki, “TLO: Line Crossers, Special Forces, and ‘the Forgotten War'” can be found here.

Gaspard was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for actions in combat during June 11-12, 1953.

In October 1954, Gaspard joined the 77th SF Group (A) as a guerrilla warfare instructor with the Psychological Warfare School’s Special Forces Department. He was subsequently transferred to the 187th ARCT and honorably discharged in September 1957.

From 1960 to 1962, he served as a civilian mobilization designee with the Special Warfare department in the Pentagon. In April 1962, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to the 5th SF Group (A) at Fort Bragg, commanding Det A-13. In September, he opened a new Special Forces Camp in Kontum Province at Dak Pek, Vietnam, which remained the longest continuously active SF/ARVN Ranger camp until it was overrun in 1972. That would be the first of seven tours of duty in Vietnam for Gaspard.

During the early days of Vietnam, there was a general lack of accurate reporting by the press on the fighting. However, there were a handful of reporters who were willing to walk in the field and endure combat with the troops. One of those was Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter David Halberstam. He was a special correspondent with the New York Times and not a wire reporter, so, he had the time to visit the troops and share a much closer look at what was truly transpiring on the ground.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

One of the first people that Halberstam met in Vietnam was Speedy Gaspard. The two developed a friendship and Gaspard became a source of what was really happening in the outlying areas of Vietnam where SF was working by, with, and through the locals. Halberstam was so taken by Gaspard that he modeled the lead character of his war novel “One Very Hot Day” after him.

Captain Gaspard returned to Fort Bragg in 1963 as adjutant and HHC commander of the newly formed 6th SF Group (A). In July 1965, he reported to AID Washington, DC, and subsequently to AID Saigon, where we was assigned as a provincial adviser in Quang Duc Province. He was instrumental in the very tricky negotiations to peacefully transfer FULRO personnel (Front Uni de Lutte des Races Opprimées — United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races) to the Army of South Vietnam.

FULRO was comprised of the indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam (Montagnards). They were hated by the lowland Vietnamese, both in South and North Vietnam and referred to as “moi” (savages). At the time, Vietnamese books characterized Montagnards as having excessive body hair and long tails. The Vietnamese rarely ventured into Montagnard regions until after the French colonial rule. Then, they built several profitable plantations to grow crops in and extract natural resources from those bountiful areas.

The simple mountain people were excellent hunters and trackers. They immediately bonded with the Green Berets assigned to stop the communist infiltration of South Vietnam and the Green Berets responded in kind. SF set up the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), which trained and led the Montagnards in Unconventional Warfare against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

But the South Vietnamese government never trusted and hated the CIDG program because it feared the Montagnard people would want independence. (Such was their hatred for the Vietnamese that the Montagnards would continue to fight a guerrilla war against unified Vietnam for 20 years after the war ended. There were reports of genocide against the mountain people and over 200,000 died during the fight.)

Gaspard was promoted to major in 1966, and after completing his tour, reported to 1st SF Group (A), Okinawa. In October 1967, he returned to Vietnam and directed the MACVSOG “STRATA” program until September 1968.

The commanders in Vietnam, especially among the SOG personnel, were never satisfied with the intelligence collection activities conducted in North Vietnam. STRATA was conceived to aid the intelligence situation by focusing on short-term intelligence-gathering operations close to the border. The all-Vietnamese Short Term Roadwatch and Target Acquisition teams would report on activities across the border and then be recovered to be used again. Gaspard and the SOG Commander, Col. Jack Singlaub, briefed Gen. Westmoreland and Gen. Abrams on STRATA operations.

Once, a STRATA team became surrounded and required emergency extraction. Gaspard, riding a hydraulic penetrator, twice descended to remove a wounded agent. He was subsequently awarded the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism and the Purple Heart Medal for his actions.

Moles inside South Vietnam’s government and military, even in SOG, were a constant source of leaks to the North, even in SOG. Some of these leaks came to light much later. However, Gaspard would remedy that. As written in a fantastic piece by SOG team member John Stryker Meyer, Gaspard moved the operations jump-off location out of South Vietnam and the intelligence leaks began to dry up.

“The unique aspect of STRATA, which operated under OP34B, the teams launched out of Thailand, flying in Air Force helicopters. The Air Force performed all insertions and extractions without pre-mission reports to Saigon. During Gaspard’s tenure at STRATA 24 teams were inserted into North Vietnam on various intelligence-gathering missions. Only one and a half teams were lost during that period of time that involved inserting and successfully extracting more than 150 STRATA team members during that time.”
“Again, a key part to our success was having our separate chain of command and not telling Saigon. We worked with the Air Force on a need-to-know basis.”

It wasn’t until many years later that Gaspard realized the extent of the communist infiltration of the south, right into SOG headquarters. Meyer describes in his piece the horror felt when someone close to the Americans, someone who had been vetted, was in fact a spy for the enemy.

“During a 1996 Hanoi television show, Maj. Gen. George “Speedy” Gaspard, was shocked when he saw an individual he knew as “Francois” receive Hanoi’s highest military honor for his years of service as a spy in SOG. Gaspard, who had several tours of duty in Vietnam and in SOG, knew “Francois” and was “shocked” when he saw the program. Francois had access to highly sensitive information while employed by the U.S.
Author and SOG recon man John L. Plaster, has a photo of Gaspard standing with Francois in Saigon when Gaspard had no idea of the spy’s real role for the NVA. That photograph of Gaspard and Francois is on Page 463 of Plaster’s book: SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars, by Paladin Press Book.
“There’s no question that he hurt SOG operations,” Gaspard said. “Again, how do you gauge it all? When you look at the success rate of STRATA teams by comparison, you can see why they succeeded. We were disconnected from Saigon and we didn’t have the NVA and Russians working against us.”
George (speedy) Gaspard – Vietnam War Veteran

www.youtube.com

Gaspard returned to SOG in 1969 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1971. He reported to 1st SF Group, Okinawa as the group executive officer, and later assumed command of the 1st Battalion. He retired in August 1973 after having served in three wars.

His earned multiple awards and decorations including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with V-device and five Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with V-device and three Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantryman’s Badge with one Battle Star, Master Parachutist Badge, Pacific Theater Service Ribbon with one Campaign Star, Korea Service Ribbon with two campaign Stars, Vietnam Service Campaign Ribbon with 15 campaign Stars, 18 other service and foreign awards including the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold, Silver and Bronze stars, U.S. Navy Parachute Wings, Korea Master Parachutist Wings, Vietnamese Master Parachutist Wings, Thailand Master Parachutist Wings, and Cambodia Parachute Wings.

LTC Gaspard was a member of SFA, SOA, VFW, MOAA, American Legion, and the Sons of Confederacy.

From 2004 to 2017 Speedy served as president, vice president, or secretary of the Chapter XXI President of the Special Forces Association. (The Chapter provided a lot of Gaspard’s personal biography listed here.)

In 1985, Colonel Gaspard entered the South Carolina State Guard and in 1987 was appointed Chief of Staff with the rank of Brigadier General. In 1991, he was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In the early fall of 1989, when I was a student in the SF Officer’s course at Ft. Bragg, one of our fellow students was a young man named George Gaspard, the son of Speedy. Young George, whom we knew as “Buck” was an outstanding officer and an even better man who was very popular among the officers in the class.

We learned that General Speedy Gaspard was going to address our class. He first showed us an outstanding slideshow of pics he took while conducting some hair-raising missions with SOG. They were better than anything we had seen in any book or magazine. He then addressed the class in his self-effacing style and said: “standing before you is an old, fat man, but in Vietnam, I was an old, fat captain… but I relied on and surrounded myself with outstanding SF NCOs who made me look brilliant.”

He encouraged the future A-Team commanders to trust in their team sergeants and NCOs and they’d never be steered wrong. SF NCOs, he said, were the true leaders of Special Forces and officers need to realize it, work together, and take care of NCOs. Of course, sitting in the rear of the classroom was General David Baratto commander of the Special Warfare Center and School (SWC), who cringed a bit at those pointed comments.

Sitting in the back, my buddy Wade Chapple and I were stealing glances at General Baratto who looked pained… In a typical Chapple bit of sarcasm, he leaned over and said to me, “I think his (Baratto’s) head is about to f***ing explode.”

After the day was over, our entire class, including many of our instructors, joined Speedy Gaspard at the “O-Club” for a cocktail or three. He regaled us with some cool stories about the SF and SOG guys he served with. It was a memorable night. When we left that night, he made everyone feel that we knew him well. It was an honor to have met him.

LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard passed away on January 30, 2018.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Under secretary of the Navy works to strengthen Norway alliance

Under Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, completed a three-day partnership-building visit to Norway, Dec. 12, 2018.

Modly met with senior military and civilian officials to discuss security and stability issues and efforts along with touring some of the Norwegian assets and facilities.

Meetings were held with the U.S. ambassador, State Secretary of Defense, Chief of Royal Norwegian Navy, Commander of Norwegian Defense Liaison Office, members from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Army, Navy, and U.S. Marines on rotation to Norway.


“The U.S. and Norway share a very close military relationship and collaborate on many global, regional and bilateral issues,” said Modly. “Being able to see it first hand was impressive and helped underscore the enduring value of investing in cooperative security relationships.”

During his visit, Modly toured a Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold class Corvette and Fridtjof Nansen class frigate and the facilities at the Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway (MCPP-N).

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Royal Norwegian army Lt. Col. Stein-Arlid Ivarrud, left, commanding officer of the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization-Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly shake hands after a briefing on Norway’s continued support to the U.S. Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway.

(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Paul Macapagal)

“By working together with one of our closest allies, we create force multipliers that enhance our capabilities and build a better understanding of each other,” said Modly. “I look forward to fostering this relationship through our Navy and Marine Corps team.”

On his final day, Modly had the opportunity to have lunch and a discussion with some of the U.S. Marines from the Marine Rotational Force — Europe.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Royal Norwegian Navy Cmdr. (SG) Iris Fivelstad, right, commanding officer of the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312) explains bridge operations to Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during a tour of the ship.

“Marine training in Norway improves cold weather and mountain readiness in Artic conditions,” said Modly. “It also enhances interoperability between U.S. And Norwegian forces. Our marines are getting great training and building enduring relationships with their Norwegian partners.”

Modly is on a multination visit to the European region focused on strengthening partnerships and cooperation in support of the second line of effort of the National Defense Strategy: Strengthening Partnerships and Alliances.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

100 bodyweight squats vs 10 barbell squats

Why are you working out? That’s always the first question you should be asking yourself. I’ve been asked on multiple occasions about the benefit of doing bodyweight exercises as a replacement for barbell training. Usually, they go something like this:

“Are bodyweight squats better than barbell back squatting?”

To which my response is usually something like:

“Better, how?”

If your goal for working out is to get better at bodyweight squats …then sure, they’re better.

If however, your goal is to increase muscle mass, (which it is 90% of the time, whether you realize it or not,) well then, probably not. The reasoning relies on a theory called “effective reps.” But first!


Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Real easy to get distracted.

Your time and attention

If you’re doing 100 repetitions of bodyweight squats, it’s going to take a while, minutes at the very least. That’s assuming you’re going as fast as possible, which will lead to your form breaking down.

If you’re slow and controlled and performing each rep perfectly, you’ll be spending much longer on 1 set.

No matter which way you decide to tackle this beast, one thing is going to take a hit:

  • Your time
  • Your form
  • Your attention

That right there is reason enough for me not to go this route.

On the other hand, if you’re doing sets of 10 reps on the barbell back squat, that’s something you can accomplish in under a minute with a relatively high level of concentration on form.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

​Quarter squats increase anterior knee pain. Just one of the many form failures that usually occur during body weight squats.

When form breaks down

How we move becomes etched in our brains as a motor pattern. If your form is bad on an exercise like the bodyweight squat, it will transfer to how you move in real life.

Eventually, that crappy form will lead to an injury. Maybe it will be when you try to pick up something heavy like a weighted barbell or an overweight baby. Maybe it will be from doing something you love like playing adult softball, hunting, or picking up overweight babies.

What usually happens when people get injured is that they demonize the activity they were doing when the injury occurred and completely ignore the other 99 things they did that actually contributed to the event that caused the injury.

It wasn’t that activity, that activity was just the straw that broke your CamelBak…(see what I did there).

So, if you’re half-assing 87 out of 100 bodyweight squats three times a week, and in turn, moving throughout your life with crappy/lazy movement, then it’s only a matter of time before you hurt yourself doing something that would have otherwise been enjoyable.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Those are for sure effective reps.

Effective reps

The idea is that the closer a rep is to failure, the more effective it will be in recruiting the most amount of muscle mass and in turn be the best at building muscle.

Assuming you can only do 100 bodyweight squats and the last rep is quite close to failure, then 1 out of 100 is an effective rep…and it took you minutes to get there, and 87 or those reps sucked.

Assuming you’re in relatively good shape, you can actually do many more than 100 bodyweight squats so even rep 100 isn’t anywhere close to failure. That means you are getting ZERO effective reps. You basically just wasted minutes doing a bunch of crappy half-assed squats that did nothing except make you waste your precious time.

I should note that by “failure” I mean you couldn’t do one more rep no matter what, all of your leg muscles are on fire, and they feel like they are going to pop from the excess blood flowing into them. I do not mean that you’re bored or “kind of” tired from something and just want to stop. Register the actual difference.

On the contrary, weighted squats offer you the opportunity to feel like you’re approaching failure, usually around rep 6 or 7 out of a set of 10 if you choose an appropriate weight.

If you do 3-4 sets of back squats that’s nearly 16 effective reps, that’s a great session.

To top it off you don’t need to do 95 reps prior to getting there.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

People with long limbs tend to have a difficult time doing body weight squats in general. Their long torsos pull them onto their toes.

Conclusion

Bodyweight squats are great if you have no other option, if you just want to make a workout brutally annoying and also mildly difficult, or if you hate yourself. Otherwise, they are just a recipe for wasted time, establishing poor motor patterns, and not getting many effective reps.

If your goal is to build muscle, get stronger, burn fat, or workout smartly throw some weight on your back.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Valgus knee collapsing imminent on the first Marine from the right.

References

Here’s a few links if your interest on effective reps has been peaked.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 1

Bravo Zulu to all of servicemen and women down in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. You guys are the light in this sh*tty moment. You deserve a beer.


Oh yeah… And there’s North Korea. There’s still the same douchebags screaming the same stupid rhetoric for the last 50 years.

#13: They also set up a canopy.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Popsmoke)

#12: It’s all fun and games until Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club came in.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Gruntworks)

#11: When and why did we stop using the phrase “BOHICA?”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

#10: What? Did you think your enlistment was just about saving drunk boaters and going to festivals?

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#9: “You think you and your boys were ride or die? My bros proved it.”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#8: We get it, dude. Your “totally knocking out the drill if he got in your face” is the reason you didn’t enlist.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

#7: “You know what would cheer the single, lower enlisted troops up? An FRG Meeting.” -Said every CO ever.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Air Force AMN/NCO/SNCO)

#6: The alcohol makes up 75% of that sadness.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#5: Remember – Scoring 181 or higher with at least 60 points in each event during the APFT is technically “exceeding the standard.”

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#4: Nothing works better than telling her that she’s better than a laptop in a 120° Porta-John.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

#3: Maybe if we send her more troops, she’ll forget we were eyeing another conflict.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#2: If he completes his purpose, he’ll also cease to exist.

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#1: You might be stacked, but do your medals go all the way to your pants?

Surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders to receive Congressional Gold Medal
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

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