Frank Levingston, the oldest living World War II veteran, died on May 3 in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. He was 110 years old, which also made him the oldest living man in the United States.
According to his wikipedia page, he was born on November 13, 1905 in North Carolina, one of seven children. Levingston enlisted in the US Army in 1942. He served as private during the war in the Allied invasion of Italy which lasted from September 1943 to January 1944. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1945, he became a union worked specializing in cement finishing. He never married.
On August 16, 2015, he became the oldest recognized living military veteran in the United States, following the death of Emma Didlake.
“I’ve been through so many dangerous things and I’m still here. I’m thankful to the almighty God for it,” Levingston said in an interview with WTVR marking his 110th birthday. “I think I’m one of the blessed ones.”
Pamela Gobert, one of Levingston’s good friends, said in that interview: “He’s always got a kind word and he lets me know that sometimes it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Gobert. “One time we were at Memorial and a young lady asked him ‘Mr. Frank how old are you going to live?’ and he said ‘110.’” He was right.
In December of 2015, he went on an honor flight to Washington, D.C. – it was his first time to ever visit the nation’s capital and war monuments. He helped to mark Pearl Harbor Day by taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Monument. He was unable to meet the President but did meet representatives of his state.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has consecrated the main cathedral dedicated to the armed forces, built to mark Victory Day in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Religious leaders, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his deputies, guests, and hundreds of uniformed soldiers attended the ceremony on June 14 at the newly constructed Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, located some 60 kilometers outside of Moscow.
The church was originally due to be opened on May 9 as part of a grand celebration to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. But the opening was postponed due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The massive cathedral, one of the largest in the world, sparked controversy earlier this year when leaked photos showed a partially completed mosaic featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Shoigu, General Valery Gerasimov, and several other Russian officials.
The plan to display the mosaic was later canceled following criticism and after the Kremlin leader reportedly expressed opposition to the idea.
“This is an unprecedented event for the soldiers and for all of the the citizens in the whole country,” Gerasimov, the current chief of the General Staff of the armed forces, said ahead of the event.
The construction of the church cost 6 billion rubles (about million), according to media reports.
The church was supposed to be paid for entirely through donations, but according to Russian reports almost 3 billion rubles (about million) came from the Kremlin budget.
Imagine putting your life into the paws of a Labrador retriever or German shepherd. Would you feel safe?
For many Marines this becomes their reality when deployed to a combat zone. German shepherds and Labrador retrievers are specially trained for drug detection, suspect apprehension and explosive detection.
“Before Don was assigned to me, I noticed that his detection was impeccable,” stated Devaney. “When I heard that Don was being assigned to me, I couldn’t have been happier.”
Don’s training started when he was just 6 months old at Lackland Air Force base in Bexar, Texas. He then finally made his way to Camp Pendleton at the age of 2 and was assigned to another Marine prior to being assigned to Devaney.
U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, pets military working dog, Don, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)
“You could see the adjusting from Don’s prior handler to me,” said Devaney. “There were adjustments that needed to be made on both of our parts. Knowing that we both had the same goal to protect the base and the people that reside on the base, we needed to create this bond between us.”
It is the handlers’ job to ensure that they are both ready at any time to deploy. Trust and understanding between the handler and the dog keeps the team and everyone around them safe.
“It was a lot of extra time on my part. Coming to the kennels on my off days or staying after work and just spending the time with him. Getting to know all of his quirks and understanding all of the pieces that make up his personality,” said Devaney. “Through this one on one time, Don learned my limitations too. Together we learned how to successfully achieve the mission.”
U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, commands military working dog, Don, to heel for a photo at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)
The first couple of months after a handler is assigned to a dog it is crucial to their training. A handler is expected to spend roughly fifty hours a week with their dog developing a relationship. Beginning as a pup, the dogs are trained to listen to their handlers. The dog needs to trust and know the individual before they begin to listen to the commands given to them. Without the strong connection between the two, there is a hesitation on completing the mission.
“Don, he is kind of a weirdo. He has a lot of quirks and it took me some time to learn all of them,” stated Devaney. “One of Don’s favorite things to do is chew on my boots when we’re spending time together. He is everything to me now and he is the drive that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Having military working dogs on Camp Pendleton is a force multiplier. Military working dogs protect Pendleton during building searches, suspect apprehension, active shooters, threat identification and alarm activation calls.
“For the Marine Corps, I believe that dogs are invaluable. They are so applicable in different situations,” said Devaney. “For our forward deployed Marines, they are out there searching for IED’s, tracking and looking for high value targets. When you pair a good dog and a good handler together, they’re unstoppable.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
In 2006, University of California at Davis psychology professor Dean Simonton completed a comprehensive study examining the “intellectual brilliance” of 42 US presidents.
The top 15 who appear on this list were compiled by Libb Thims — an American engineer who compiles high IQ scores as a hobby — using the results of Simonton’s study.
Because IQ scores weren’t available for all of the presidents, Simonton estimated their scores based on certain personality traits noted in their biographies that would indicate a higher-than-average level of intelligence, such as “wise,” “inventive,” “artistic,” “curious,” sophisticated,” “complicated,” and “insightful.”
Simonton then gave each president a score based on his personality traits, which he then interpreted as a measure of the chief executives’ “Intellectual Brilliance.”
In honor of President’s Day, here are America’s 15 brightest commander in chiefs.
15. Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th president and served between 1853 and 1857. By Simonton’s estimates, Pierce had an IQ of 141.
After graduating from Bowdoin College, Pierce was elected to the New Hampshire legislature at the age of 24 and became its speaker two years later.
14. John Tyler
John Tyler served as the 10th US president after his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, died in April 1841.
Tyler attended the College of William and Mary and studied law. Although he had an (estimated) IQ of 142, his peers often didn’t take him seriously because he was the first vice president to become president without having been elected.
Despite his detractors, Tyler passed a lot of positive legislation throughout his term, including a tariff bill meant to protect northern manufacturers.
13. Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th president and the last Whig president.
He had an IQ of 143, according to Simonton’s estimates, and lived the quintessential American dream. Born in a log cabin in the Finger Lakes country of New York in 1800, Fillmore became a lawyer in 1823 and was elected to the House of Representatives soon after.
When Zachary Taylor died, Fillmore was thrust into the presidency, serving from 1850 to 1853.
12. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression, serving an unprecedented four terms as the nation’s 32nd president from 1933 from 1945.
With an estimated IQ of 146, Roosevelt attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School before entering politics as a Democrat and winning election to the New York Senate in 1910.
Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 but that didn’t stop him from winning the presidency in 1932. He’s perhaps best remembered for his New Deal program, a sweeping economic overhaul enacted shortly after he took office that aimed to bring recovery to businesses and provide relief to the unemployed.
The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln worked on a farm and split rails for fences while teaching himself to read and write. He had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates, and was the only president to have a patent after inventing a device to free steamboats that ran aground.
He is best remembered for keeping the Union intact during the Civil War, and for his 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that forever freed slaves within the Confederacy.
10. Chester Arthur
Chester Arthur succeeded James Garfield as America’s 21st president after Garfield was assassinated in 1881. He had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Arthur graduated from Union College in 1848 and practiced law in New York City before being elected vice president on the Republican ticket in 1880.
When he assumed the presidency a little over a year later, he distinguished himself as a reformer and devoted much of his term to overhauling the civil service.
9. James Garfield
James Garfield was the 20th US president, serving for less than a year before being assassinated in 1882.
A graduate of Williams College, Garfield had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates. Although his presidency was short, Garfield had a big impact. He re-energized the US Navy, did away with corruption in the Post Office Department, and appointed several African-Americans to prominent federal positions, according to White House records.
He was assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, just 200 days after taking office.
Roosevelt graduated Phi Betta Keppa from Harvard in 1880, according to the White House. He then went to Columbia to study law, which he disliked and found to be irrational. Instead of studying, he spent most of his time writing a book about the War of 1812.
Roosevelt dropped out to run for public office, ultimately becoming a two-term President best known for his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
7. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president and leader of the Progressive Movement. He had an estimated IQ of 152.
Wilson was the president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910 before serving as the governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. After he was elected President, Wilson began pushing for anti-trust legislation which culminated in the signing of the Federal Trade Commission Act in September 1914.
He is perhaps best remembered for his speech, “Fourteen Points,” which he presented to Congress towards the end of World War I. The speech articulated Wilson’s long-term war objectives, one of the most famous being the establishment of a League of Nations — a preliminary version of today’s United Nations.
6. Jimmy Carter
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr. served as the 39th president of the US from 1977 to 1981. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work in advancing human rights around the world and has an IQ of 153 by Simonton’s estimates.
Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and was elected Governor of Georgia in 1970. After he was elected president — beating Gerald Ford by 56 electoral votes — he enacted a number of important policies throughout his four years, including a national energy policy and civil service reform.
5. James Madison
Hailed as one of the fathers of the Constitution, James Madison had an IQ of 155, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Madison graduated from what is now Princeton University in 1771 and went on to study law. He collaborated with fellow Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to produce the Federalist Papers in 1788. Madison also championed and co-authored the Bill of Rights during the drafting of the Constitution, and served as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State from 1801–1809.
4. Bill Clinton
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton was the 42nd President, serving from 1993-2001. He has an IQ of 156 by Simonton’s estimates.
After graduating from Georgetown, winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earning a law degree from Yale in 1973, Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978.
He went on to win the presidency with Al Gore as his running mate in 1992 and is perhaps best remembered for his efforts brokering peace in Ireland and the Balkans.
3. John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th president of the US, serving less than 3 years before he was assassinated in 1963. He had an IQ of 158, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 1940 and joined the Navy shortly thereafter, suffering grave injuries while serving in World War II.
He was elected president in 1960 and gave one of the most memorable inaugural addresses in recent memory, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
He is perhaps best remembered for his successful fiscal programs which greatly expanded the US economy and his push for civil rights legislation that would enhance equal rights.
2. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father and served as the country’s third president between 1801–1809. He had an IQ of 160, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary before going on to study law. He was a notably bad public speaker, according to White House records. He reluctantly ran for president after gradually assuming leadership of the Republican party.
As a staunch federalist and advocate of states’ rights, Jefferson strongly opposed a strong centralized Government. One of his first policy initiatives after becoming President was to eliminate a highly unpopular tax on Whiskey.
1. John Adams
John Adams was the second president from 1797 to 1801, after serving as the nation’s first vice president under George Washington. He had an IQ of 173, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Adams studied law at Harvard and was an early supporter of the movement for US independence from the British. Ambitious and intellectual — if not a little vain — he frequently complained to his wife that the office of Vice President was insignificant.
He is perhaps best remembered for his skills in diplomacy, helping to negotiate a peace treaty during the Revolutionary War and avoiding a war with France during his Presidency.
While more soldiers died of disease than from battle injuries during the Civil War, a three-page document written by P.J. Horwitz, the surgeon general of the Union’s Navy, proves that many members of the medical corps had little idea of how to treat a gunshot wound at the war’s start. Part of the online exhibition “Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War,” put together by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, Slate shared a transcript of Horowitz’s “rudimentary advice” in regards to handling injuries caused by bullets on the battlefield.
If the wound is produced by a musket ball, the patient will generally first feel a slight tingling in the part, and on looking at the seat of injury perceive a hole smaller than the projected ball, generally smooth lined, inverted and the part more or less swelled, and on examining further, if the ball has made its exit there would be found another opening, which unlike the other will have its margin everted and ragged.
Should the patient present radical symptoms of injury, one of the first things to be done is to stop the hemorrhage, if there be any, and then carefully examine the wound to see that no foreign body is lodged there in, and then after bathing the flesh in cold water, apply to the wound a piece of lint on which may be spread a little cerate, and attach it to the parts by adhesive or if the surgeon prefers it he can dip a little lint in the patient’s blood and in the same manner apply it to the part, and then put the part at rest, and treat the local and general symptoms as they arrive.
Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.
Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.
This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.
The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.
In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.
There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.
Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”
This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.
In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.
As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.
Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its
At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.
The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”
But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.
The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.
There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.
That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”
Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.
Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.
Social media is a beautiful tool, especially to the military community. It allows troops to keep in contact with friends and family while also giving them a platform to share what’s on their mind. However, when used inappropriately, it can have disastrous effects. Recently, a U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. from the 99th Force Support Squadron made headlines for an expletive-filled and racially charged video she posted to a private Facebook forum. When it was reposted onto a public page, it went viral, getting over 3 million views at the time of writing.
The 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Chief, Maj. Christina Sukach, responded that it is “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior in today’s society and especially for anyone in uniform. Leadership is aware and is taking appropriate action.” Administrative action is being taken against her. It seems to fit the old military adage, “play stupid games and win stupid prizes.”
Author’s Note: While the discussions prompted by this video cannot be overlooked, We Are The Mighty will not give a platform to something entirely unbecoming of not only the NCO Corps or the U.S. Air Force, but the entire U.S. Armed Forces. It will not be reproduced here.
Not only is the content of the video disturbing, the 91-second video also manages to go against many of the Department of Defense’s Web and Internet-based Capabilities Policies. Here are a few of the more egregious violations.
Appearance of governmental sanction
Posting comments or videos while in uniform, on a military installation, or during military hours to social media could be misconstrued as an official statement from the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s for this same reason that troops are not allowed to attend many public events in uniform, regardless of rank.
This is why many officials were quick to disavow the video. Despite clearly going against military values, any inaction from up top can still be misconstrued as acknowledgment.
Conduct unbecoming of an NCO
Non-commissioned officers are supposed to lead by example. If a situation arises, the NCO will do everything in their power to correct the issue and move forward.
The video was sparked after the Technical Sergeant wasn’t addressed as “ma’am” by subordinates. A real leader would never complain on social media. Be an NCO — clearly communicate your requirements and make sure your troops address you properly.
Willingly damaging the reputation of the U.S. Armed Forces
Many of the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, especially Article 134, cover “offenses [involving] disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.”
When you upload a rant video — even to a private forum like this video originally was — you can never expect that it will stay private. At this moment, if you type “Air Force” into Google, you will see every news outlet talking about this video.
This is the image the world should have of the U.S. Air Force — not one of hate. (Image via Air Force)
Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.
Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.
When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”
After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”
The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.
When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.
The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”
Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.
The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.
Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.
Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.
Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy
Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”
Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.
It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.
George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.
The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)
Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.
That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.
The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)
Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.
His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.
Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.
“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.
There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.
“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.
The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.
Strobino was hit, and it was bad.
“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”
Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)
The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.
“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.
But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.
The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.
Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.
Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”
A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.
“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.
“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”
At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.
“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.
“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.
Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.
Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.
“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.
Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”
“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.
The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.
The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”
Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.
Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”
Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”
Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.
Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.
The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.
The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.
Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.