Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.

Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.


Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.

(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)

After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.

On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.

“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.

A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.

Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.

“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.

“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.

Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.

All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.

In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.

In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.

He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.

Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.

For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.

Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.

The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.

He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.

After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.

Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.

He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of December 21st

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. After saving up all of those leave days, you can finally enjoy yourself and take some time off to do whatever you’d like. Well, not whatever you’d like; you’ll have to take a piss test the day you come back, so, keep that in mind.

Regardless, you’re finally going to see all of your civilian family and friends! Sure, they’re probably doing the exact same thing as they were when you enlisted. And, yes, even though you’re only in town for a little while, your friends probably won’t want to make the 20-minute drive up to your parent’s place to see you. But hey, maybe you can sleep in and you don’t have to shave for two weeks. So, there’s that.

Anyways. Here’re some memes to help you get through the stress of dealing with everyone on leave.


Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme by WATM)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via 1st Meme Division)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Articles

13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

Being a “NUB” or “boot” in the Navy usually involves a fair amount of pride swallowing and large doses of embarrassment. Old salts get their jollies by giving their fresh-caught shipmates impossible or fallacious tasks. Here are 13 fool’s errands unsuspecting sailors receive on their way toward becoming fleet players:


1. “Go ask Boats for a boatswain’s punch.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio/USN

‘Boats’ is short for boatswain’s mate. If you ask him for a punch, Boats will gladly oblige.

2. “Go to HAZMAT and get me some bulkhead remover.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

A bulkhead is a ship’s wall, and it would take a lot of elbow grease to remove it.

3. “Go down to the ship’s store and get me some batteries for the sound-powered phone.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sound-powered phones are  . . . wait for it . . . power by sound. No batteries required.

4. “Go get me the keys to the airplane.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rosa A. Arzola/USN

Silly newbie, Navy planes don’t have keys. Starting a plane involves flicking switches and moving throttles.

5. “Go bring me a bucket of prop wash.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans/USN

There’s practically a chemical or special product for every job, so this doesn’t seem like an odd request until you realize that prop wash is the water turbulence created by the ship’s propeller.

6. “Go get 20 feet of chow line.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/US Navy

This one also sounds reasonable. After all, every piece of rope in the Navy has a name — mooring line, heaving line, tie line, etc. Chow line seems logical until you figure out it’s the line coming out of the galley.

7. “Go get me 10 feet of shoreline.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A variation of the task above. You want shoreline? Wait for liberty call.

8. “Go ask the yeoman for an ‘ID-10-T’ chit.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Justin R. Pacheco/USN

Write it down and see what you get. Yeomen describe newbies asking for this chit like Christmas at sea — a gift filled with laughter (and pointing).

9. “Go get me some portable pad eyes.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: U.S. Navy

Pad eyes are permanent fixtures on the flight deck that aircraft tie downs attach to. They’re anything but portable.

10. “Go turn on the cooling water for the hand rails.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/USN

Searching for this imaginary valve can take all day. The bulkheads and overhead have miles of pipes and wiring. An unsuspecting sailor can go from one end of the ship to the other without success. Hilarity ensues.

11. “Go ask the supply chief for a can of A1R or A.I.R.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: YouTube

Smart newbies will offer up an empty can, but history shows there aren’t that many smart newbies.

12. “Go get some hangers and tin foil, we need to calibrate the radar.”

Dress the newbie in tin foil with a matching hat and gloves and ask him or her to move slowly to get a good signal. Make sure you bring a camera; the tin man makes for great pictures.

13. “Go practice some touch and goes in the ship’s flight simulator.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Department of Defense

This one is usually reserved for new aviators. (There are no flight simulators on the ship.)

OR: See what life is like on a U.S. Navy Carrier:

Articles

This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Image from MAPS.org

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.

The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.

Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
MDMA in pressed pill form. Image from DEA.

At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.

The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.

It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.

Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.

Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.

Articles

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

(Photo: Ward Carroll) Capt. Josh Powers (far left) of the 101st Airborne Division gathers the males of the village for a shura in eastern Afghanistan.


COMBAT OUTPOST YOSEF KHEL – The brief was held in the early morning in front of battalion headquarters in the shadow of a Conex box. The mission was to get the governor of Paktika Province from the capital of Sharana to a shura – a traditional Afghan meeting of regional tribal elders with government officials – at the small town of Yahya Khel 25 miles to the south. Because of the threat of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs along the route, the men of the U.S. Army charged with getting the governor safely to the shura and back elected to use a convoy of four MRAPs.

Also Read: My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead 

Once off of the forward operating base and at Sharana’s town center the American convoy was joined by a handful of up-armored Humvees from the Afghan National Army and nearly a dozen armed pickup trucks from the Afghan Uniformed Police. The Afghan governor was placed in the second MRAP in the convoy along with the American battalion commander and his interpreter (known simply as “Chewy”).

As the convoy started its push out of Sharana, the battalion commander expressed concern to the governor that the sub-governor of Yahya Khel had heard about the shura from an unauthorized source, which in turn was an indicator of possible hostile activity along the route. The colonel’s concerns were somewhat mitigated by a stronger than usual presence of Afghan National Army troops along the roadway, and the convoy made it through the bottleneck hotspots without incident.

As the lead vehicles made it to the bazaar at Yahya Khel – the largest in the province – The colonel suggested to the governor that he lead the meeting that would take place before the shura, thereby furthering the impression that the governor was fully in charge. The governor agreed.

Once inside the confines of the combat outpost at Yahya Khel, the parties dismounted their vehicles. While the security forces set about bolstering the perimeter, the military and civilian officials made their way to the “pre-brief,” joining a handful of their peers who’d preceded them.

Inside the small room the participants sat on weathered chairs and rugs and pillows against the far wall. Sun-faded posters of Afghanistan and Harmed Karzai dotted the plaster walls. Several attendants dutifully poured milky tea into clear mugs as officials got into place.

The governor took the lead as the American colonel had suggested.

“Can somebody explain the situation to me?” he asked in Pasto. “How many of the enemy do we have?”

The sub-governor answered matter-of-factly: “The government cannot guarantee the security of the people against the Taliban.” With that, the discussion grew heated, with various officials either pointing fingers at other agencies or explaining that they couldn’t do their jobs because of improper resources. The sub-governor complained that the ANA didn’t listen to his needs. The Afghan Uniformed Police chief said one of the ANA generals told him he couldn’t have ammunition because the police force was “not for fighting.”

A U.S. Army company commander, the American military officer most keenly focused on the area around Yahya Khel, added his thoughts during a brief lull in the discussion: “The main problem is a population that is willing to work with the Taliban because many of the Taliban are from the area.” He also pointed to a lack of Afghan-generated intelligence fusion around Yahya Khel, which kept forces from seizing the initiative and proactively preventing attacks on the district center and surrounding areas.

After several displeased officials walked out in the middle of a discussion about cell phone tower security, the governor bemusedly declared the meeting over. The group shuffled out of the pre-brief room and walked down a dirt and gravel alley bordered by high walls and guard towers pockmarked with large-caliber bullet holes and RPG shrapnel. Inside an adjacent building the district elders had gathered for the shura.

With the help of an interpreter (center), First Lieutenant Marcus Smith (right) discusses the needs of the village of Mest with tribal elders. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

The elders (a misnomer of sorts as some of them appeared relatively young) crouched on the dusty concrete floor in front of the governor, who stood behind a modest table at the front of the room.

“I am here to hear your problems,” the governor pronounced. He considered the faces of those before him and asked, “Why are you so sad? You have to be happy. Afghanistan is not like it was 30 years ago. Other countries are spending money in Afghanistan. Don’t send your children to Pakistan or Iran to work. They need to stay here.”

The governor went on to outline his strategy and what he needed from the elders and their charges. He asked them to help the security forces and not work with the Taliban. He urged them to send their children to school. And, like any good politician, he reminded them of the election coming up and told them that they were a very important part of the process.

The governor finished his opening remarks by insisting that the insurgents are not as numerous as their propaganda might have indicated, and further, they were not true Muslims. “Stop an insurgent and ask him to recite one of Muhammad’s speeches,” he said.

The governor was followed by several government officials – the chief of police and the education minister – who shared a common theme: “Tell us your problems and we will work to solve them.”

But when the floor was turned over to the elders, one-by-one those who stood up emphatically said they had asked the government for help but their requests had fallen on deaf ears.

The elders’ airing of grievances was suddenly interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion in the distance followed by another and another, each sounding closer to the city than the last. There were four total. Uniformed personnel (including American forces present) hurried out of the entrance to investigate as the elders exchanged concerned glances. Governor Sameen continued the proceedings, expression underselling the potential threat the explosions might have posed to those in attendance.

The governor ended the shura with a simple sentiment: “Right people always win; wrong people always lose.”

Meanwhile, as the elders and government officials sat for a traditional post-shura lunch, the American military forces were in the tactical operations center busily trying to figure out from which direction the mortars had been fired. The TOC’s laptop computer screens showed images broadcast from high-powered cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras repeatedly moved side to side, scanning the surrounding fields and tree lines but came up empty.

On the roof gunners focused along their designated fields of fire. The American Army company commander explained that one of the enemy’s common tactics was to lob mortars into the fields to the north as a misdirection play followed by small arms fire and RPGs from the wooded grove to the southwest. Overhead a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet awaited tasking from the radio-laden Air Force tactical air controller standing next to the Army captain.

A half hour passed without any follow-on attacks or any sign of where the original attack had emanated from. Without any coordinates to offer, the controller requested that the Super Hornet perform a “motivational pass.” The carrier-based Navy jet complied, roaring loudly overhead at about 500 feet then pulling dramatically into a climb.

The post-shura lunch concluded, and the security situation was deemed stable enough to allow the convoy to man-up and move out, back-tracking along the route it had taken a few hours earlier. In the command vehicle the colonel asked the governor if he shared his sense that the elders had done a lot of complaining about those trying to help them while letting the Taliban off the hook. The govenor pushed back a bit, pointing out the stat he had put out during his opening remarks that the Taliban were killing one elder a day – 30 a month. In return the governor pronounced the shura a qualified success.

And as the convoy snaked and bumped its way north, the insurgents re-initiated their attack on Yayha Khel, this time more brazen. They pinned down a U.S. Army dismounted patrol on the outskirts of the city with small arms fire while their mortars fell into the bazaar and closer to the observation post. Reports crackled over the radio that the walls to the city had been breached. Units in adjacent areas were put on alert and made ready to assist their comrades. A Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter answered the call for airborne firepower, but by the time it had arrived American ground forces had pushed the insurgents back into the ether from which they’d emerged.

The enemy message associated with the timing and intensity of the attack was unmistakable: Shuras don’t mean peace.

NOW: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded 

OR: 6 Reasons Why The Korengal Valley Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In Afghanistan 

Articles

The 8 most famous manhunts in military history

War is generally about two sides engaging with thousands of troops, but occasionally that power is directed against one guy instead of an entire army. Here are the eight most noteworthy times that the American military went after an individual:


1. Francisco Pancho Villa

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikipedia

In perhaps the most famous manhunt in U.S. military history, Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing led the “Punitive Expedition” to capture Francisco Pancho Villa and his men after they raided Columbus, New Mexico and killed 18 Americans.

The expedition pushed 300 miles into Mexico and pursued Villa from Mar. 15, 1916 to Jan. 12, 1917. They successfully broke up Villa’s gang but failed to capture Villa.

2. Osama Bin Laden

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikipedia/Hamid Mir

The most recent and perhaps most satisfying entry on this list, Osama Bin Laden was the elusive mastermind behind al-Qaeda and the September 11 terrorist attacks. An initial operation to kill him in the Tora Bora mountains failed, but he was eventually found in Pakistan and killed by Navy SEAL Team Six in Operation Neptune Spear.

3. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikipedia

On April 14, 1943, U.S. Navy code breakers learned that the architect of Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isokuru Yamamoto, would be inspecting bases in Solomon Islands and would follow a flight path that would place it just within reach of Air Corps P-38Gs deployed to Guadalcanal.

On orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, 18 planes took off on April 18 and successfully engaged the flight. The Americans shot down two bombers modified to carry the admiral, but his fighter escort made it out alive. Yamamoto’s body was found the next day by a Japanese rescue party.

4. Geronimo

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Geronimo is on the far right, pictured here with family members. Photo: Wikipedia/Arizona Historical Society

Geronimo was one of the most feared Native American leaders when he was finally forced to live on a reservation in Arizona in 1877. But Geronimo was not decisively beaten and lived there on his own terms.

He broke out multiple times, but his departure in May 1885 was quickly followed by a series of raids on nearby farms. The Army committed 5,000 troops to the search for three months but couldn’t find him. Eventually, Geronimo surrendered to the Americans for a chance to see his family again in Florida.

5. Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: Wikipedia/Oficina de Asuntos Históricos de Cuba

The famous Argentinian revolutionary and college freshman T-shirt icon was a major thorn in the side of the America as he tried to create “two, three, or many Vietnams” in Latin America, according to “Hunting Che” author Mitch Weiss. U.S. Special Forces soldiers trained Bolivian conscripts to hunt Che, and they successfully killed him Oct. 9, 1967.

6. Saddam Hussein

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: US Army

The hunt for the notorious dictator of Iraq kicked off before the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, but Saddam Hussein remained a ghost for months. When he was finally found by U.S. Army soldiers, it wasn’t in a hidden palace or even a well-appointed bunker. Hussein surrendered in a tiny spider-hole near Tikrit where he had squirreled away $750,000, an Kalashnikov, and some chocolate.

7. Manuel Antonio Noriega

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Photo: US Air Force

The manhunt for Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega and many of his subordinates was Operation Just Cause. The initial invasion force on Dec. 20, 1989 crippled the Panamanian Defense Forces and blocked Noriega’s main means of escape but failed to capture the dictator.

The manhunt lasted until Christmas Eve when the dictator sought asylum in the Vatican Embassy in Panama. Under guidance from the Pope, the head of the embassy told Noriega that the Vatican would not grant political asylum or guarantee his safety against demonstrators rallying around the embassy. Noriega surrendered to the U.S. on January 2, 1970 (p. 54).

8. Mohammed Farrah Aideed

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines examine a tank belonging to Warlord Mohammad Aideed’s army in 1992. Photo: US Navy Master Chief Photographer’s Mate Terry Mitchell

If you don’t remember the name, think “Black Hawk Down.” Mohammed Aideed was the warlord in control of Somalia’s strongest militia during the U.N. Operation Restore Hope. A U.S. task force supported the nation-building mission which quickly turned violent. The capture of Aideed became necessary for mission security.

The first mission to capture Aideed failed on Jun. 17, 1993. The U.S. sent Task Force Ranger to assist Aug. 28, 1993. A series of raids, including the Oct. 3 raid and subsequent rescue effort depicted in “Black Hawk Down,” netted many of Aideed’s lieutenants, but American casualties made the manhunt too bloody for the U.S. A Nov. 16 U.N. resolution and ceasefire left Aideed in power.

Now: The 11 ways people dodged the Vietnam draft

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US soldiers keep Black Hawk helicopters flying

Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s soldiers and equipment.

Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.

According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60’s lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.


Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections,” US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.

“We’re inspecting each individual component to make sure it’s still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service.”

Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“It’s a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience,” Strella said.

“A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it’s good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers’ skill level.”

The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.

Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it’s his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it’s carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.

He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit’s labor.

“Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you’ve worked on, it’s just a good feeling,” Turner said. “That’s one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you’re like — I put my hands on that.”

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

Articles

John McCain learned two big things when he was a prisoner of war

Before he was a U.S. senator, and later a presidential candidate, John McCain was a naval aviator over the skies of Vietnam. But the 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy is probably known less for his flying skills and more for what he did on the ground, as a prisoner of war for more than five years.


“I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison,” McCain wrote in a post on Quora, in response to the question of what it was like to be a P.O.W.

When he was shot down, McCain was on his 23rd mission: A bombing run over Hanoi. “A Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber,” he recalled in U.S. News World Report.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
John McCain being captured in Vietnam. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With his jet traveling at roughly 575 mph, he was able to eject. But when he landed in enemy territory, he had broken his left arm, his right arm in three places, and his right leg near the knee. He was captured soon after, and taken to the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison, better known by its prisoners as the “Hanoi Hilton.”

In his Quora post and in his book “Faith of my Fathers,” he recounted his poor treatment and very limited contact with the outside world. But there were two big things McCain learned:

“I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough,” he wrote. “And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the parting wisdom of a Marine dying of cancer

Being a Marine taught me the importance of giving back. But my last mission may be my most crucial: Instilling the same values in my son.


Two years ago, I was built like a tank. I’ve been built like that my entire life, having grown up as a wrestler in high school and college. Once, way back then, someone looked at me and said, “What the hell are you?”

I look much different now. It’s hard for me to speak for long periods of time, and I’m about half the size I used to be. Now, I’m happy to just get up and walk, which is a mental challenge all by itself. The guy I used to be has been destroyed by chemotherapy.

In late 2015, I was diagnosed with stage-four cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that starts in the bile ducts. I don’t know how much time I have left; I may not even make it to my 55th birthday this December, but I’m happy that I can go knowing I’ve lived my life in complete service to others and to my family.

Except I have a teenage son, and there’s still so much to teach him.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Anthony Egan and his son, Mason. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Egan)

I won’t be able to impart my wisdom to Mason as he grows up. That’s why I’m making sure he knows, now, the importance of living a life in service, like I have. The lessons are simple: Be humble, be open, and be helpful.

Growing up, my father was constantly working, which meant he wasn’t around a ton. He did the best he could though, and I considered him my best friend. But I didn’t have someone who could mentally challenge me. I got into wrestling in the seventh grade, and my coach became that person for me instead. He ended up being a formidable figure in my life, and I’m still in touch with him today.

Read Also: Why we need chivalry in the Marine Corps

You could tell immediately that this man had served in the military — through his mannerisms, his attention to detail, and his level of concentration. I thought, “This guy is incredible.” At an early age, my coach gave me advice that to this day I continue to take to heart:

“Don’t be a wise guy,” he would tell me. “Don’t be a showboat.”

Eventually, I joined the Marines, and that advice is what got me through basic training. Now, it’s something I teach Mason at every opportunity. We have a lot of big talks these days — especially now that I don’t know how long I have left to live — and I try to tell him who I was before the military.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Time in the Marines inspired Anthony Egan to pursue a life of service. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Egan)

I tell him not to be that guy.

When I enlisted in 1982, I was a very private person. In fact, you could say I was pretty closed off. But interaction with people is important, and you have to be open and outgoing. There is just something about being open to new experiences that makes life more meaningful. It also makes you not afraid to help people.

There is nothing more gratifying than helping others, and there are many avenues for doing that — not just through the military.

I joined the Marines after one year of college because I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” about a guy who joins the Navy, came out right before I signed up, and that shaped what I thought the military was going to be like.

I was wrong.

My time in the military wasn’t like a Richard Gere action-romance film. It was tough and it was terrifying, but it also made me grow into a man that started to think to myself, “What can I do to give back?” What the Marines did was laser-focus my attention and instilled in me the idea that, “Hey, you’re capable of a hell of a lot more than what you’re doing now.”

Related: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

I left the service in 1988 and it haunted me for a long time. I just missed it so badly. I still say that the Marine Corps was the best job I ever had. But I can no longer regret leaving, because I have the best family God could give me, and I would never have met my wife and had Mason if I had stayed.

But here’s the thing: When you serve, the experience never truly leaves you; it always stays with you. Every time something tragic occurred, I would quietly shed a tear. When 9/11 happened, I was choked up watching the coverage on TV. I felt like I should be there — I needed to help.

So off I went to Ground Zero, wearing my old and dated fatigues from the ’80s, and was able to get my way onto the search and rescue team that pulled out the first five people. It was surreal; everyone had the same look on their face, much like how they talk about the empty thousand-yard stare of soldiers who served in Vietnam. There was a gray, pinkish powder in the air, like debris mixed with blood. And it covered everything.

My cancer, my family and I believe, has a direct correlation to my time helping on the pile. But I wouldn’t take any of it back, and Mason knows that.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

And that’s because service is part of me, now. I tell Mason constantly that being in service is such a selfless act. It’s contributing to something bigger than yourself. It just requires humility and the willingness to be open to help others.

Luckily for me, Mason already has most of these traits. But he’s only 14 and has a lot of growing up ahead of him and will face situations where I won’t be there to talk to him.

And that is the one thing that kills me — figuratively, of course — feeling like I’ve let down my son by dying too soon.

He’s talking right now of going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. I hope he does. He’s smart and creative, and good in science and math. I can see him being a biomechanical engineer or something similar.

But even if he doesn’t go into military, I just want him to be happy helping people. I tell him that if he sees someone who needs help, help them. It’s a really good feeling. I promise.

Articles

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

Humor

5 kid toys troops will reuse for tactical reasons

Children love playing with toys. So, it makes sense that immature adults love playing with toys, too. A benefit of being in the military is that we can pretend like there’s actually a legitimate reason for playing along.


Somewhere along the line, a high-ranking officer saw that same immature troop accomplish some good through playing with toys and gave the following the seal of approval.

1. Nerf guns

Never underestimate the abilities of a bored infantry platoon looking for a way to let off steam. Stacking and clearing “glass houses” (which are really just white tape on the ground) and using your gun-shaped fingers as mock-weaponry gets kinda dull after a while.

What’s actually fun is when the platoons of hardened warfighters practice their battle drills in the barracks by kicking in doors and tagging each other with Nerf darts while they’re on the toilet.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
You thought civilian office pranks were bad? Check out an infantry platoon on a regular Tuesday. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Peterson)

2. Paintball guns

The rules of engagement are taken very seriously by troops who are deployed. First, you must establish a show of force, letting a potential enemy know you’re armed. Then, you shout, usually through an interpreter or in broken Farsi, to let the enemy know they should back the f*ck up. If they still don’t back away, you can physically “shove” them in the direction they should be going in. Finally, use of force is authorized.

Some troops find it easier to just cover their feet with colored paint than to bust out the real weapons.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
The real ones don’t really shoot red paint. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison)

3. Little, green Army men

Sand tables are used by commanders to show a rough overview of the mission. Many different things can be designated as a unit. This broken stick? The objective. And this pebble will flank in through the south — like this.

Commanders can clear away a bunch of the confusion by ordering a $5 bucket of plastic Army guys. Add a little bit of paint and you’ve got some distinct markers.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
“Okay, first platoon. You’re going to wave your rifles in the air like an idiot. Second, you’re going to kneel with a radio.” (Photo by Sgt. Tracy McKithern)

4. Silly String

Trip wires are placed by the enemy on the paths through which troops will walk. When someone bumps into it, the attached explosives detonate. The solution? A cheap can of Silly String.

The string shoots out pretty far and is so soft and light that it won’t set off the wire. If troops spray it through a doorway, they’ll quickly discover a trap. Even if a wire is sensitive enough to be tripped by silly string, the surprisingly long range of the spray gives troops enough distance to mitigate some of the explosion.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

5. Walkie-talkies

The military has plans for everything, especially communication. Primarily, units depend on secured, frequency-hopping radios. Alternatively, troops can rely on a slightly less secure radio. In case of an absolute emergency, send a runner.

A cheap, effective, “ah-crap” plan is to use regular walkie-talkies instead of sending that runner to maintain unit integrity.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
At least opt for the non-kiddie version to save some dignity. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Koster)

Articles

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”

This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”


The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.

From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.

 

Related: The story of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ makes your officers look pretty smart

There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.

It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
Officer of the 17th Lancers (Painting via Cranston Fine Arts)

An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”

The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.

Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Wikimedia)

Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.

This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Library of Congress)

Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory:

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Since its founding nearly 100 years ago, USAA has spearheaded countless initiatives for the military community. Today, the veteran-forward company announced their intent to give $30 million in support of military families through their Military Family Relief Initiative, the largest one-time philanthropic contribution in their storied history.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the world, the military community is not immune to the pandemic’s effects. USAA recognized the unique challenges faced by military families and made the decision to provide this money in hopes of supporting those who sacrifice so much for this country.


“Having served for nearly 32 years, I’ve seen the good and the bad,” Navy Vice Admiral James Syring (ret.), President of USAA Property and Casualty Group told WATM. “In tough times, it is really important for not only the military to step forward but other organizations. You know USAA’s mission and who we serve and what we do. This is to the heart of who we are. During these times of need is when we need to show up,” he said.

The 2019 Blue Star Families Survey revealed that financial issues remained the top stressor for military service members, spouses and veteran families. This stressor was high before the pandemic extended deployments, caused lost employment and increased isolation within the military community. As USAA watched the spread of COVID-19 and the increasingly negative impact it was having on military families, the company knew it had to act.

“This isn’t just for our members, it’s for the community. We are doing it because it’s our mission. It’s who we serve,” Syring explained.

From the Military Relief Initiative, million will be given directly to military relief societies. This includes Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, We Care for America Foundation and the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

The million going directly to the relief societies will create both grants and zero interest loans for eligible service members and their families. It will target financial emergencies and costs associated with virtual schooling, among other things. The remaining million has been promised to nonprofit organizations serving veteran and military spouse employment needs, junior enlisted childcare fees, emotional support for children of service members and virtual schooling costs. To access the support, those eligible can go directly to their relief societies to begin the process.

“USAA has been a dedicated supporter of AER’s mission for many years and we are grateful to receive this latest grant, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.), Director of Army Emergency Relief, said. “This newly announced 2020 gift from the USAA team is another powerful demonstration of their commitment to America’s military members and their families. USAA is an incredibly generous partner and on behalf of Army families everywhere, we thank them for their support.”

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

USAA also wants to make it clear that they want the focus to be on the importance of supporting the military, especially during these challenging times. “We are doing this to help military families in need — that’s it. This isn’t about business or selling, it’s about doing our part to help the community that we serve,” Syring said.

The organization has also set up a donation fund for members that want to give to COVID-19 relief for military families. With every donation, USAA covers all administrative and merchant fees so that the entire donation goes to the nonprofits supporting military families.

Syring shared that USAA is creating an online platform for military families to share their stories and experiences through COVID-19. It is their hope that as those receiving help share their stories, it will open the door for more families to take that step to get help themselves. “It’s not in our nature in the military to raise a hand and say, ‘I need help.’ It’s always mission first, it’s ingrained in you.” Syring continued, “We want people to raise their hands.”

To apply for support, click here to access the web page USAA created linking those in need with their branch specific relief organizations.