One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

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.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why grunts should read books

So, you joined the grunts. From this day forward, everyone will make fun of you because some of your friends eat crayons and the others eat rocks. You, however, have never tasted the sweet nectar of Tide Pods and you’re out to break the mold. You’re on a mission to change the common perception that grunts’ brains are about as meaningful as Certificates of Appreciation.

So, how can you do it? How can a grunt convince another person that they’re actually intelligent and informed on the philosophies of the war-fighting profession? Easy: Read books.

We know, we know — you’d rather be getting drunk, but what are you going to do when you’re sitting in a burning-hot, metal tube for ITX? Or when you’re stuck on ship? We’re not tell you to take a book to the armory line with you, but you know damn-well there’s plenty of downtime to fill. These are the major reasons you should be reading, grunt.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Being good at your job is imperative.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. To get better at your job

Reading a good book, especially one from the Commandant’s Reading List, can help you learn new concepts and ideas that are relevant to your job in one way or another. Even if it’s not The Art of War, reading military-themed novels can help put you in the right mindset to perform at a higher level.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

You can learn quite a bit from the mistakes of the past.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. To learn from history

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So, why not read up on past failures and get a sense of things you can do differently?

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

He probably read a new book every week.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Zachary Dyer)

3. To learn leadership skills

All the greatest military leaders read books. If you think that our Lord and savior, General Mattis (blessed be his name), spent his whole career playing Battlefield and drinking Natty Lights, you’re sadly mistaken. No doubt he read plenty of books.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

If you sound like Adam Sandler in Waterboy, your life will be difficult.

(U.S. Army)

4. To get better at articulating thoughts

When you eventually find yourself in a position where you have to write a five paragraph order (you know, a battle plan), being able to communicate your thoughts clearly in writing is of utmost importance. Reading the greats will help expand your threshold of written expression.

Plus, if you decide to push far and beyond the first four years, you don’t want to become that Staff NCO who can’t make it through the first paragraph of a promotion warrant or award certificate.

Articles

This is what a war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia would look like

With tensions between Qatar and a Saudi-lead group of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) increasing over allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups, and a blockade being imposed, there is the question as to what would happen if this broke out into war.


Could Qatar hold on? Would Saudi Arabia have some new real estate?

Let’s start with a look at the Qatari military. The blockade is one likely flashpoint, and the balance of naval forces is decidedly not in Qatar’s favor. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Qatari navy consists of seven patrol combatants equipped with MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles. This force is outclassed by the Saudi navy, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, which combine for nine frigates, plus 10 corvettes and up to 30 guided-missile patrol combatants.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
An al Madinah class frigate of the Royal Saudi Navy. (Royal Saudi Navy photo)

In essence, Qatar isn’t about to break this blockade any time soon. Any naval battle will be very short – and will end with the Qatari navy on the bottom. The only question will be how much of an honor guard they will take with them.

It’s important to note that eight of the Saudi-led coalition frigates are equipped with surface-to-air missiles, while the corvettes at least have point-defense systems like the Mk 15 Phalanx or launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.

So, what happens if the Saudi-lead coalition decides to roll into Qatar? Again, this will likely be a short fight. The Egyptian army and the combination of the Saudi army and Saudi National Guard would be operating under friendly skies very quickly.

According to FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2017, Qatar has a single squadron of 13 Mirage 2000-5 fighters (nine Mirage 2000-5EDA, four Mirage 2000-5DDAs) on hand. Yes, they ordered 72 F-15QA Eagles, 18 Rafale Cs and six Rafale Bs, but those haven’t been delivered.

As things stand right now, Bahrain’s air force of 17 F-16Cs and 8 F-5Es could arguably take the Qatari air force on their own. That doesn’t count what the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia could throw in.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Qatar does have Patriot and THAAD batteries. These systems make for a formidable air-defense system. That said, the sheer numbers of planes from the Saudi-lead coalition (“World Air Forces 2017” notes that Saudi Arabia has 48 Eurofighters, 129 F-15C/S/SA, and 81 Tornado IDS while the UAE has 55 F-16E, 23 F-16F, and 49 Mirage 2000-5 fighters on hand) would likely overwhelm those defenses.

The ground battle would also be short. The Qatari army performed well during the Battle of Khafji in Desert Storm. But with one tank battalion, four mechanized infantry battalions, and an anti-tank battalion (according to GlobalSecurity.org), they are badly outnumbered by the eight brigades (two armored, five mechanized infantry, and one airborne) assigned to the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudi Arabian National Guard brings 11 additional brigades.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Saudi troops march in formation. (WATM file photo)

Qatar has two trump cards to keep this crisis from going hot. One is the American presence at Al Udeid Air Base – in essence, the Saudi-lead coalition is not going to want to accidentally hit American personnel. The other is the fact that Turkey, under Recip Teyap Erdogan, is condemning the blockade, and Turkey has a formidable military of its own. But Turkey is a long way off, and may not be able to do much to stop a Saudi-lead invasion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Daphne explain her journey from model to Marine

Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.


Daphne Bye’s memory is from her father’s traditional Peruvian Ceviche, which he made for her every time she came home. Daphne was brought up on the flavors of South America and would always crave the Ceviche, homemade by her family, especially when away from home for extended periods of time. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for Daphne:

Peruvian Ceviche w/ Uni and Yucca Crisp

Inspired by Daphne’s Dad’s Traditional Peruvian Ceviche

Ingredients

*all chopped ingredients should be roughly same bite-size.

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good quality)

2 Cups Canola Oil (for frying)

5-8 Limes (juiced)

2 Lbs Striped Bass (or other firm white fish – chopped)

1 Large Jalapeño (seeded, stemmed and chopped)

5 Garlic Cloves (chopped)

3 Roma Tomatoes (chopped)

1 Small Red Onion (chopped)

1/4 Cup Cilantro (chopped)

2 Ears of White Corn

4 Tbs Uni (sea urchin – for topping)

1 Large Yucca

Prepare

Boil Corn in 2 quarts of salted water for 15 minutes or until they are halfway cooked. Remove,

cool and slice kernels off cob, one side at a time. Put kernels aside.

Add corn to fish, jalapeño, garlic, tomato, onion and cilantro. Top with salt and pepper, lime

juice and olive oil.

Let sit in refrigerator overnight.

When ready to serve, heat Canola oil in small, heavy bottom pan or Wok to 350°. Meanwhile,

peel and slice Yucca with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin you can just slice uniform

slim slices of the Yucca carefully with a sharp knife. They should be the thickness of thin

potato chips.

When oil is at temp, fry Yucca chips in small batches pulling out when they turn golden brown.

Drain on paper towel.

To serve, place 2-3 spoonfuls of the Ceviche in a bowl, top with the Uni and Yucca chip.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the Army plans to conquer Japan

The U.S. had laid a lot of plans for late World War II. After the fall of Italy and then Germany, America wanted to finally crush the empire of Japan and get final payback for Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the infantrymen and other troops slated to die against a determined Japanese defense, the empire surrendered after two atomic bombs and Russia deploying troops. Here’s what the U.S. Army had planned in case that didn’t happen.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

U.S. plans for the invasion of Kyushu in Operation Olympic, the first phase of the planned invasion of Japan.

(U.S. Army)

The assault on Japan was expected to take 18 months, starting with an intense blockade and air bombardment of Japan. Basically, stop Japan from pulling any more men and equipment back to the main islands and bomb the sh-t out of all equipment and forces already there.

While America had already captured or isolated many of the Japanese troops in the Pacific, there was the ongoing problem of Japanese forces in China that could slip back to Japan if the blockade wasn’t firmly in place for months ahead of the invasion.

It was hoped that the blockade and bombardment would weaken the defenses on Kyushu Island, the southernmost of the main islands and the first target. This assault was Operation Olympic, the first phase of Downfall. The Army wanted to land on Kyushu with soldiers and Marines from the Philippines, the Nansei Islands, and others. A total of 14 divisions were scheduled to take the beaches and push north.

This was slated to take months starting in November 1945. Wartime realities would push the date to December 1, and there was pressure to push it even further amid concerns that the blockade needed more time.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

U.S. plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands via two amphibious landings, one at Kyushu Island and one at Honshu.

(U.S. Army)

But that invasion through Kyushu was just phase one, a way of preparing for a second, larger invasion through the Tokyo Plain on Honshu Island, the largest island in Japan and the home of the capital. This was Operation Coronet, and it was thought to require 25 divisions just for the initial assaults, not counting the Air Force’s Pacific divisions held in reserve for additional bombardment and resupply.

The tentative date of March 1 was set for the Coronet invasion, but some officers pushed for a later date as soon as March 1 was announced. They wanted to delay the invasions to allow for a much larger air and sea bombardment as well as all sorts of preparatory operations. This group wanted to hit multiple points on the Chinese coast, in Korea, the Tsushima Strait, and other places.

Worst case scenario, this would’ve made the invasion of Japan much easier, though it would have used a lot of valuable resources. Best case scenario, it might have so crippled the Japanese war machine that it couldn’t hold its territory, allowing America to force a surrender without an invasion.

But these preparations would have required a massive supply of troops and machines, and that would have necessarily delayed Operation Downfall. Worse, the operations in China could have entangled America into the civil war there, preventing them from invading Japan for months or years.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

An Army graphic showing the organization of forces for Coronet, the invasion of Kyushu Island.

(U.S. Army)

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, voted for the full invasion of Japan as soon as logistically feasible. For him, this was the third proposed course of action, and he said:

I am of the opinion that the ground, naval, air, and logistic resources in the Pacific are adequate to carry out Course III. The Japanese Fleet has been reduced to practical impotency. The Japanese Air Force has been reduced to a line of action which involves uncoordinated, suicidal attacks against our forces, employing all types of planes, including trainers. Its attrition is heavy and its power for sustained action is diminishing rapidly. Those conditions will be accentuated after the establishment of our air forces in the Ryukyus. With the increase in the tempo of very long range attacks, the enemy’s ability to provide replacement planes will diminish and the Japanese potentiality will decline at an increasing rate. It is believed that the development of air bases in the Ryukyus will, in conjunction with carrier-based planes, give us sufficient air power to support landings on Kyushu and that the establishment of our air forces there will ensure complete air supremacy over Honshu. Logistic considerations present the most difficult problem.

Nimitz agreed, and the two top commanders began to assemble their forces for the largest amphibious assault ever planned. They relied on all troops, ships, and heavy equipment in the Pacific as well as a steady flow of troops from Europe after the victory there.

And, if the fighting continued past June 1946, they would need to pull an additional four divisions per month from the U.S.

Japan, for its part, dragged its feet in preparing to counter a ground invasion. Even as late as March 1945, there had been little planning and troop buildup for the defense, but Japan finally addressed it. By July 1945, they had 30 line divisions, 2 armored divisions, 23 coastal defense divisions, and another 33 brigades of various types.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

The Japanese plans for troop deployment to throwback or slow an American invasion of the home islands in 1945.

(U.S. Army)

Those 39 U.S. divisions for Olympic and Coronet are suddenly looking like they’ll struggle, right? Like they could take heavy losses and would require those reinforcements from Europe and America?

Luckily, Japan decided to surrender instead. There are some arguments about whether this was predominantly because of the Russian invasion of Japanese islands to Japan’s north or if it was because of the atom bombs that America dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but either way it allowed America to shelve Operation Downfall and execute Blacklist instead, the plan for the peaceful, unopposed occupation of Japan.

Articles

The US Navy might pull these old combat ships out of mothballs

In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.


Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.

Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
The inactive USS Kitty Hawk berthed near Bremerton, WA (Wikimedia Commons)

A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.

Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.

Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.

The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.

However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
An aerial view of the Bremerton Ghost Fleet, circa 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.

Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.

A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.

Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.

Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beijing isn’t happy about this US cruiser sailing past its outpost

The US Navy challenged China’s excessive claims to the South China Sea on Nov. 26, 2018, by sending a warship past a Chinese military outpost in the disputed waterway.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN Nov. 29, 2018, in a statement that was also provided to Business Insider.

A Chinese vessel reportedly shadowed the US Navy warship during the operation.


“US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea,” Christensen added. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

“FONOPs challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

Beijing responded with a formal diplomatic protest, CNN reported, citing multiple US officials.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, and while those claims were discredited by an international arbitration tribunal two years ago, the Chinese military has continued to bolster its presence in the region through the deployment of jamming technology, anti-ship missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.

Two days after the latest FONOP, the US Navy aggravated China again by sending a destroyer and an oiler through the Taiwan Strait. The destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos pushed through the closely-watched strait Nov. 28, 2018, drawing some criticism from Beijing.

“We urge the United States to … cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue and avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Nov. 29, 2018.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pacific Fleet told Business Insider Nov. 28, 2018.

The US military has been increasingly active, both at sea and in the air, in areas China considers key national interests, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have been rising over the past year.

In addition to US Navy FONOPs, the US Air Force has regularly sent B-52 bombers into the South China Sea, occasionally drawing Beijing’s ire.

While most incidents are uneventful, the US and Chinese navies had a close call in late September, when a Chinese warship challenged a US Navy destroyer, forcing it off course through aggressive maneuvers that US officials called dangerous and unprofessional.

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

Articles

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Dick Lohry, the nephew of Army Pvt. John P. Sersha, took a moment to touch Sersha’s casket Tuesday after a planeside honors ceremony. (Photo: Aaron Lavinsky – Star Tribune)


The remains of a World War II veteran – who left the U.S. to serve his country 72 years ago – have been exhumed from an anonymous grave at the United States Military Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, in Belgium, and brought back to the family and land that he died to protect.

Army Private John P. Sersha will be buried in his hometown of Eveleth, Minnesota today with full military honors — just in time for Memorial Day.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Army Pvt. John P. Sersha

A railroad worker, John P. Sersha, was drafted into the military in 1943 and inducted into the Army at Fort Snelling later that year. He received his training in Texas, and then joined the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, Company F, of the 82nd Airborne Division in Maryland.

On September 23, 1944, he and his company landed in Holland during Operation Market Garden –  the unsuccessful mission where the Allies attempted to capture several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands. He had been entrenched in Kiekberg Forest with his company for just four days when he and two other ‘bazooka men’ were sent on an assault mission behind enemy lines. They were never seen again.

Fields of Honor – a website that gives a face to the names of the U.S. WWII soldiers buried in Belgium and the Netherlands – posted this account in its database:

Private Sersha among its ranks first saw battle when it landed near Nijmegen on 23 September 1944. Operation Market Garden had been launched on the 17th, but it took till the 23rd when the elements of the 325th were sent to Holland to join in the battle. The 325th was inserted in the frontline south east of Nijmegen, in the forest-covered hills and valleys facing the Reichwald. Between 27 and 30 September, the 325th was involved in the Battle for Kiekberg Forest. The area was full of steep hills and valleys. Opposing the 325th was the German 190th “Hammer” Infantry Division. Men of this division had infiltrated the forest and were building up in order to attack towards Nijmegen. Private Sersha was MIA during the fighting in the Kiekberg Forest.

Sersha’s family spent decades looking for closure. Three years after the war ended, the remains of two soldiers were discovered in Keikberg Woods by a local woodsman. One of the bodies was identified – and while the other was thought to be that of Pvt. Sersha, the American Graves Registration Command could not 100 percent confirm this and thus did not inform the surviving family. They laid the body in an anonymous grave marked: X7429, and Sersha’s name was later inscribed – along with 1721 others  – on the Netherlands Wall of the Missing.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Wall of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery.

In the 1980’s Sersha’s brother Paul – now 97 years old – searched for those who could possibly shed light on the last months of his presumably deceased brother’s life.  He was able to track down a paratrooper with whom he served, but no new information came of the connection.

In 2005, Sersha’s nephew Richard Lohry picked up the quest. According to his interview with Fayetteville Observer, he was only 11 months old when his uncle had disappeared behind enemy lines, but still wanted to learn more about his Uncle John.  His grandmother kept a photo of  her son in her home.  “I was drawn to that photo for years and years,” Lohry told the paper.

In an effort to preserve and honor his life, Lohry, a pastor, began collecting whatever he could find on his uncle, which was very little information.  Finally, a couple who attended his church found a photo that had taken in 1994 while visiting the Netherlands American Cemetery. It just so happened to be the exact panel that bore his uncle’s name.  Inspired by that photo of the wall, he gave a sermon that Memorial Day titled: “God Never Forgets”.  Lohry had renewed hope in his search.

Memorial Stone in honor of Pvt. John Sersha placed in Virginia, Minnesota

In 2013, a memorial stone sponsored by Sersha’s family was placed in Virginia, Minnesota near the family home. The installation ceremony caught the media’s attention.  One day later, a family member received a call from Germany. Army sergeant Danny Keay, tracked down the relative from an article he had read online. According to Timberjay.com, Keay had put together information from Sersha’s “Individual Deceased Personnel File” with information from a file of a set of unknown remains.  That bit of information was a big first step in a lengthy, but rewarding process in determining who this unknown soldier was.

Two years later, after completing a slew of paperwork that included matching dental records and solving a height discrepancy – Lohry, with the help of U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, requested that the Secretary of the Army grant permission to exhume the body in grave marked “X7429.” Nine months later, the request was approved.  On December 16, 2015, the body was exhumed and flown to Offutt Air Base. They conducted series of lab tests including matching the DNA of Sersha’s brother Paul and Lohry, his nephew.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Members of a Minnesota Army National Guard Honor Guard retrieved the casket of John P. Sersha during a planeside honors ceremony on May 24, 2016.

This final step would serve to cross one name off the long list of the missing. The results were clear. The remains of John Sersha  – an uncle, a brother , and a son – that were missing for 72 years could make a final journey home.

On Jan. 4, 2016, that World War II Veteran’s tireless nephew now had the honor of delivering the investigation results. Mesabi Daily News published part of Lohry’s letter. He wrote:

“…. this is great news. My first contact with you was in April of 2013. By then, I had already been working on a history of John’s military services since spring of 2005. And it was not until November of 2013 that we even knew that John’s remains may have been found back n 1948. It’s been a long road indeed, and now I am happy to say:
John: You haven’t been forgotten — we’re coming to bring you home!

On May 24, 2016, members of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Honor Guard received the flag-draped casket during planeside honors. Members of Sersha’s family, including his 97-year-old brother, Paul was there for the emotional moment.

According to Star Tribune, visitation for John Sersha is scheduled on Friday, May 28th 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bauman Family Funeral Home, 516 1st St. S., Virginia, Minnesota with services to follow starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 306 2nd St. S., Virginia, Minnesota.

To share condolences online, please see: www.baumanfuneralhome.com.

Sersha is survived by siblings Paul Sersha, of Virginia, and Julia Trunzo, of nearby Mountain Iron. Three sisters, including Lohry’s mother, Mary Pecher, and a brother are deceased.

Editor’s note: Operation Market Garden is the subject of the 1977 film: A Bridge Too Far with Sean Connery and Michael Cain.

Articles

How the Marine Corps took money from this charitable gunny

Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.


Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.

Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Marine Staff Sgt. Jared C. Coons receives the 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Spirit of Hope Award during the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award Ceremony at the Pentagon Library, Nov. 19, 2013. (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.

But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.

Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.

Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.

Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.

“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”

Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”

But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.

Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.

The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.

“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”

Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.

He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.

“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Battle of Belleau Wood

Considered one of the most important battles in U.S. Marine Corps history, the story of Belleau Wood continues to have a significant impact on military culture today. On the evening of June 1, 1918, the German Army breached the western front and came within just 45 miles of Paris.

The Marines weren’t going to let them go any further. They positioned themselves and were ready to strike once the orders were passed down. The ensuing battle would last for weeks and was the first large-scale battle fought by American soldiers in World War I. U.S. forces suffered over 9,000 casualties — just over 1,800 killed. The German body count is still unknown — but it was high.

Historians have gone on at length about many of the incredible details of the famous battle, but several aspects have gone largely undiscussed — until now.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Capt. Lloyd Williams, USMC

As the Marines were arriving, the French were retreating

On June 2, 1918, the Marines arrived on the scene under the command of Capt. Lloyd Williams only to see French troops in retreat from the German enemy. The French told the Marines to turn around and head back to from where they came.

Capt. Lloyd Williams replied,

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

The Marines finally got their orders

On June 6, 1918, Allied powers launched their attack on the Germans who were busying preparing to do the same. Marines maneuvered up Hill 142 to prevent a flanking attack on their French allies.

Although 1st Battalion, 5th Marines were heavily outnumbered, that didn’t stop them from bravely dashing toward the enemy across open wheat field.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

American Marines are depicted fighting German soldiers in the Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918.

The Marines saw the enemy before they were spotted

As Capt. George Wallace Hamilton and the 49th Company were getting into position, he noticed that they were surrounded by German machine guns — he had caught them off guard. He and his men stormed the guns with bayonets fixed and secured the guns for friendly forces.

Hamilton was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and a Navy Cross for his bad*ssery.

Twelve on one

After enduring the first round of attacks, the Germans rallied and attempted a counterattack on Hill 142. As 12 German soldiers began their advance, they were met by Gunnery Sgt. Ernest Janson, who wasn’t fond of their idea. He alone prevented the dozen Germans from going any further by killing two of them with his bayonet. The others quickly fled.

For his actions, Janson became the first U.S Marine to earn the Medal of Honor during the war.

www.youtube.com

After 6 attacks, the Germans finally threw in the towel.

During the multi-week campaign, the Marines suffered heavy losses, but dealt out ass-kickings in kind. Like much of World War I, the Battle of Belleau Wood was slow-moving and brutal, but the Americans finally claimed victory after attacking six separate times.

On Jun. 26, 1918, the Germans decided the battle was unwinnable and retreated from the blood-soaked arena.

Check out the Marines video below to watch the footage from an immensely important time in military history.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force needs more ‘bird cannons’ to protect bombers

Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crew members. The cause: a flock of geese.

Birds and wildlife pose a deadly threat to American military aircraft and their crew. Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Defensive technology has improved, reducing the number of incidents, but destructive accidents continue to occur. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in $182 million in damages, according to Military Times.


Canadian Geese alone cost the USAF almost 0 million between fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 2016.

To counter the threat posed by birds, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota installed an automated bird deterrent system — special cannons designed to keep the animals away.

The 0,000 bird abatement system consists of a rotating cannon and a propane tank. The cannon produces a loud sound similar to a shotgun blast to scare the birds away. Some units, the Associated Press reports, are equipped with speakers able to blare the distress calls of several different bird species.

“Birds are a huge problem for our aircraft operations,” James McCurdy, a 28th Bomb Wing flight safety officer, explained to the AP. “In the middle of our migration season (October, November, April and May), it’s not abnormal for us to hit and kill a bird at least once a week. They cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

The bird cannons only require around ,000 a year to maintain, which could mean significant savings for the base.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Bird strikes are problems the world over. This photo shows an Israeli Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk after a bird strike.

Some of the other tools, outside of manpower, that have been used to keep birds away from US aircraft in the past include the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), a weather radar that can keep track of flocks of birds, and a bird detection radar for monitoring individual birds.

Not every Air Force base is equipped with these defense systems though. At Ellsworth, which is home to one of the two Air Force B-1 Lancer bomber wings, the previous approach to dealing with wildlife was to send someone out with a shotgun.

Ellsworth now has 24 bird cannons installed along the runway to protect the bombers, each of which reportedly costs around 0 million.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy wants to know who secretly uploaded videos of sailors to Porn Hub

The US Navy is trying to find out who secretly filmed dozens of service members in a bathroom and shared the videos on the porn website Porn Hub, US military officials told NBC news.


An agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found the videos on Porn Hub earlier this month. Some of the videos showed sailors and marines in uniform with visible name patches, NBC reported. The individuals didn’t know they were being recorded and officials were not aware of any sexual acts in the videos.

“We received a removal request from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to remove the material in question and we did. We are currently working alongside them to assist them with their investigation,”Blake White, Vice President of Pornhub, said in a statement to Insider and other outlets. “Here at Pornhub, we immediately remove any content that violates our terms of use as soon as we are made aware of it.”

The clips, which have since been removed, also included civilians.

The officials believe the videos were taken through a peephole in a bathroom, according to NBC.Some of the individuals in the videos were assigned to the USS Emory S. Land, a vessel that supplies submarines and is assigned to a port in Guam, the officials told NBC.

A message left by Insider for a Navy spokesperson was not immediately returned.

In the statement, White said that PornHub employs a team to scan for and remove content that violates their terms of service.

The company also uses “Vobile, a state of the art third party fingerpringing software,” to make sure new uploads don’t match videos that have already been removed from the site, White said.

This isn’t the first time that US service members have been targeted by voyeurs looking to share nude photos of them online.

In a 2017 scandal, the US Marine Corp. opened an investigation after hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch had been posted to an image-sharing message board.

The discovery of the photos and investigation resulted in a change in US Marine and Navy laws banning revenge porn.

Violators who are found to have shared an “intimate image” of a colleague without their consent can face consequences ranging from administrative punishments to criminal actions.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How soldiers make it through Chilean Mountain Warfare School

“When you have a 60 meter rope, and you have to climb 120 meters…you are forced to climb to the end of your rope. From there, your team is hanging at the middle of the mountain deciding if you keep going up or back down.”

Soldiers training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School quickly learn why it is one of the most respected climbing and survival schools anywhere. The rock climbing requires soldiers to make their own routes up cliff faces, day and night, and secure their own anchors with their climbing partners. For many of the soldiers, it is the toughest course they will ever complete.


Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez, of the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighters School, spent five months training in the Chilean Andes alongside students from across central and South America. His experiences are unique as one of a very small number of American soldiers who have successfully completed this world-renowned mountain warfare and survival course.

“When you’re with another army for five months, you learn a lot. You learn how they work. It’s not the same as deploying with another army,” said Rodriguez.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Students at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School hike up a portion of the Chilean Andes during the winter portion of the course.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)

While he is no stranger to the cold and snow, being stationed at Fort Drum, the winter conditions while training in the Andes were very different from the weather and geography of upstate New York. Rather than only see the obstacle, Rodriguez chose to see it as a challenge and an opportunity to better himself.

“The first time I put on a pair of skis, I took two steps and fell. Now I can ski with a weapon, no poles, and a full ruck sack while skiing down a mountain.”

Mountain warfare is not new as a discipline. At the United States Army Mountain Warfare School, they train soldiers from across the Army on how to fight effectively in mountainous areas of operation.

“Mountain warfare is an important discipline because it essentially adds another major plane of maneuver–the Z axis [for vertical infiltration]”, said Capt. Nathan Fry of the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School in Vermont.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

A student of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School stands in the snow during the winter portion of the course in the Chilean Andes mountains.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Simon)

Fry further established that understanding how to use terrain effectively is a major mobility enabler, especially in the vertical terrain of rugged mountains.

“To be successful in operations such as this, mountain warfare units must have soldiers who understand how to live unplugged and off-the-grid…and know how to dress for wild temperature swings, travel light enough to gain thousands of vertical feet in a single day, procure water, and avoid hazards such as rock falls or avalanches,” Fry stated.

The Chilean Mountain Warfare School uses its proximity to the Andes to its advantage when training students. Many of the students that graduate find careers in mountain rescue and specialized mountain infantry units.

As an infantryman, Rodriguez has experienced many patrols, both in training and while deployed. Whether dismounted or from a vehicle, many soldiers are often able to rely on support or resupply if it is needed during a mission. Mountain warfare units do not have readily available resupply options.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez checks the harness on his pack mule before heading out for training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare Course.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)

“If you finish your water, you have to know how to search for more. And if you finish your food, you have to know how to hunt for it. That’s just one of the things that you learn quick. This is mountain warfare. It’s just different. It’s its own animal,” Rodriguez said.

The five-month course challenged Rodriguez every day. Across two seasons he trained on hand-to-hand combat and is now qualified in mountain survival and ski-borne tactical operations. He learned to work with pack mules in mountainous terrain in day and night operations, and became an experienced rock and ice climber.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

The harsh terrain of the Chilean Andes provides a majestic and challenging backdrop for the students of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)

“I’ve always loved the outdoors. As an infantryman, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t. But before I went to the Chilean Mountain Warfare School, I wasn’t a rock climber. I wasn’t a skier. None of those things. Those are skills they gave me,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez looks forward to sharing his new skills with his future soldiers, and shared that wherever the Army sends him, he knows he has faced larger obstacles before.

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

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