Saddam Hussein once famously believed that the United States was a country whose people couldn’t handle 10,000 dead in a war. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen because no one has been able to inflict those kinds of losses on the U.S. since Vietnam. But we all know Saddam was a-okay with taking those kinds of losses.
Still, he really didn’t believe he would have to take those losses when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He honestly believed the United States gave him the green light for the invasion.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Iraq was heavily indebted to the rest of the world after its disastrous war with Iran failed to achieve much of anything at all, let alone seizing Iranian oil production and revenues. But what it did leave Iraq with was the world’s fifth largest army – the means by which Saddam Hussein could pay his debts.
If you just failed to take another country’s oil fields, the solution must be to take another country’s oil fields, amirite?
(Kuwait News Agency)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Saddam wanted to increase oil revenues by getting OPEC member countries to reduce production and raise the price of oil. Kuwait didn’t even pay lip service to this idea, producing more than the OPEC quota and keeping the price lower than Iraq wanted. The two countries were in a border dispute at the time and Kuwait was using the oil price as leverage. This infuriated the Iraqi dictator, and his overtures toward raising the price of oil irked his American allies.
To make matters worse for Hussein, the dictator believed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should forgive the billion Iraq owed them for the Iran-Iraq War because he believed Iraq was keeping Iranian Shia influence out of their countries and protecting their governments. The fact that they wouldn’t forgive the debt further flamed tensions.
President George H. W. Bush continued many of his predecessor’s policies toward Iraq and the Middle East. His ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein halfway between Bush’s term in office. She stressed to the dictator that the United States had no interest in a trade war with Iraq.
“Guys, I just got a great idea. Hear me out…”
In the same meeting between Glaspie and Hussein, the U.S. Ambassador told the Iraqi dictator that the United States had no opinion on its border dispute with Kuwait, and its chief interest in the matter was the price of oil.
“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”
The situation between Iraq and Kuwait kept deteriorating, to the point that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to step in to mediate the disagreement and prevent a war. When that failed, Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait to settle the matter by force. The entire time, he emphasized that he wanted good relations with the United States and was genuinely surprised to find his actions condemned by the Bush Administration.
When prompted about the meeting in Congressional testimony, Glaspie simple explained, “we had no idea he would go that far.”
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and rolled over the Kuwaitis in just two days. Iraq then annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”) as governor. They were expelled by a U.S.-led multinational coalition after a 40-day air war and a 100-hour ground campaign.
If during the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, you watched the superb 1993 movie that starred Martin Sheen, Sam Elliot, Jeff Daniels, and Tom Berenger, you probably noticed something that may not have made a lot of sense at a couple of points in the movie.
Perhaps the best-known instance is at the 3:55:09 mark of the Extended Edition of “Gettysburg” (available at Amazon.com) where an artillery round takes out a group of Confederate troops, including the soldier holding the flag.
The troops re-organize to fill the gap, but one of the troops picks up the flag and drops his rifle. That’s right – that soldier has taken his gun out of the fight!
Sounds completely crazy, right? What the heck is going through someone’s mind that they would take their gun out of the fight in the middle of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle? I can just hear Gunny Hartman shouting, “What is your major malfunction?”
Well, in 1863, war was much different. There were no radios. Messages were delivered by junior aides – essentially acting as runners with messages back and forth. Blue Force Tracker was 140 years into the future. But there was still the need to tell whose units were friendly, which were okay to shoot at, and where the heck all of them were.
The answer back then was to have each regiment have a specialized flag – or “colors.” So, now everyone – from the commanding general to the lowest private knows which unit was where. This was important, as the Minnesota Historical Society noted, since it meant troops could rally behind them for a charge, or to fall back.
That meant whoever held the colors had to have a lot of guts. He was out in the open, and he was a target. During some fighting on the first day of Gettysburg, one Confederate regiment had 10 different color bearers in 10 minutes, and lost 14 color bearers that day. The Union regiment opposite them lost at least three of their own.
The colors had such importance that many a Medal of Honor citation involved either capturing an enemy unit’s colors, or saving the colors of a soldier’s own unit. Given that importance, it is not surprising then, that in 1863, a soldier’s logical response when a color bearer was hit would be to drop his gun and pick up the colors.
Watch cliff divers, bungee jumpers, or even just kids fooling around and jumping into a lake. At some point, one or more of them will yell “Geronimo!” It’s a safe bet that at some point, we’ve all yelled this name.
It seems like a pretty random thing to yell when jumping from a bridge, cliff, or plane, but it’s actually from the military tradition of paratroopers yelling it as they jumped from a perfectly good airplane.
But where did the paratroopers come up with it?
It dates all the way back to the origin of paratroopers. In 1940, the Army was still developing the strategy of dropping troops out of planes. On the eve of the first test jump, soldiers from from Fort Benning started a night of drinking with a viewing of a wild west movie beforehand. This was likely the 1939 film “Geronimo” starring Andy Devine and Chief Thundercloud.
After the movie, Pvt. Aubrey Eberhardt boasted that he wasn’t scared of the jump, despite being the tallest man in the unit. This caused his fellow soldiers to call him out on his bragging, saying he would forget his name at the door, as the troops were supposed to shout their name when they jumped.
Everyone in their jump group successfully jumped — all the soldiers remembered their names and shouted them as they made their jumps.
The 6’8″ Eberhardt did them one better — when his turn at the door came, he shouted “Geronimo!” — and a new military tradition was born.
Some of the top military brass weren’t in love with the new tradition, but others thought it evoked the bravery and daring of the Apache chief — the last holdout against American expansion to the West. They let the paratroopers keep the tradition.
Civilians just kinda took it from the paratroopers. And who could blame them, with that kind of pedigree?
The U.S. officially joined World War II after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, but the U.S. knew that it would likely get dragged into the war in Europe and Asia for years before that.
For the last few months of 1941, America was preparing for an open conflict and the U.S. Navy was looking for a fight. At least four times before Dec. 7, both the Navy and the Coast Guard engaged in combat with German forces, capturing a vessel, threatening U-boats, and suffering the loss of 126 sailors.
1. The destroyer USS Greer duels with U-652 on Sept. 4, 1941.
The U.S. destroyer USS Greer was officially delivering mail to Argentia, Newfoundland, on Sept. 4, 1941. A British anti-submarine plane signaled the Greer that it had just witnessed a German submarine diving 10 miles ahead of the Greer.
Greer locked onto the German submarine U-652 and began following it.
The British airplane fired first. It was running low on fuel and dropped its four depth charges and flew away. The Greer, still in sound contact with the sub, soon had to dodge two torpedoes from U-652. Greer answered with eight depth charges after the first torpedo and 11 more after the second.
Neither vessel was damaged in the 3.5-hour fight.
2. Coast Guardsmen capture a German vessel and raid a signals post in Sept. 12-14, 1941.
Just a few minutes later, the sub fired a spread of three torpedoes, one of which hit the Kearny near an engine room and crippled the ship. Despite the damage and the loss of 11 of the crew, the Kearny was able to navigate to Iceland under its own power.
A US Blue Angels jet has crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee.
According to local ABC affiliate WKRN, citing the fire chief of the neighboring town of La Vergne, the crash took place around 3pm local time. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform in Tennessee this weekend.
The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s flight demonstration team. Aviators in the Blue Angels come from both the Navy and the Marines and fly F/A-18 Hornets.
The crash of a Blue Angel comes on the same day that a US Air Force Thunderbird also crashed after completing a flyover at the US Air Force Academy commencement.
The Census Bureau says there are 3.8 million wounded veterans living in America today. That’s as many wounded veterans as there are people living in the states of New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Maine combined.
What’s even more heartbreaking, though, is that many of these veterans feel ignored and misunderstood by the country they gave their blood and bodies to serve.
Working Pictures, an independent film company dedicated to producing content with purpose, wants to help change that with the release of Wise Endurance, a documentary profiling two brave veterans — and the collective of stem-cell physicians providing them with cutting-edge treatment for their combat injuries.
One of these veterans is Roger Sparks, a former Air Force Pararescueman and Silver Star recipient who served during the bloody Operation Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. Sparks is now a veteran advocate who is seeking stem-cell treatments for his and his fellow combat veteran’s blast-induced, traumatic brain injuries.
This specific treatment is called autologous stem cell therapy, where stem cells are harvested directly from the patient’s own fat tissue. The removed stem cells are separated from the fat and reintroduced intravenously to boost healing.
During the film, both Sparks and his 14-year-old son, Oz (who has Cerebral Palsy and type 1 diabetes), experienced noticeable results from their stem cell treatments. Oz’s results are visible — the show follows Oz as he moves from non-verbal to speaking. The results, captured on film, lead the collective to encourage other doctors to offer the same service to veterans, with a plan to use the findings as part of a national study and database to further the treatment of concussive injuries using adipose derived stem cells.
Sparks introduces Pararescueman team member Jimmy Settle, who was shot in the head during Bullbog Bite (Settle’s memoir, Never Quit, is a national best-seller). The treatment was so effective for Settle that he began to heal his inability to freely touch his face. The former track champion also was able to resume running again, which he had previously been unable to do.
These successes in autologous stem cell therapy have inspired Sparks to become an advocate for his fellow combat servicemen. As a result, Sparks, Cell Surgical Network’s doctors, including Dr. Kyle Bergquist, Dr. Mark Berman, Dr. Elliot Lander, and Dr. Larry Miggins, and the filmmakers have established Healing Our Heroes Foundation — a non-profit organization whose goals are to treat combat veterans with adipose-derived stem cells and study the initial, promising results.
Because there are no medical treatments for TBI, stem cells could be a real game-changer in the health of our wounded warriors.
A national network of providers have already committed to treating a significant portion of the population of former combat veterans through the efforts of the Wise Endurance team, and further fundraising is being planned through the sale of the documentary and donations.
The film is available online for purchase on the film’s website. Proceeds will go to fund the Healing Our Heroes Foundation, which will provide treatment, travel, and accommodation for the veterans, as well as cover the costs of studying the outcomes.
The ladies loved them, Allied pilots respected them and Nazi German pilots feared them.
The members of Poland’s air force in exile during WWII were absolute rock stars in England, serving to distinction with the Royal Air Force in one of 16 all-Polish fighter and bomber squadrons.
During the Blitzkrieg in 1939, the Polish military found itself quickly overtaken by the Wehrmacht – the unified branches of the Nazi German military.
But a number of pilots were able to escape to France and the United Kingdom, though with mediocre, obsolete and thoroughly under-gunned aircraft for war horses. These airmen were not content with merely escaping the oppression of Nazi Germany, however.
Many, if not all, were eager to get back into the fray, though this time with better weapons that could match what the Luftwaffe threw at them.
Through the Polish government in exile, a deal was brokered with the British government that would allow the RAF to stand up a number of all-Polish combat squadrons, including fighter and bomber units. The language barrier proved to be an initial difficulty, though it was quickly overcome thanks to the unrivaled passion for battle that each Polish pilot came with.
According to historian Kenneth Koskodan in his book “No Greater Ally,” Polish fighter pilots quickly built up a reputation for “daredevil and suicidal behavior” in aerial combat. These Spitfire and Hurricane jockeys were so consumed by their mission and their incredible hatred of their Axis foe, that they would often deliberately put themselves near the edge of death just to inflict damage.
Instead of breaking away from the fight once their magazines ran dry or their guns jammed, Polish pilots would continue attacking, using their aircraft as battering rams and their propellers as buzzsaws. Lest they let their enemies escape, these pilots literally flew their fighters into German bombers repeatedly until their prey fell out of the sky.
If that didn’t work, they would also fly close to the wings or tails of enemy aircraft in order to use their propellers as impromptu saws, chewing off control surfaces until the aircraft crashed. And if push came to shove (also literally), Polish pilots were also known to maneuver their fighters above German planes, making contact and forcing them downwards either into the ground or the waters of the English Channel.
At this point, they could only really be described as either certifiably insane or downright courageous, or some combination of the two. RAF commanders were appalled at the antics of these volunteer pilots, but quickly understood their zealousness for the fight when it was discovered that German military personnel were issued a “kill-on-sight” order for all Polish pilots captured during the WWII.
British pilots were often awed, resentful and shocked by the actions of Polish pilots, whom they felt were, at times, an endangerment to other friendly units in the sky. According to Koskodan, British women soon developed an affinity for members of the Polish squadrons, and many aircrews were spotted in town between sorties in the most popular restaurants and clubs with admiring fans clustering around, ready to provide drinks and food on their own dime for their heroes.
By the war’s end, the various Polish fighter squadrons of the RAF had flown thousands upon thousands of sorties, amassing highly enviable kill numbers on Luftwaffe aircraft which were often considerably ahead of other all-British RAF squadrons. Of particular note was No. 303 “Kosciuszko” Squadron, which finished the war with over 400 kills to its name.
Sadly, the Polish military in exile, upon its return home, found that its country had traded German dictatorship for another — iron Soviet rule. Many Polish fighter pilots opted, instead, to stay in England or move across the Atlantic Ocean to North America, where they would put down roots.
Today, the Polish War Memorial near London, in addition to a number of other memorial sites, stands as a commemoration of the Polish contribution to the Allied war effort – especially the service of thousands of Polish military aviators in the RAF, who fought bitterly but valiantly against their German foe.
The OV-10 Bronco had a long service career with the United States. It first saw action in Vietnam and stuck around through Desert Storm. Just a few years ago, the idea of bringing the Bronco back was floated — the OV-10 flew 82 sorties against ISIS targets and performed quite well. Despite that, the Bronco didn’t make a comeback in America. The DOD instead pursued the OA-X program.
But just because the Bronco won’t be serving with the U.S. military doesn’t mean its career is over.
Currently, eight Broncos are serving in the Philippines as light attack planes specializing in counter-insurgency operations. The OV-10 is very well-equipped. The World Encyclopedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that it packs four 7.62mm machine guns and can haul four 500-pound bombs or rocket pods.
A proposed OV-10X modification would see the Bronco equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a glass cockpit, improved sensors, and precision-guided bombs, like the Paveway laser-guided bombs or GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The OV-10X would also feature up to four .50-caliber machine guns, replacing the 7.62mm machine guns. It was rumored that this souped-up version of the Bronco would compete in the OA-X program a few years ago, but it’s looking unlikely that this variant will see the light of day.
An OV-10 Bronco takes off from USS Nassau (LHA 4).
The Bronco has a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of 1,400 miles. By contrast, some of the competitors for the OA-X program, like the AT-6, AT-802, and AT-29, are not quite as long-legged. Furthermore, the OV-10 also has the advantage of having two engines, giving it far more staying power if hit.
The OV-10X was a heavily upgraded version of the Bronco.
The Broncos currently in service with the Philippines are hand-me-downs from both the United States and Thailand. According to Janes.com, four more OV-10, two OV-10A, and two OV-10G+, are headed to the Philippines to help hold the line until the AT-29 Super Tucano comes online next year.
This is the time of year to celebrate our country’s independence and our loved ones that fight for our freedom every single day. Whether this will be your first Fourth of July party that you will be throwing or the 40th, below are some tips and tricks to have an awesome and relaxing Fourth of July party.
Keep it simple! No one will complain about a backyard barbeque. Below will be a mix of appetizers, sides, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
Below are five crowd favorite appetizers and sides to accompany your hot dogs and burgers:
1. A simple and light salad for any crowd
6 cups romaine lettuce
2 cups mixed greens
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 whole cut avocado
1 cup Parmesan
2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
¼ red onion thinly sliced
2 chicken breast, baked and cut into 1/4in. pieces
8 oz. Caesar dressing
Mix all together with dressing and serve.
2. Bacon Green Beans
1 lb. green beans halved
2 cups cooked bacon cut into ¼ in. cubes
3 cloves garlic diced
1 tbsp. butter
½ yellow onion thinly sliced
Place butter into a saucepan with the onion and garlic. Let brown and add green beans and cooked bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
3. Pasta Salad
This is one of my favorites things to make. It takes about 30 minutes in total to make and I can make it the night before any barbeque and it tastes great the next day.
Two boxes tri-color Rotini pasta
Cook the pasta all the way through. Drain. Add olive oil to the drained pasta so it does not stick together.
Chop one green and red bell pepper into ¼in. cubes
Chop one half red onion
Chop 7 oz dry salami into ¼in. cubes
8 oz. sliced black olives
1 cup shredded parmesan
2 cup quartered tomatoes
8 oz. mozzarella cheese ¼in. cubes
Mix all together with 8 oz. light Italian dressing. Serve.
4. Macaroni and Cheese.
I am in love with macaroni and cheese, the cheesier the better in my opinion. To be honest the better the cheeses the more expensive. So this could be the most expensive of the sides, but it is soooo worth it. Also when purchasing the cheese DO NOT purchase already shredded cheese. Just buy a block and shred it.
1 lb. Cavatappi noodles
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
4 cup whole milk
6 cup cheese of your choice.
½ tbsp. salt
½ tbsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. oregano
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Boil pasta in salted water until cooked. Drain and pour in 1 tbsp. olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking. While the pasta is cooking melt butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in flour and whisk. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add in salt and pepper. Slowly pour milk whisking until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Place noodles into a greased casserole dish. Over the top of the noodles sprinkle the shredded cheese. Pour the thickened cream sauce over the cheese and noodles. Melt the 2 tbsp. butter, oregano and panko bread crumbs together. Cook until golden brown. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
5. 7-Layer Dip
So I will admit this is not my favorite of all appetizers, but it was always a huge hit at any family function. In a casserole dish:
Layer refried beans
Layer sour cream
A layer of Mexican shredded cheese mixTomatoes cut in half and sliced olives for the top layer. If you are feeling extra festive you can arrange the tomatoes to be in rows and olives in the upper left corner to replicate our flag.
Of course, some chips and dip are always a crowd pleaser, this could be a great item to ask guests to bring (along with any alcohol) to help keep the cost reasonable.
Since I am a California girl I do have to suggest trying some tri-tip for your barbeque. If you have never heard of tri-tip it’s incredibly normal, it’s mainly a California barbeque meat. Baking or grilling tri-tip with a basic marinade will be a big crowd pleaser for any party. It takes about 30-45 minutes to cook and can be found at almost any base. A simple dry rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes is my hands down favorite when I am rushed for time.
Top 4 alcoholic drinks (besides beer):
1. Red, white and blue jelly shots
1 berry blue Jell-O packet
6 oz. vodka
1 plain gelatin packet
3 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 ½ oz. raspberry vodka
1 strawberry Jell-O packet
6 oz. vodka
Heat six oz. water to boiling, pour in a bowl with blue Jell-O and whisk until dissolved. Stir in blueberry vodka. Pour into a casserole dish (8×8, 9×9, or 13×9). Refrigerate until solid.
Repeat previous steps, but with plain gelatin, condensed milk and raspberry vodka. Pour over the solid first layer and place it back in the fridge.
Repeat one last time with the strawberry Jell-O and plain vodka. Pour over solid white layer and place back in the fridge until solid. When Jell-O is completely set, run a knife around the edges of the Jell-O and turn over onto a large sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. If the Jell-O is not separating you can place the bottom of the pan under hot water to help separate from the pan. From the sheet pan, you can either cut the Jell-O into any shapes. Serve.
2. Red, White, and Blue Sangria
1 bottle white wine
1 ½ can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed.
½ cup vodka
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 granny apples (if feeling extra festive cut apples into thin slices and cut slices with a star-shaped cookie cutter)
½ cup raspberries
½ cup blueberries
Pour all ingredients into a 3qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hrs. Serve over ice. Add a few pieces of fruit in each glass.
3. Star Spangled Sparkler
2 cups watermelon stars
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 bottle chilled dry white wine
1 litter chilled Sprite
Pour all ingredients into a 3 qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve with a few pieces of fruit in each glass.
4. Spiked Arnold Palmer
4 cups of water
10 black tea bags –
1 oz. mint leaves
½ cup of sugar
4 cups cold water
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 cup bourbon
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water, thawed lemonade concentrate and bourbon.
Serve over ice.
Top 3 non-alcoholic drinks (besides soda):
1. Patriotic Punch
Fill the cup halfway with ice
Filled 1/3 cup with cranberry juice
Fill 1/3 cup with Sobe Pina Colada
Fill remainder of the cup with blue Gatorade
(Always fill the bottom of the cup with the beverage that has the highest sugar content)
2. Classic Arnold Palmer
4 cups of water
10 black tea bags –
1 oz. mint leaves
½ cup of sugar
4 cups cold water
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water and thawed lemonade concentrate. Serve over ice.
3. Sonic’s Cherry Limeade – Ingredients per drink
2 tbsp syrup
2 cherries per drink
1 can Sprite
Lime wedges cut in ½
1 per drink
Serve over ice.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Doctors, nurses, and other embarked medical personnel aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) conducted a mass casualty training exercise in preparation for visiting medical sites in Central and South America, Oct. 13, 2018.
The exercise tested Comfort’s crew in mass casualty triage, care, and first-aid practices. Participants included multi-service members, partner nation service members, and mission volunteers.
“A mass casualty event, by nature, is chaotic,” said Lt. Jessie Paull, a general surgery resident embarked on Comfort. “Being able to practice, it gets your nerves under control.”
Lt. Cmdr. Cynthia Matters, from Claremore, Okla. assigns surgeries during a mass casualty exercise aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph DeLuco)
The event started on the flight deck of the ship and continued down to Comfort’s casualty receiving area.
“Getting the team squared away is essential to execute this mission during a real event,” said Paull.
Sailors, aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, conduct stretcher bearer training during a mass casualty drill.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin Alexondra Lowe)
The exercise included various medical procedures, including basic medical triage techniques, blood tests, and computed tomography (CT) scans.
Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Lammers, an anesthesiologist assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, practices patient transfer during a mass casualty exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph DeLuco)
“This is exactly what I would hope to see coming from a group of professionals on, essentially, day three of our mission,” said Capt. William Shafley, commander, Task Force 49.
Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Barnhill, an anesthesiologist assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, conducts surgery preparation training during a mass casualty exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph DeLuco)
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.
On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.
David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.
“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.
When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.
“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”
After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.
“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”
Heading to Vietnam
The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.
“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”
The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’
“They wished us well,” Harker said.
David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.
Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.
“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”
As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.
“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”
Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.
“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”
Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”
After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.
“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”
A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.
Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.
Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.
“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.
“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”
During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”
“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”
In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.
“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”
The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.
“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”
On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.
“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”
“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”
In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.
“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”
Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.
“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”
Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.
Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.
“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.
A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.
“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”
The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.
“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”
Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.
“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”
Life after war
After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.
His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.
While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.
“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”
In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.
“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”
Iraqi security forces began the effort to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oct. 17, with a combined force of Kurdish Peshmerga to the east aided by coalition troops from Germany, Canada and the U.S.
Obama Administration officials have admitted that American troops are “in harm’s way” despite being in “support” roles. So, which units are actually there?
Perhaps the most obvious are the Air Force, Navy, and Marine aviation units flying missions against ISIS. One notable unit taking part is the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group. The carrier’s air wing includes two squadrons of F/A-18E Super Hornets (VFA-86 “Sidewinders” and VFA-105 “Gunslingers”), one of F/A-18C Hornets (VFA-131 “Wildcats”), and one of F/A-18F Super Hornets (VFA-32 “Swordsmen”).
Other aircraft have taken part, including the A-10 Thunderbolt (courtesy of the 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing), the B-52H Stratofortress (From the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron), and the F-15E Strike Eagle (from the 4th Fighter Wing).
On the ground, the major United States forces have been the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, usually consisting of a medium tilt-rotor squadron with MV-22 Ospreys and a company of Marines. These units also can have attached air assets, including the V-22 Osprey, the AV-8B+ Harrier, and the AH-1Z Viper.
A battalion from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the Screaming Eagles, is also on the ground, slated to be replaced by troops from the 1st Infantry Division. The United States Army has also sent AH-64 Apache gunships to the theater.
Naturally, there are also special operations forces, including the Green Berets, SEALs and British SAS. It can also be safely assumed that Air Force Combat Controllers are also on the scene.
The Green Berets will likely be helping Iraqi security forces, advising Peshmerga troops and helping direct coalition air support. These units have in the past also carried out direct action missions. In 2015, one such mission, a prison break, lead to one of three American KIAs — a member of the United States Army’s Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force, Master Sergeant Joseph Wheeler.
The other two American KIAs are Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV, who was killed in a firefight with ISIS thugs, and Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, who was killed in a rocket attack on a base used by coalition forces.