That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero - We Are The Mighty
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That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.


The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
The U.S. Navy tank landing ship LST-1, landing U.S. Army troops on an Italian beach, circa September 1943. (National Archives photo)

After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.

Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.

When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.

He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.

Also read: World War II veteran gets Bronze Star after 73 years

He then manned their own machine gun and mowed down the retreating Germans, allowing his unit to continue the advance.

Crawford was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.

However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.

Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.

His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Air Force Academy Chapel in the winter (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.

Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.

Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”

More heroism: 3 heroes who became POWs twice

Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”

Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.

The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.

However, the cadets weren’t done.

They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.

After his commencement speech President Reagan gave Crawford a long overdue honor and presented him with the Medal of Honor.

The encounter with Crawford had so touched Moschgat that he would later reflect on the event by writing an article titled “Leadership and the Janitor” for the USO magazine On Patrol.

In the article he details ten important lessons about leadership that he learned from his meeting of Bill Crawford.

Moschgat retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. Crawford lived out his days in Colorado where he was also famous for being one of four Medal of Honor recipients from the small town of Pueblo, CO.

He passed away in 2000 at the age of 81.

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Montel Williams is asking the presidential candidates about this Marine veteran imprisoned by Iran

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero


American television personality Montel Williams wants the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about a Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran, and he’s using his star power to make it happen.

In addition to questions asked by the moderators at Tuesday’s debate, CNN is soliciting questions from anyone via Facebook and Instagram, some of which will end up being asked by Don Lemon. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Williams — who served in the Marine Corps and Navy — asks about Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran held in Iran for more than four years, the longest of any American held there.

“What will the candidates do to bring him home so that his father’s dying wish to see his son just one more time comes true?” Williams asks.

Born in Arizona to Iranian immigrants in 1983, Amir Hekmati served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps — mostly as a translator — and he was discharged in 2005 as a sergeant. In 2011, he decided to visit his extended family in Tehran, but soon after he arrived, he was arrested and sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA, according to Al Jazeera America.

Iran later released a videotaped confession of Hekmati, where he admitted to being recruited into companies affiliated with the CIA with the goal of infiltrating Iranian intelligence.

“Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN in 2012. “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”

Hekmati’s death sentence was later repealed in March 2012 and a new trial was ordered, though that has yet to take place. He continues to be held in prison in Tehran with little contact with the outside world, though he was able smuggle a letter out of jail, according to The Guardian. In it, in which he addressed Secretary of State John Kerry, he wrote:

For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.

The debate airs live on CNN at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

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Why the only woman training to be a Navy SEAL dropped out

The only woman in the Navy SEAL training pipeline has dropped out, a Navy special warfare official confirmed Aug. 11.


The female midshipman voluntarily decided to not continue participating in a summer course that’s required of officers who want to be selected for SEAL training, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a Naval special warfare spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Navy has not released the woman’s name, part of a policy against publicly identifying SEALs or candidates for the force.

No other woman has started the long process required to become a Navy SEAL, Walton said.

Another woman has set her sights on becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, another job that recently opened to women. They often support the SEALs but also conduct missions of their own using state-of-the art, high-performance boats. She has started the various evaluations and standard Navy training.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

Officials have said it would be premature to speculate when the Navy will see its first female SEAL or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman.

The entry of women in one of the military’s most elite fighting forces is part of ongoing efforts to comply with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women, including the most dangerous commando posts.

That decision was formal recognition of the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in recent years, including those who were killed or wounded.

The woman dropped out of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program. It is open to Naval academy and Navy ROTC midshipmen and cadets during the summer before their senior year.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A Navy SEAL instructor assists students from BUD/S class 245 with learning the importance of listening during a Hell Week surf drill evolution. (ENS Bashon Mann, Public Affairs Officer Naval Special Warfare Center.)

The three-week-long program in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, tests participants’ physical and psychological strength along with water competency and leadership skills. The program is the first in-person evaluation of a candidate who desires to become a Navy SEAL officer, and it allows sailors to compete against peers in an equitable training environment.

All sailors must go through the program before being selected to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.

The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles. Those in special operations are among the most demanding jobs in the military. Two women in 2015 graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger course.

Articles

A future Kentucky governor attempted biological warfare in the Civil War

Dr. Luke Blackburn was a respected medical doctor and philanthropist until he allegedly attempted to create a yellow fever outbreak targeting Northern civilians and soldiers during the Civil War. Despite widespread outrage at the time, he later won a landslide victory to become the governor of Kentucky.


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Governor of Kentucky Luke Blackburn is best remembered for having fought many outbreaks of yellow fever and other diseases. (Photo: Kentucky Historical Society)

Blackburn was a native Kentuckian who began working as a physician after receiving his medical degree from Transylvania University. Early in his career, he implemented a quarantine to shut down a cholera epidemic and he later led another that successfully stopped an outbreak of yellow fever in the Mississippi River Valley. He gave an encore performance against another outbreak in 1854.

But when the tide of the Civil War started going against the South, he found that his loyalty to the Southern cause was greater than his dedication to the Hippocratic Oath.

The vaunted doctor allegedly traveled to Bermuda in 1864 when an epidemic of yellow fever broke out. During this time in the Civil War, the disease was known for striking down cities, killing thousands.

Blackburn helped treat the sick in Bermuda, but he also stole the clothing and bedding of those who died of either yellow fever or smallpox. He then sent trunks of these items to auction places in the North where they were sold and distributed among civilians.

Godfrey Hyams, an Englishman who met Blackburn in Canada, was one of the men paid to smuggle the tainted clothing and bedding into the North. He was promised $100,000 for his services, almost $1.5 million in current dollars.

Hyams was able to sell five trunks of clothing through auctioneers, but only one Union soldier death was attributed to the men and that one was circumstantial. The soldier had died from smallpox after buying clothes at a consignment store that held Blackburn clothing.

The reason that no one died of yellow fever due to Blackburn’s actions is that the disease can not be transmitted via the clothing or bedding of its victims, though no one knew it at the time. Oddly enough, the Transylvania-trained doctor would have been more successful if he had recruited more bloodsuckers into his organization. Specifically, he needed female mosquitoes.

Yellow fever is a blood-borne virus spread by certain female mosquitoes. If Blackburn had succeeded in bringing a few victims North for mosquitoes to bite, he may have succeeded in his dark quest. But it wasn’t until 1901 that a team led by Maj. Walter Reed proved the connection between mosquitoes and yellow fever, so Blackburn didn’t know in 1864 and 1865 that his plan could never work.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
The female yellow fever mosquito spreads the disease by biting into humans. The left and center illustrations show the female. The one on the right is male. (Illustration: Public Domain by E. A. Goeldi in 1905)

But Blackburn was dedicated to his plan. He returned to Bermuda to fill three more trunks with infected clothing and bedding. He contracted a man there, Edward Swan, to send these trunks to the North the following Spring, but Swan was found out and tried.

Meanwhile, Hyams had still not been paid. Hyams finally got tired of waiting and went to the U.S. counsel’s office in Toronto to sell out his employer in early April 1865. A public trial filled the newspapers in Canada and throughout the U.S., but Blackburn was eventually acquitted on a technicality.

The trunks had been shipped to Nova Scotia before entering the U.S., and the court that was trying Blackburn did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed there. Meanwhile, the three other trunks from Bermuda were never on Canadian soil.

Blackburn, for his part, did not testify at his trial but said years later that the entire plot was too preposterous for gentlemen to even believe it existed. After his Canadian acquittal, he avoided the U.S. for a time to avoid prosecution, but he went south in 1868 to fight a yellow fever outbreak in Texas and Louisiana.

Prosecutors allowed him to work unmolested and Blackburn went on to fight yellow fever in Tennessee, Florida, and then back in his hometown of Kentucky over the following 10 years. His success fighting the outbreak in Kentucky caused his public image to drastically improve there.

In 1879, he won the gubernatorial election in Kentucky and became the governor. Much of his efforts in that position were aimed at easing prison crowding and bad conditions through pardons and the construction of a new prison. These measures proved unpopular and Blackburn failed to secure the Democratic nomination in 1883. He returned to private life and died in 1887.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy’s new warship tumbled into the water sideways

The newest Freedom-class littoral combat ship, LCS 19, the future USS St. Louis, was christened and launched in Marinette, Wisconsin, on Dec. 15, 2018, when the 3,900-ton warship tumbled into the icy water of the Menominee River on its side.

Freedom-class littoral combat ships are among the few ships in the world that are launched sideways.


That method was used “because the size of the ship and the capabilities of the shipyard allow for a side launch,” Joe DePietro, Lockheed’s vice president vice president of small combatants and ship systems, said in a statement.

“The ship has a shallow draft (it requires less than 14 feet of water to operate in) and is a small combatant (about 381 feet long), and can therefore be side launched, where many other ships cannot.”

LCS 19 Christening and Launch

www.youtube.com

“Our partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine has delivered more than 1,300 vessels and has used the side launch method across multiple Navy and Coast Guard platforms,” DePietro added. “The size and capacity of the vessels under construction enable use of the side-launch method.”

Lockheed Martin got the contract to build the ship in December 2010, and the name St. Louis was selected in April 2015. It will be the seventh Navy ship to bear that name — the first since the amphibious cargo ship St. Louis left service in 1991.

LCS 19’s keel was laid in May 2017, when the ship’s sponsor Barbara Taylor — wife of the CEO of the St. Louis-based company Enterprise rental car — welded her initials into a steel plate that was included in the ship’s hull.

On Dec. 15, 2018, Taylor christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne on its bow and then watched the warship tip over into the water.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

The Navy’s LCS 19 tipping back toward shore after being launched, December 15, 2018.

(RMS Videography/Vimeo)

“LCS 19 is the second ship we’ve christened and launched this year,” DePietro said in a release, adding that the defense firm’s shipbuilding team had “truly hit its stride.”

“We completed trials on three ships and delivered two more,” DePietro added. “Once delivered to the Navy, LCS 19 will be on its way to independently completing targeted missions around the world.”

Lockheed has delivered seven littoral combat ships to the Navy and seven more are in various stages of production and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, where LCS 19 was launched on Dec. 15, 2018.

While LCS 19 has been christened and launched, it won’t become part of the Navy until it’s commissioned. At that point, the name St. Louis will become official.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar are brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during developmental testing of the mine-warfare mission module package, January 7, 2012.

(US Navy photo by Ron Newsome)

The Navy’s littoral-combat-ship program is divided into two classes. Freedom-class ships are steel monohull vessels that are slightly smaller than their Independence-class counterparts, which are aluminum trimarans by General Dynamics that have a revolutionary design.

The LCS is meant to be a relatively cheap surface warship — about one-third the cost of a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to Lockheed — with a modular design that allows it to be quickly outfitted with a variety of different equipment suited for different types of missions.

While both classes are open-ocean capable, they are designed for operations close to shore, with modular packages for their primary missions of antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and surface warfare against smaller boats. (Issues with the LCS program may lead to its mine-countermeasure assets being deployed on other ships.)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Crew members of the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock man the rails during the ship’s commissioning ceremony, in Buffalo, New York, Dec. 16, 2017.

(US Navy/Lockheed Martin)

The LCS is also meant to carry out intelligence-gathering, maritime-security, and homeland-security missions and support for Marine or special-operations forces regardless of its installed mission package.

The LCS program has encountered numerous problems however, including controversy about cost overruns, issues with design and construction of the first models, and concerns about their ability to survive damage in combat. Late Sen. John McCain was a vociferous critic of the LCS program’s expense and mechanical issues.

The program has also faced more conventional hurdles. The USS Little Rock, the fifth Freedom-class LCS, was stuck in Montreal for three months at the beginning of 2018, hemmed in by winter weather and sea ice.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Autumn in memes: Here’s what the military thinks about fall

Ahhhh! Fall is officially here — even for you stationed in the South, still sweating away the Autumn months. Even if in theory, it’s a time for longer sleeves and cooler weather, and a season where we’re hopeful for regularly scheduled football games. So breathe it in, that crisp fall air, and take a look at some of our favorite fall-centric memes that the military has to offer.


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Memegenerator)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(Memegenerator)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

(MyMilitarySavings)

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero


MIGHTY TRENDING

This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Bryan Thompson on the set. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)


Bryan Thompson’s path to the U.S. Army was a circuitous one. The Detroit native earned his bachelor’s degree in International Trade from Eastern Michigan University before getting hired by Stahls, a sportswear graphics company. He got the job because he was fluent in Spanish, a skill he attributes to the first military mentor in his life.

“Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jose Rodriguez, my Spanish teacher during my junior and senior year of high school, kind of forced me to learn the language,” Thompson said. “During his class, he would make us do pushups if we failed to do our homework, or whatever.  A Mexican immigrant, he invited me to many family events, where he told everyone not to speak to me in English.  He also invited me and the rest of my class to Spanish-language church services where he gave the public the same instruction.”

Stahls moved Thompson to Miami, striking distance from the places in Central and South America that he needed to travel. He loved Miami right from the start, and while he was there he fed his creative side by singing with a Top 40 band on the side. In time, the company wanted to move him back to the home office in Detroit, but he had no interest in leaving his new life so he quit and decided to make the band a full-time gig.

The band, “Jesse James and Crossover,” travelled extensively to pay the bills, including an extended stop in Singapore. But that work was seasonal, and he soon found himself back in Miami struggling to make ends meet. He took a job with Royal Flowers and moved to Quito, Ecuador.

Thompson was his usual busy self in Quito, working his day job while also starting another band on the side. He also got married to a local girl. Then, like all Americans worldwide, he was hit with the tragedy of 9/11.

He wanted to do something of consequence, so he went back to Miami with his new Ecuadorian wife and immediately joined the Army. In short order, he found himself through basic training and stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia as a watercraft operator attached to the 7th Sustainment Brigade.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Thompson humping it Army-style. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)

After a year or so, Thompson decided to leverage his college degree and apply for OCS, and to his surprise, he was accepted on the first attempt. He was commissioned as a transportation officer and shipped off to Camp Liberty, Iraq for 15 months. While there, as well as dealing with the daily challenges the war presented, he also began working on a screenplay, an effort that would eventually inform the next chapter of his life.

But Thompson still had some active duty time ahead of him, and in typical fashion, he made a dramatic pivot, this time getting selected for the Army’s legal education program. He went to law school at William and Mary, and once he got his degree he was transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas to intern with the JAGs there.

All the while he kept his hand in filmmaking, networking with locals wherever he went, even when his workload was at its most demanding.

“The ideas just stayed in my head and just spilled onto the page and I couldn’t turn them off,” Thompson said. “Eventually, I found some experienced filmmakers who mentored me in the use of scriptwriting software and production techniques and before I knew it, I was writing and producing short films, hiring experienced directors to make my visions come to life.  Once I had enough experience, I started directing as well.”

While in Texas, Thompson taught acting and dance at Latin American Talent, a local agency. One day a student gave him a 15-page script to read. The story about two immigrant children whose legal status is threatened by the murder of their parents moved him, and he started to film it with the working title of “The Dream.”

While filming he had a realization: “If I wanted people to invest in my films I had to finish making a film,” he said. So he kept working during whatever free time his Army life afforded him. Eventually “The Dream” was finished and premiered in El Paso to a packed house that included reps from the Spanish-language channel Univision who indicated they were interested in helping distribute the film to a wider audience.

Watch:

El Sueño Official Trailer from Miami Web Fest on Vimeo.

As a JAG he was required to pass the bar exam in whatever state he wanted, so he tried in Florida (where he planned to return after his Army service was over) and failed and then tried in Missouri (supposedly the easiest one to pass) with the same result. But that disappointment was eclipsed by a bigger challenge: He developed severe pneumonia and while treating it, Army doctors found a benign tumor on his lung.

Thompson had surgery to remove the tumor, and while he was recovering he got word that he was most likely going to be declared as “not physically qualified” for active duty and medically discharged. Again, he refused to let disappointment crush his spirit, and, lying in a hospital bed, he decided to start an online film festival.

He’d had some experience with film festivals at that point. His web series “The Cell” won Best Directing and Best Visual Effects at the LA Web Series Festival in 2013, and his film “Noventa” won Best Short at the Miami Independent Film Festival in 2015 and also won Audience Choice at the Film Miami Fest that same year.

So once he got out of the Army he created the Miami Web Fest, a 4-day festival showcasing the best digital content in the form of web series.

“Since web series are increasingly popular among the 18-34 demographic, they have quickly become the preferred form of exposure for independent filmmakers looking to use the internet to make a name for themselves,” Thompson said.  “Miami Web Fest takes that to a new level, by offering those same filmmakers a chance to experience the traditional film festival experience, including theater screenings, panel discussions, an elegant Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, and exclusive Miami-style parties in an environment that is unique and art-savvy.”

And while he was happy that he had started his own business, he’d always wanted to stay connected to the military community in some way, so this year he’s adding a “Vet Fest” to the Miami Web Fest.

“Filmmaking is all about showing the audience a new and interesting perspective on life,” Thompson said.  “I believe that military and veteran filmmakers have seen the world through a lens that most never will, so the stories tend to be amazing and profound.  So, after Miami Web Fest solidified its place in the global market, I decided to do something that would specifically highlight the work of military and veteran filmmakers as well as military-themed productions.”

Miami Vet Fest will include all types of films and web series and takes place on September 24 in Miami, Florida. Veteran filmmakers who want to submit their work for consideration should visit the Vet Fest website.

“The Miami Web Fest has proved to be an effective showcase, and I hope to do the same for veteran filmmakers this year,” Thompson said. “Winners have leveraged their success into deals with Netflix and major production companies.”

Miami Vet Fest winners will also be showcased at We Are The Mighty and its associated social media sites.

For more about Bryan Thompson’s film projects visit his website.

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Watch this close-call during an air refueling operation

It seems almost routine in some DOD videos, but aerial refueling is a very dangerous process where a lot of things can go very wrong. It’s really not very surprising that stuff can go wrong, when you think about what that procedure entails.


 

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher E. Quail)

What a mid-air refueling involves, for all intents and purposes, is joining two fast-moving aircraft together to pass the fuel from the tanker to the receiving plane. When it goes well, aerial refueling helps extend the reach of combat planes. It can also save an air crew when their plane has a problem.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War.

 

However, the fact remains that when you are passing jet fuel from a tanker to a combat plane, it gets tricky. In 1966, a B-52 and a KC-135 tanker collided over Palomares, Spain during a flight carried out as part of Operation Chrome Dome. In 1959, another B-52/KC-135 crash took place over Kentucky.

 

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Aerial refueling is accomplished in one of two ways: The refueling boom that is primarily used by the United States Air Force due to its ability to rapidly refuel bombers, or the probe-and-drogue method, used by most other countries around the world, as well as the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Air Force also uses the probe-and-drogue method to refuel helicopters and the V-22 Osprey.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

Articles

Here are all the signs pointing to General Mattis as the next Defense Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet finalized his decision for who he’ll tap to lead the Pentagon next year, but plenty of signs are pointing to retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as the top choice.


First and foremost among them are Trump’s comments during an interview with New York Times reporters on Tuesday, in which he said he was “seriously considering” Mattis for Defense Secretary.

Also read: This letter General James Mattis wrote to his Marines is a must-read of historical proportions

The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.

If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.

Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.

Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”

Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”

And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.

“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.

While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus briefs reporters at the Pentagon April 26, 2007. | DoD photo

According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.

Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.

The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.

He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.

A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.

Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New engravings on the USMC War Memorial honor Iraq and Afghanistan Marines

On Nov. 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and the United States Marine Corps dedicated new engravings on the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial to include the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns.


The names and dates of principal U.S. Marine Corps campaigns and battles are engraved at the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial as well as the Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful” in Latin. The memorial also features the phrase, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” a quote from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in honor of the Marines’ action on Iwo Jima. While the statue depicts a famous photograph of a flag-raising on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.

“As the Deputy Commander of Special Forces in Iraq and retired Navy SEAL, I saw the commitment, patriotism, and fortitude that American servicemembers and their families display while serving our country. It’s a great honor to be a part of memorializing the Marines of the Global War on Terror,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Our warriors who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan see more frequent deployments as our nation has been at sustained combat for longer than in any previous point in our nation’s history. The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are warriors in the field and leaders in the community, I salute them and am grateful for their service.”

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
As part of an ongoing restoration project, Iraq and Afghanistan have been added to the engravings on the base of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy of US National Park Service)

President Trump has proclaimed November National Veterans and Military Family month. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service recognize veterans and their families by caring for the battlefields, monuments, and memorials like the U.S.Marine Corps War Memorial that honors those who have served and who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

“These engravings represent the 1,481 Marines to date who gave all, as well as their surviving families and a Corps who will never forget them. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is a living tribute to warriors. It is a sacred place that symbolizes our commitment to our nation and to each other,” Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller said.

Related: The USMC War Memorial is about to get a $5 million facelift

Made possible by a $5.37 million donation by businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the rehabilitation project also included cleaning and waxing the memorial, brazing bronze seams, and re-gilding letters and inscriptions on the sculpture base. Over the past four months, every inch of the 32-foot-tall statues of Marines raising the flag was examined. Holes, cracks, and seams on the bronze sculpture were brazed to prevent water damage.

“Today we’re simply adding two words to the Marine Corps memorial – Afghanistan and Iraq – but what they stand for is historic and should make every American pause and give thanks for the sacrifices of life and limb that our armed forces have made to protect our freedoms. It is the greatest of privileges to be able to honor our troops and military by helping to restore this iconic memorial,” David M. Rubenstein said.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
As part of an ongoing restoration project, Iraq and Afghanistan have been added to the engravings on the base of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy of US National Park Service)

Rubenstein’s donation, announced in April 2015, was a leadership gift to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“Mr. Rubenstein’s commitment to America’s national parks is as inspiring as it is generous,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his transformative gift to honor the bravery and sacrifice of U.S. Marines represented by this iconic memorial, an image imprinted in the collective memory of our nation.”

The next phase of the project will replace lighting, landscaping, and specially designed educational displays about the significance and importance of the memorial. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2018.

Articles

This was the final farewell of a heroic Marine military dog

US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.


Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.

The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.

DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.

Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.

“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge) 

DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.

Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.

Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.

The reunion in 2014 was covered by media across the nation and Jeff and Cena’s story has been carried in hundreds of countries around the globe.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.

“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”

Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pictures from the world’s forgotten Venus landers

On July 20, 1969, the United States won the space race. America had put two astronauts on the moon, secured the ultimate high ground, and put an end to decades of back and forth victories won by American and Soviet scientists. While many Americans saw the space race as a matter of national honor and prestige, many involved in the race for each nation’s government knew the truth: the space race was an extension of the Cold War in every appreciable way, and there was far more at stake than simply bragging rights.


Perhaps it’s because of this struggle for space supremacy, or what felt like the very real possibility that the Soviets might win it, that makes American audiences tend to gloss over the incredible achievements of the Soviet space program. It certainly makes sense not to celebrate the victories of your opponent, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the incredible feats put on display in both Russian and American space programs were victories for the human race, even if the politics of the day made it impossible to appreciate such a concept.

There may be no better example of this idea than the Soviet Venera program that took place between 1961 and 1984. The Soviets’ Mars efforts may have been marred in failure, but many Americans may be surprised to learn that they actually had a great deal of success in sending orbiters and even landers to Venus.
That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

This might be one of the toughest little space robots you’ve ever seen.

(Venera 10 courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Over the span of just over two decades, the Soviets managed to put thirteen probes in orbit around Venus, with ten hardened devices reaching the planet’s hell-like surface to send back scientific data and even images of the planet. Because of the Soviet practice of keeping their space-endeavors a secret until it was politically beneficial to announce them, very little was known about these missions for decades, and it seems that much of the data acquired by these landers was lost during the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but some treasures did manage to survive. Color photos of the Venusian surface taken by Venera 13, for instance, offer us a rare glimpse of what it’s like on the surface of a world many of us may have never thought we’d get to see.

Unlike the arid and cold environment of Mars that allows for the extended use of landers and rovers, Venus’ harsh environment made the long-term survival of any equipment utterly impossible. Instead, Soviet scientists hardened their landing platforms using the best technology available to them with a singular goal: they only had to last long enough to gather some data, snap some pictures, and transmit it all back to earth. If a lander could do that before the extreme atmospheric pressures and temperatures as high as eight hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit destroyed it, it was deemed a success.

It took Venera 13 four months to reach the surface of Venus, but once there, it survived for only around 120 minutes. During that time, it sent back fourteen color photos, eight more in black and white, and it drilled for a few soil samples which it analyzed internally. A duplicate lander, the Venera 14, was launched five days later and also managed to reach the surface, but survived only about an hour before succumbing the extreme environment.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Venera 13 lasted around 2 hours on the surface of Venus before the heat and pressure destroyed it.

(Roscosmos)

While other Venera landers reached Venus, no others were able to transmit back color photographs of the environment. A number of them did. however, transmit back black and white images.

The pictures we have of the surface of Venus taken by the Soviet Venera program may not offer the same sweeping panoramic views we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from NASA’s Martian efforts, but they do offer an almost uncanny glimpse into a world that, upon getting a good look, doesn’t appear as alien as we may have expected. In a strange way, seeing Venus makes it feel that much closer, and although these images were captured by the Soviet Union during an era of extreme tension and a world on the verge of conflict, from our vantage point firmly in the future, it’s hard not to appreciate the incredible accomplishment these photos truly represent.

Besides, we did end up winning the space race, after all.

Articles

This wounded “Harlem Hellfighter” held off a dozen Germans almost single-handedly

Sgt. Henry Johnson received the Medal of Honor for his actions taken on May 15, 1918, when he beat off a German attack with grenades, his rifle, a knife and, finally, his bare hands to protect a fellow soldier and his unit, the “Harlem Hellfighters.”


That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero
Photo: US Army

The Harlem Hellfighters were a “colored unit” attached to French forces because segregationist policies at the time discouraged allowing black and white U.S. forces to serve side by side. Pvt. Henry Johnson was assigned to sentry duty on the night of Feb. 12 with his fellow soldier, Pvt. Needham Roberts. The pair were attacked by a raiding party of at least 12 Germans. The attackers quickly gained the upper hand against the two soldiers.

This directly threatened not only Johnson and his friend but the Harlem Hellfighters and the French soldiers they were with.

Johnson fought bitterly to protect himself and his friends even after he and Roberts were wounded. Roberts fed Johnson hand grenades as Johnson made it rain on the enemy fighters. Johnson also used his rifle to hold the enemy off until he ran out of both grenades and rifle rounds.

The Germans even tried to abduct Roberts and Johnson protected him with just a knife and personal grit. Johnson was eventually wounded 21 times in the fight but still managed to bring down a few Germans and stab one of them through the head with a bolo knife.

Yeah, even severely wounded he had the strength to shove a knife through a man’s head.

While Johnson soon received the French Croix de Guerre and was eventually promoted to sergeant, he wouldn’t receive an American medal while he was alive. He received a Purple Heart in 1996, a Distinguished Service Cross in 2002, and a Medal of Honor in 2015.

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

Still, his actions were a big deal when they happened. Johnson’s deeds inspired a lithograph depicting his bravery and Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the head of the American Expeditionary Force and one of America’s highest-ranked generals, personally praised him and Roberts:

Pte. Henry Johnson and Pte. Roberts, while on sentry duty at some distance from one another, were attacked by a German raiding party estimated at twenty men who advanced in two groups, attacking at once from flank and rear.

Both men fought bravely in hand-to-hand encounters, one resorting to the use of a bolo knife after his rifle jammed and further fighting with bayonet and butt became impossible.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of Johnson as well, calling him “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.”

After the war, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native returned to New York where he had been living since his teens. He lived there until his death in Jul. 1929 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Author’s note: This story originally stated that Henry Johnson’s valorous actions took place on Feb. 12, 1919. Johnson actually saved his unit on May 15, 1918. He received France’s highest valor award, the French Croix de Guerre, on Feb. 12, 1919. We regret the error.

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