This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now - We Are The Mighty
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This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.


Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.

“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.

On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.

Also read: Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.

“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.

‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’

When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.

At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.

The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.

The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”

Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.

Related: 24 photos that show the honor and loyalty of the Marine Corps

On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.

“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.

“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.

Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.

27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.

“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.

“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”

‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’

Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.

Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.

“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.

The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.

The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.

“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”

While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.

“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.

The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.

“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything you need to know about Godzilla and its iconic roar

Godzilla’s roar has long been considered one of cinema’s most iconic and recognizable sounds. Oft-copied or otherwise homaged, the original and rather unique roar terrified audience goers in the 1950s and has been built upon to dramatic effect in the numerous sequels and remakes since. So how did they actually make the original sound and where did the idea for Godzilla come from in the first place?

As for the idea behind the monster, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was looking for a project to work on after another film he was involved with got scrapped. Given the popularity of such films as King Kong among Japanese audiences, he decided to create a similarly themed movie. Except in this case, the monster would function as a not so subtle metaphor for the devastation of nuclear destruction and its radioactive aftermath ‚ hence Godzilla being a prehistoric creature awakened and energized by atomic explosions, and who in turn shoots a radioactive heat beam out of its mouth, leaving a wake of death and destruction, with many survivors in turn suffering from radiation sickness.


As for the final version of the creature itself (and, yes, while in Western versions Godzilla is generally referred to as a “he”, in the Japanese versions the creature is an “it”), before the iconic design we know today was settled on there were differing ideas on how to best realise the monster. An idea that was proposed early on before being eventually rejected was to make Godzilla resemble a large gorilla/whale hybrid, more or less mimicking the whole King Kong thing, but making the animal somewhat amphibious too. (Note here, the name Godzilla ultimately derives from the Japanese name “Gojira”, which is in turn a portmanteau of “whale” and “gorilla”.)

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

Behind the scenes photograph from the set of Godzilla Raids Again.

(Public domain)

This whale/gorilla hybrid idea was initially proposed by Tanaka. However, when an artist was brought in to create a design for the creature based on this general idea, it was quickly rejected because the results ended up looking too human-like; they wanted something much more unique and ancient looking.

Switching it up, sculptor Teizo Toshimitsu and art director Akira Watanabe decided to base the design of Godzilla on that of dinosaur, specifically the T-Rex, with elements of other dinosaurs such as the Iguanodon and modern reptiles like the alligators thrown in. On top of that, to double down on the atomic radiation association, they put keloid scars all over its body, which would have been familiar to Japanese audiences, with these scars commonly showing up on survivors of the nuclear blasts.

As for Godzilla’s exaggerated dorsal fins, these originally were not meant to serve any purpose in the 1954 film, and were simply added to give the creature a more distinctive silhouette. However, it would ultimately be established that they can be used by Godzilla to absorb nearby radiation or even as a weapon.

After creating the monster, Godzilla needed a voice. As it was designed to be an unnatural combination of various creatures both alive and dead, the sound crew found it especially difficult to come up with something that worked for its roar. According to famed composer Akira Ifukube, who created both Godzilla’s roar, the sound of its footsteps, and composed the film’s soundtrack, sound engineers went to a local zoo and recorded the roars and cries of virtually every animal there to try to come up with something usable.

They then tried a number of combinations of these sounds to create something distinct, failing each time because the resulting roar always sounded too familiar. Ikufube notes that the engineers eventually got so desperate they even tried distorting the cries of random animals like herons to the point that they were unrecognisable, but nothing was satisfactory.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Giphy

The problem, at least in Ikufube’s eyes, was that the roars of other animals, even when heavily distorted, still sounded too natural. What they really wanted was a unique sound like nothing ever heard from an animal before, but still animal-like, and a little terrifying. Thus, scrapping all the previous sounds, despite working under an incredibly tight deadline, Ikufube decided to look at other potential means to make the roar. For the solution, he states, “For the roar of Godzilla, I took out the lowest string of a contrabass and then ran a glove that had resin on it across the string…. The different kinds of roars were created by playing the recording of the sound that I’d made at different speeds.”

And just as a brief aside here when talking about the tight deadline in scoring movies in Japan at the time, when asked about whether his now iconic music for Godzilla was among his favorite compositions, Ikufube stated,

Unlike American film score composers, Japanese film score composers are given only three or four days in which to write the music for a movie. Because of this, I have almost always been very frustrated while writing a score. I therefore can’t select any of my scores as favorites.

Going back to the roar, the resin on the glove helped create the added friction needed while being dragged across the string to make a noticeably grating sound that would hopefully cause a feeling of unease in those who heard it— akin to nails on a chalkboard, but with a lot more depth.

Attempting to recreate some version of Ikufube’s sounds for the 2014 version, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, who created the new roar, stated, “We dissected that original roar and figured out exactly which key musically it was in, which is a C to D on the piano, and the finishing bellow that has the same notes on a lower octave. We figured out the timing, cadence and musical pitch of that original roar, and then started to experiment with different ways to re-create it.”

After a whopping six months of experimenting, they settled on a combination of sounds, though as to how they came up with them, they’ve promised to take that secret with them to the grave. Said Aadahl, “I think more so than any other sound effect we’ve designed, we have a certain protectiveness over that sound. It’s when you’re giving voice to something, you’re giving it its soul. And if we tell everybody exactly how we did it, people will think of that when they hear the roar, and we want them to think of Godzilla.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

Scene from Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

That said, what little they have revealed is that the sound, much like Ikufube’s, was the product of friction using something man-made, rather than modifying an animal sound. They also note that over the course of their experiments they played with things like car doors with rusty hinges, as well as rubbing the heads of drums, among other things. They further state they found that using the plastic sole from a hiking boot on the strings of a double bass produced the closest they could get to the original roar in their experiments.

During the course of all of this, to get an even more unique sound, Van der Ryn states, “We bought a microphone that was able to record above the range of human hearing. We started experimenting will all different types of sounds — sounds that we couldn’t actually hear when we were recording. But when we slowed them down into the human range of perception, we had an incredible palette of normally invisible sounds that people normally don’t get to hear.”

Finally, to get proper echo sounds, as well as what it would sound like from within a building or a car, etc. (basically different ways it might be heard in the final film), they managed to convince the band Rolling Stones to let them use their tour speakers. They then set everything up outside at various locations at Warner Brothers studios, and simply blared the roars at high volume and recorded the result from various other locations nearby.

Naturally, they got some complaints about this, with Aadahl stating, “The neighbors started tweeting, like, ‘Godzilla’s at my apartment door! And we were getting phone calls from Universal Studios across town, because tour groups were asking, ‘What’s all that commotion going on down in the valley?’ The sound that we were playing actually traveled over 3 miles… 100,000 watts of pure power.”

Going back to the original Godzilla, if you’re wondering about the aforementioned footstep sounds, according to Ikufube, the story behind those was,

One of Toho’s electrical engineers made a simplistic amplifying device some time before production on GODZILLA – KING OF THE MONSTERS got underway. It was just a box that had several coils connected to an amplifier and a speaker in it. When you struck it, the coils would vibrate, and a loud, shocking sound would be created. I accidentally stepped on the device while I was conducting the score for a movie that was produced shortly before GODZILLA – KING OF THE MONSTERS was made. I said, “What the heck is that?” when I heard the noise that was produced. When I was asked to create Godzilla’s footfalls, I decided to use the device.
This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Giphy

Bonus Facts:

Ever wonder how they made the sound effect for the lightsaber? Well, wonder no more, sound engineer Ben Burtt states, “In the booth where we projected the films… Those projectors would make a hum. They weren’t running, they were idling, the motors would just sit there with this kind of magical, mysterious humming sound that I thought was musical in a way and I thought that’s probably what a lightsaber would sound like… And I was searching for some other element, and I had a tape recorder with a broken mic cable that the shielding had come off of and when I walked passed a television set in my apartment it picked up the hum from the picture tube directly into the broken wire, and that made a buzz, and I thought, that’s a great buzz, that sounds dangerous… normally a sound person doesn’t want a buzz or a hum, but in this case a buzz and a hum was the answer.”

Moving on to the famous “Star Wars scream”, more properly known as the “Wilhelm Scream”, heard in hundreds of movies, this was created via the vocal talents of Sheb Wooley, perhaps better known for his hit 1958 song “Purple People Eater”. The genesis of the scream was that Wooley had an uncredited part in the first film the scream was heard in, a 1951 film called Distant Drums. At one point during the film, Captain Quincy is leading his soldiers through a swamp when one of them gets attacked and dragged under by an alligator, screaming in the process. During post-production recordings, Wooley recorded various vocal sound effects for the film, including a batch of screams.

So why was it dubbed the “Wilhelm Scream” if the man who did the scream was named Sheb Wooley? After being plucked from the Warner Brothers stock sound library, the scream was used in the 1953 film The Charge at Feather River, starring Guy Madison as Private Wilhelm. The sound effect is used when Private Wilhelm is shot in the thigh with an arrow. The scream was nicknamed “Wilhelm” from then on.

The Hollywood tradition / inside joke of purposefully using the Wilhelm scream in a variety of films began with aforementioned sound effects designer Ben Burtt, who worked on numerous films, including Star Wars as noted. He noticed the scream being used in certain Warner Brother’s films, such as Them in 1954, Helen of Troy in 1956, and The Green Berets in 1968. Burtt then began slipping the Wilhelm Scream into every movie he worked on, beginning with George Lucas’s Star Wars: A New Hope. And it just sort of caught on from there.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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Articles

Borne the Battle Episode #225: Jack Carr, Navy Veteran, Former SEAL/Sniper, New York Times Bestselling Author

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Navy Veteran and New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr. He discusses his dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL and author. Through his enthusiasm for reading and on military-science novels, Carr’s dreams became a reality.

Carr’s two career goals were inspired by two people. The first person was his grandfather, a Marine who fought and died during World War II. The second person was his mother, a librarian who instilled in him a love of reading. It was this love that helped him on his path to reading about and eventually joining Navy SEAL teams.

During his Navy SEAL career, Carr led special operations teams as a team leader, platoon commander, troop commander, task unit commander, operations officer and executive officer. In the interview, he shares how his military experience and travels allowed him to develop and share realistic stories for his novels.

Additionally, he shares his mindset about his military transition, tips for entering the publishing world and how combining all his previous experiences led him to publish three political thrillers. His fourth novel is scheduled to be released in April.

In addition, he supports Veterans through his own unique merchandise, where 100% of the profits go to Veteran-related charities. He is also an ambassador for the Rescue 22 Foundation. A SEAL teammate who trained a service dog for Jack’s special needs child introduced him to the foundation.

Finally, he shared the story and business behind Chris Pratt optioning his book for an upcoming series on Amazon Prime.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel strikes Syria as Trump pulls out of Iran deal

Syrian state media is blaming explosions hitting the capital city of Damascus on Israeli missile strikes as the Israel Defense Forces sound the alarm in the northern part of the country — the part that borders Syria and Lebanon.


SANA, Syria’s government mouthpiece, says the strikes hit Syrian government forces in Kisweh, a city to the south of Damascus. The attack came just an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the end of American participation in the Iranian nuclear deal. SANA also reports the Syrian military was able to shoot two more incoming missiles down.

Israeli officials said the attack came after detecting “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.” Israel never confirms or denies reports of its strikes on targets in Syria, which it has done numerous times since December of 2017.

The Iranian government has vowed to retaliate.

The Times of Israel reported a statement from Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who said the target of the strike was an arms and ammunition depot for Iranian-backed militias, namely Hezbollah. Kisweh was also the site of a permanent Iranian base, struck by Israel in the December 2, 2017, attack.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
A satellite image showing the results of an alleged Israeli airstrike on a reported Iranian base being set up outside Damascus, from November 16, 2017 and December 4, 2017.
(ImageSat International ISI)

The base is just 31 miles from the Israeli border. On Sunday, Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said Iran would retaliate for the December strikes and any new strikes when deemed suitable.

“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Bagheri said according to Press TV, media associated with the Iranian regime.

In a statement, Trump cited the reason for pulling out of the Iranian nuclear agreement — signed in 2015 — was Iranian influence in the region, calling the regime an exporter of terrorism. The BBC reports the President calling the deal “decaying and rotten… an embarrassment.”

As for restarting production on enriching uranium, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he would consult with other signatories to the deal, including France and Germany who vowed to remain committed to the agreement, before moving forward. In the meantime, he ordered preparations to begin.

“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” he said in response to the American withdrawal.

Articles

5 more military myths that Hollywood taught us to believe

Hollywood likes to have fun when they showcase military life on the big screen; the more conflict and drama audiences see, the better.


Sometimes they tend to go a little overboard when telling stories and many moviegoers eat up the common misconceptions when they watch stories unfold.

Related: 5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

So check out these military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true:

1. Michael Bay explosions

Michael Bay is widely known for his amazing camera moves and is hands down one of the best action directors out there. He has mastered the ability to move audiences through the battle space while providing them with an intense adrenaline rush…

…but he needs to work explosions because they look like fireworks.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Explosions don’t look like this unless it’s the 4th of July. (Source: Zero Media/ YouTube/Screenshot)

Here’s a real man’s explosion:

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Okay, so this one is a nuke explosion — but you get the point. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

2. Cleaning bathrooms with toothbrushes

After speaking to a few Annapolis graduates and other military veterans, no one can recall seeing a Midshipman cleaning the bathroom using a toothbrush. It could have happened a long time ago, but not in the last few decades.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Jake Huard (James Franco), on the left, polishes the bathroom tile with a toothbrush and we don’t believe it. (Source: Buena Vista/YouTube/Screenshot)

3. Taking off on your own

War is very dangerous. Leaving your squad to go run down the enemy by yourself through a sea of maze-like structures for a little extra payback is highly improbable.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

Also Read: 5 ways your platoon would be different with Rambo in charge

4. Fireball grenades

Movies love to show off hand grenades setting off massive explosions that can crumble entire rooms if not buildings with huge fireballs. It’s simply not true.

See, no fireball here. (Image via Giphy)

5. Trigger happy

An infantryman’s combat load these days consists of only a few hundred rounds. Typically, once a movie squad makes enemy contact, they begin spraying their weapons and shoot up everything.

In real life, the moment you lock onto the enemies’ position, you’re on the radio calling in mortars or getting a fire mission up. Then its game over for the bad guys.

See! It’s just so much easier. ‘Merica! (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
Articles

This was the secret war off the US coast during World War II

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now


At a little after two o’clock in the morning on Monday, January 19, 1942, an earthquake-like rumble tossed fifteen-year-old Gibb Gray from his bed. Furniture shook, glass and knickknacks rattled, and books fell from shelves as a thundering roar vibrated through the walls of the houses in Gibb’s Outer Banks village of Avon. Surprised and concerned, Gibb’s father rushed to the windows on the house’s east side and looked toward the ocean.

“There’s a fire out there!” he shouted to his family.

Clearly visible on the horizon, a great orange fireball had erupted. A towering column of black smoke blotted out the stars and further darkened the night sky.

Only seven miles away, a German U-boat had just torpedoed the 337-foot-long U.S. freighter, City of Atlanta, sinking the ship and killing all but three of the 47 men aboard. The same U-boat attacked two more ships just hours later.

Less than six weeks after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the hostilities of the Second World War had arrived on America’s East Coast and North Carolina’s beaches. This was not the first time that German U-boats had come to United States waters. During World War I, three U-boats sank ten ships off the Tar Heel coast in what primarily was considered a demonstration of German naval power. But by 1942, U-boats had become bigger, faster, and more deadly. Their presence in American waters was not intended for “show” but to help win World War II for Germany.

The abbreviated name “U-boat” comes from the German wordunterseeboot, meaning submarine or undersea boat. However, U-boats were not true submarines. They were warships that spent most of their time on the surface. They could submerge only for limited periods — mostly to attack or evade detection by enemy ships, and to avoid bad weather.

U-boats could only travel about sixty miles underwater before having to surface for fresh air. They often attacked ships while on the surface using deck-mounted guns. Typically, about 50 men operated a U-boat. The boats carried fifteen torpedoes, or self-propelled “bombs,” which ranged up to twenty-two feet long and could travel thirty miles per hour. Experts have described German U-boats as among the most effective and seaworthy warships ever designed.

Within hours of the U-boat attack near Avon, debris and oil began washing up on the beaches. This scene seemed to be repeated constantly. For the next six months, along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, at least sixty-five different German U-boats attacked American and British merchant ships carrying vital supplies to the Allies in Europe — cargos of oil, gasoline, raw vegetables and citrus products, lumber and steel, aluminum for aircraft construction, rubber for tires, and cotton for clothing. By July of 1942, 397 ships had been sunk or damaged. More than 5,000 people had been killed.

The greatest concentration of U-boat attacks happened off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where dozens of ships passed daily. So many ships were attacked that, in time, the waters near Cape Hatteras earned a nickname: “Torpedo Junction.” U.S. military and government authorities didn’t want people to worry, so news reports of enemy U-boats near the coast were classified, or held back from the public for national security reasons. For many years, most people had no idea how bad things really were. But families living on the Outer Banks knew—they were practically in the war.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

“We’d hear these explosions most any time of the day or night and it would shake the houses and sometimes crack the walls,” remembered Blanche Jolliff, of Ocracoke village. Even though ships were being torpedoed by enemy U-boats almost every day, just a few miles away, coastal residents had no choice but to live as normally as possible.

“We sort of got used to hearing it,” Gibb Gray said. “The explosions were mostly in the distance, so we weren’t too scared. I remember we were walking to school one day, and the whole ground shook. We looked toward the ocean, just beyond the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, and there was another huge cloud of smoke. That was the oil tanker, Dixie Arrow.”

Some Outer Bankers came closer to the war than they would have preferred. Teenager Charles Stowe, of Hatteras, and his father were headed out to sea aboard their fishing boat one day when they nearly rammed a U-boat, which was rising to the surface directly in front of them. The elder Stowe’s eyesight was not very good. He told his son, who was steering their boat, to keep on going—he thought the vessel ahead was just another fishing boat.

“I said, ‘Dad, that is a German submarine!’ And it sure was,” Stowe recalled. “He finally listened to me, and we turned around and got out of there just in time.”

The war cut back on one favorite summer pastime for Outer Banks young people. “That summer we had to almost give up swimming in the ocean — it was just full of oil, you’d get it all over you,” Mrs. Ormond Fuller recalled of the oil spilled by torpedoed tankers.

Gibb Gray remembered the oil, too: “We’d step in it before we knew it, and we’d be five or six inches deep. We’d have to scrub our feet and legs with rags soaked in kerosene. It’s hard to get off, that oil.” It is estimated that 150 million gallons of oil spilled into the sea and on the beaches along the Outer Banks during 1942.

Some local residents thought Germans might try to sneak ashore. Others suspected strangers of being spies for the enemy.

“We were frightened to death. We locked our doors at night for the first time ever,” said Ocracoke’s Blanche Styron. Calvin O’Neal remembered strangers with unusual accents who stayed at an Ocracoke hotel during the war: “The rumor was they were spies, and the hotel owner’s daughter and I decided to be counterspies, and we tried our best to follow them around, but we never caught them doing anything suspicious.”

At Buxton, Maude White was the village postmistress and a secret coast watcher for the U.S. Navy. She was responsible for observing unusual activities and reporting them to the local Coast Guard. In 1942 one couple with German accents attracted attention by drawing maps and taking notes about the island. White became suspicious, and so did her daughter, who would follow the pair from a distance — riding her beach pony.

After being reported by White, the strangers were apprehended when they crossed Oregon Inlet on the ferry. Records fail to indicate whether or not the strangers really were spies, but White’s daughter became the inspiration for the heroine in author Nell Wise Wechter’s book Taffy of Torpedo Junction.

Slowly but surely, increased patrols by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, and planes of the Army Air Corps, began to prevent the U-boat attacks. Blimps from a station at Elizabeth City searched for U-boats from high above, while private yachts and sailboats with two-way radios were sent out into the ocean to patrol and harass German warships. The military set up top-secret submarine listening and tracking facilities at places like Ocracoke to detect passing U-boats.

Many people who lived along the coast during World War II remember having to turn off their house lights at night and having to put black tape over their car headlights, so that lights on shore would not help the Germans find their way in the darkness. Even so, the government did not order a general blackout until August 1942. By then, most of the attacks had ended.

On April 14, 1942, the first German U-boat fought by the American navy in U.S. waters was sunk sixteen miles southeast of Nags Head. Within the next couple of months, three more U-boats were sunk along the North Carolina coast: one by a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber, one by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol ship, and one by a U.S. Navy destroyer. North Carolina’s total of four sunken U-boats represents the most of any state.

By that July, the commander of Germany’s U-boats became discouraged. He redirected his remaining warships to the northern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless, Germany considered its attacks against the United States a success, even if they failed to win the war. Gerhard Weinberg, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has since called the war zone off the U.S. coast in 1942 “the greatest single defeat ever suffered by American naval power.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
The wreck of U-701 rests on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off of the east coast of North Carolina. (Photo: NOAA)

As the years have passed, most of the physical evidence of World War II U-boat encounters off North Carolina’s coast has vanished. Submerged off the state’s beaches are the remains of at least 60 ships and countless unexploded torpedoes, depth charges, and contact mines. Even today, small patches of blackened sand offer reminders of the massive oil spills of 1942. On Ocracoke Island and at Cape Hatteras, cemeteries contain the graves of six British sailors who perished in North Carolina’s waters.

In spite of those stats, most Americans don’t know about the time when war came so close.

Kevin P. Duffus is an author and documentary filmmaker specializing in North Carolina maritime history. He has lectured for the North Carolina Humanities Council on topics that included World War II along the state’s coast.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The bloody history of the Bloody Mary cocktail

It’s probably not a surprise that “Bloody Mary” is a real person, also known as Mary I of England, who earned her moniker for violently attempting to restore Catholicism to England. In her five-year reign, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned alive for their beliefs. But that’s not how the cocktail earned its name. The bloody part of the drink actually comes from the Russian Revolution.

Sorry folks, there’s just not much blood when burning someone at the stake.


This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

Simpsons did it.

After the Bolsheviks – Marxist-Leninists who would soon form the Soviet Union – toppled the Russian Czar in 1917, not everyone was particularly thrilled. In fact, many people were so not thrilled that they were forced to flee in fear of taking a bullet for the Soviet cause. One of those refugees was Vladimir Smirnov, who had a name so Russian, you might think I’m making it up. I’m not. The young Smirnov had his entire family fortune taken away by the Red Army.

If that name sounds familiar to you, you’re onto something – Smirnov moved to the Ottoman Empire, Poland, and France where he began making vodka under the more Western-friendly spelling of his name, Smirnoff.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

You definitely know that name.

The Bloody Mary as we know it today has its roots in Paris, where Russians escaping the bloody revolution in Moscow made their way around 1920. With them came vodka and a thirst for it, so a bartender at a New York-style bar called Henry’s began to toy around with this newfangled liquor. Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot didn’t think it tasted like much at all. Another fresh new flavor the bartender discovered was America’s newfound love for canned tomato juice. Petiot wasn’t the first to put the two together, not by far. But he did mix the spices into the drink for the first time. And the “Bucket of Blood” was born.

Americans loved it and christened it the perfect hangover cure. When Prohibition ended in the United States, Petiot moved to New York and began slinging drinks at the St. Régis Hotel’s King Cole Bar. But then it was called the “Red Snapper,” and its vodka was steeped in Black Peppercorns for six weeks before serving.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

After all the drinking they did after Prohibition, they were probably hungover for a year.

But the rest of the town called it a Bloody Mary. When they started isn’t exactly clear. When it gained its celery garnish isn’t either. If they had thought of putting bacon in it, they probably would have. These days, there are many variations on the classic cocktail, but when you want something done right, you need to go to an expert. If you need plumbing work, call a plumber. The power goes out, call an electrician. If you need advice on how to make a drink, ask Papa Hemingway:

“To make a pitcher of Blood Marys (any similar amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. (This to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.) Mix a pint of good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice. Add a tablespoon full of Worchester Sauce. Lea and Perrins is usual but can use AI or any good beef-steak sauce. Stir. (with two rs) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice. Stirr. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
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Watch the US Navy test its new ship against 10,000 pound bombs

When the US Navy fields a new ship, they don’t just take the engineer’s word for it that it can withstand nearby bombs — they test it out.


The USS Jackson, an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) meant for patrols in shallow water, just passed the first of three scheduled “shock trials.” The shock trials are composed of the ship sailing along as the Navy carefully detonates 10,000 pound bombs on either side of it. The results are then measured.

“The shock trials are designed to demonstrate the ship’s ability to withstand the effects of nearby underwater explosion and retain required capability,” according to a Navy statement.

“This is no kidding, things moving, stuff falling off of bulkheads … Some things are going to break. We have models that predict how electronics are going to move and cabinets are going to move, but some things are going to happen, and we’re going to learn a lot from this test,” US Navy Rear Adm. Brian Antonio told USNI News.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
USS Jackson (LCS 6) successfully completed the first of three scheduled full ship shock trials June 10. | US Navy photo

So far, the Jackson has passed the trials handsomely.

The Independence class, along with the Freedom class LCSs, represent the Navy’s vision of the future of surface warfare. Though both classes have suffered significant engineering difficulties, their modular design promises to revolutionize the way US Navy ships equip, train for, and deploy capabilities.

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Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now


On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.

About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.

“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”

“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”

Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.

Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.

After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.

“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”

When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.

“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”

The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”

“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”

“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”

Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.

“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”

“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

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China could be preparing for a paramilitary invasion in the East China Sea

Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.


Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.

China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.

“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.

But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.

It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.

Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?

The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.

That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.

This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.

Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.

That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.

On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.

In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.

China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.

The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.

“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.

Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.

China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.

It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.


Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

‘The Finest Hours’ vividly portrays one of the Coast Guard’s most heroic rescues ever

“The Finest Hours” depicts the events of Feb. 18, 1952, when a horrendous winter storm broke two large tankers in half. Coast Guardsmen operating out of the Chatham, Massachusetts lifeboat station managed to save 70 of the men from death by hypothermia or drowning.


The two tankers, both 520 feet long and carrying kerosene and heating oil, were called the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer. The Pendleton broke first, cracking in half near dawn in the middle of a nor’easter that created 60-foot waves and 70-knot winds.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
The two sections of the Pendleton after it was broken in a storm Feb. 18, 1952. Photos: US Coast Guard

The way the Pendleton broke resulted in a circuit tripping, cutting electricity to the front of the ship where the captain could have sent out an S.O.S. signal. The captain and seven other men in the front of the ship would die before anyone knew to rescue them.

In the bow of the Pendleton, 33 men were fighting for their survival. They struggled to keep their ship afloat and sound alarms while knowing they had only hours to live.

A short time later, the Fort Mercer was broken in half by the same storm. The Coast Guard first learned about the Fort Mercer and dispatched a motor boat from Chatham and a number of Coast Guard cutters and aircraft responded.

The rescue of the Fort Mercer crew was dramatic. Crew members tried to climb on ropes from their sinking vessel to a cutter, but were thrown around by the wind and waves. A particularly brave cutter captain ordered his vessel to make runs beneath the stern, allowing survivors to jump from one ship to another as the waves tried to crash them together.

38 men were eventually rescued from the Mercer. It was during this that a Coast Guard aircraft spotted a floating section of the Pendleton and reported that there were two broken ships out there.

So, a second motorboat was dispatched from Chatham station. It is this one that “The Finest Hours” seems to focus on. A small crew of 3 volunteers led by a young boatswain’s mate, Bernard Webber, set out into the storm to attempt the rescue.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
The crew of the motorboat that saved the Pendleton crew. Photo: Cape Cod Community College Richard Kelsey via US Coast Guard

En route, their 36-foot lifeboat was twice swamped by the waves. The first simply flipped the self-righting ship, while the second flipped it and broke out the windshield, threw Webber against the deck, and broke the small vessels compass. Webber and his men would complete the rest of the rescue without being sure of where they were going at any time.

When they made it to the Pendleton, the survivors lined the deck and waved their arms to get the Coast Guardsmen’s attention. A nearby cutter had also come to the aid of the Pendleton, but was unable to assist because the Pendleton stern section was crashing against an underwater bar that would destroy the cutter.

So the small motorboat, designed to hold just a few people, began taking on the crew of the Pendleton. It took twenty passes of the motorboat for the entire crew to make it off. For each man that jumped onto the motorboat, the vessel became harder to maneuver and more sluggish, a potentially lethal problem in the turbulent storm.

Finally, on the last pass, the Coast Guardsmen had taken on 32 of the 33 survivors from the Pendleton. But the final survivor dropped too early, crashing into the water between the ship’s stern and the Coast Guard boat. When he floated back to the surface, a wave pushed the vessels together and the man was crushed between them.

Though Webber was hurt by the loss of the man, he began the challenging process of getting his crew and the 32 remaining survivors back to safety. With no compass for guidance, he radioed the shore for help. As Chatham Lifeboat Station and a Coast Guard cutter argued about the best course of action, Webber got fed up and shut off his radio.

He headed in a direction that he thought would let him beach the craft, allowing men to scramble ashore. As he moved forward though, he spotted a navigational buoy and alerted Chatham Station that he was coming up to the pier with his survivors.

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Photo: Cape Cod Community College via U.S. Coast Guard

Other Coast Guardsmen and civilians from Chatham came out to meet the heroes and help the survivors. The next day, Coast Guard Rear Admiral H. G. Bradbury wrote a letter thanking the men for their heroism. Each member of the crew later received Gold Lifesaving Medals from the Treasury Department for their efforts.

(h/t to the U.S. Coast Guard for their articles “The Fort Mercer and Pendleton Rescues” and “The Pendleton Rescue,” which provided most of the information for this article. Click on the linked articles for even more information and additional photos from the rescues.)

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” hits theaters on Jan. 29.