This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years - We Are The Mighty
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This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Dick Lohry, the nephew of Army Pvt. John P. Sersha, took a moment to touch Sersha’s casket Tuesday after a planeside honors ceremony. (Photo: Aaron Lavinsky – Star Tribune)


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

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

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Army Pvt. John P. Sersha

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

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

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

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

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

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Wall of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Members of a Minnesota Army National Guard Honor Guard retrieved the casket of John P. Sersha during a planeside honors ceremony on May 24, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles

70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy tradition that rewards ice cream for rescued pilots

Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.


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

The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.

So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.

The exact amount of ice cream transferred was different for different carriers, and it seems to have changed over time. But Daniel W. Klohs was a sailor on the USS Hancock in World War II, and he remembered being on the bridge the first time a destroyer brought back a pilot:

I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.

Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.

Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.

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

​Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.

(U.S. Navy)

Tom Kocurko spent World War II in the Navy, serving on cruisers and destroyers and even wading ashore with Marines to direct naval gunfire. It was while he was on a destroyer escorting a carrier that he found out about the ice cream tradition.

“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘

For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.

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

Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:

After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.

A little later in his history, available here, Stark says:

The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.

As carriers began to receive their own rescue helicopters after World War II, the tradition became less important. A Naval Aviation News reporter asked a helicopter crew about it in 1958:

Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot?
“You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”

But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.

The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.

Articles

North Korea to the US: You can kiss a nuke-free Korean peninsula goodbye

More defiant North Korean nuclear weapons tests will be dependent on US moves in the Korean peninsula, the Hermit Kingdom announced on Tuesday.


North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Washington had ruined the possibility of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

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

Earlier this month, the Pentagon upped the ante by agreeing to equip South Korea with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery — one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world.

Pressure to deploy THAAD was spurred after Pyongyang tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and then launched a long-range rocket on February 7.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor. | AiirSource Military | YouTube

Speaking to reporters at a meeting in Laos, Ri claimed that Pyongyang was a “responsible nuclear state and would not use its atomic arms unless threatened,” Reuters reports.

However, the audacious tests have yet to cease.

Last week the Hermit Kingdom fired three ballistic missiles, equipped with a range (between 300 and 360 miles) capable of reaching all of South Korea.

And the latest show of force took form in a ballistic missile test simulating a strike on South Korean ports and airfields, which are heavily operated by US military forces. Currently the US maintains approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s defense ministry said THAAD will be located in Seongju, in the southeastern part of the country. In conjunction with the US, Seoul plans to have the unique air-defense system operational by the end of 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why North Korea has a psychological advantage over the US


  • North Koreans are trained by propaganda and military service not to fear incredible hardships like nuclear war.
  • North Korean officials say their country could destroy the US, but they would survive because Pyongyang has many bunkers and shelters.
  • US citizens view their lives and comfort much more dearly, but the US’s nuclear superiority limits North Korea’s advantage to psychology only.

When the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos went to North Korea, the “most telling moment” for him came when his minder, Pak Sung Il, a father of two, told him that “nuclear war with the United States would be survivable.”

Asked why North Korea would entertain the idea of nuclear war with the US if it would totally wipe out their country, Osnos’ minder gave a chilling answer.

Also read: Top US spooks say the North Korean dictator isn’t crazy at all

“We’ve been through it twice before” he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the “Arduous March,” or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.

“We can do it a third time,” he said.

“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again … A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

Nicholas Kristof wrote of his trip to North Korea in The New York Times and reported a “ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.”

“If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.

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

But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.

“This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats,” Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans’ attitude toward nuclear war. But “people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang,” said Kristof.

Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.

In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang’s infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Every North Korean is required to serve in the military, and years ago children were not excluded. (image Wikicommons)

The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn’t lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.

Even if average North Koreans aren’t as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.

But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.

North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army just ditched its latest short-term rifle replacement plan

The Army has officially scrapped its search for a short-term replacement for the M4/M16 rifle platform.


Funds for the Interim Combat Service Rifle have been redirected to the long-term project to design the Next Generation Squad Weapon, which will replace the current rifle platform for good. Military Times spotted the announcement on a post on the federal business opportunities website this week.

“Resulting from a change in strategy, the Government is reallocating the ICSR funding to the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW). The NGSW will be a long-term solution to meet the identified capability gap instead of the ICSR, which was an interim solution,” the post says.

When it officially announced the project in August, the Army said it was looking for up to 50,000 commercially available rifles of 7.62 mm caliber.

“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition,” the Aug. 4 notice said. “To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) that is capable of defeating emerging threats.”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Private First Class Michael Freise, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment fires an M-4 rifle during a reflex firing exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, Republic of Korea on March 23, 2005. (U.S. Air Force Photo By: Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

Current and former Army officials have said for some time that the range and stopping power of the 5.56 mm round currently in use underperforms that of rounds used by adversaries.

The M4/M16 platform has also been criticized, in part because of concerns about jamming and overheating.

Most soldiers and Marines carry M4s, M16s, or M27s that fire 5.56 mm rounds. Specialized personnel, like machine-gunners or snipers, already use weapons that fire rounds of 7.62 mm or some other caliber.

The ICSR was seen as a near-term replacement for the M4/M16 to be distributed to selected units — those more likely to face combat — until the NGSW could be developed and implemented. The Army has said that not every soldier would be outfitted with a 7.62 mm rifle.

Also Read: Was it actually the Marine Corps that helped delay the Army’s 7.62 battle rifle program?

In June 2013, the Army ended a competition to replace the M4 without selecting a winner. The more recent ICSR program also took several twists during is short life.

In September, it was first reported by The Firearms Blog that the Army was scrapping the 7.62 mm ICSR plan. No official reason was given at the time, but The Firearms Blog cited sources saying it was canceled because of a lack of a pressing threat, poorly written requirements, and little support from rank-and-file troops or in the Defense Department.

Shortly after that report, however, Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings — who, as the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, oversees the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons — said the service was still evaluating a short-term stand-in for the M4/M16.

“It’s not dead,” he told Military.com of the ICSR plan. “The decision has not been made.”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner)

In an Army report at the beginning of October, Cummings downplayed the prominence of the ICSR in Army planning.

“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR” or on the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, Cummings said at the time. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”

Cummings compared the NGSW program to the Modular Handgun System, which developed and introduced a new sidearm for the Army: “It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo, and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”

The NGSW would be “one end-all solution,” he added, with a carbine model replacing the M4 and a rifle version replacing the M249 squad automatic weapon. The weapon would likely fire a caliber between 5.56 and 7.62 mm. The Army is likely to see the first NGSWs by 2022, he said, with other enhancements arriving by 2025.

Articles

Afghan interpreters are still in danger and need America’s help

I enlisted in the Army in 2007 as a combat correspondent/videographer. During my time in the Army, I traveled all over the world and was allowed to do missions that gave me a sense of purpose and earned me two Emmys, three DOD Military Videographer of the Year awards and a handful of military decorations.


I also deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division (Airborne) for a year. I covered dozens of different types of stories there including Black Hawk medic evacuations, combat hospitals, combat aviation, engineers and EOD technicians and K-9 units. But I spent most of my time with the Infantry.

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

During my time on the ground, I worked very closely with an Afghan interpreter (who I’ll leave anonymous because of ongoing concerns for his safety as well as that of his family). He was one of the kindest and most courageous men I’ve ever met, and we couldn’t have done our mission without him.

This interpreter would commute secretly from his village to our base every day until finally it became so dangerous that he had to move on base with us while at the same time he moved his family to Kabul. He and I weathered many mortar and rocket attacks together in those days.

He had submitted his visa three times during his service. He is now unemployed because the base he worked at is closed. He is now in hiding from the Taliban and in grave danger. Every day he has to wait for a visa it gets worse. If he doesn’t get it he will have no choice but to attempt the treacherous journey to India through Pakistan with his family. If he survives the journey it will cost him most of the money he made with the Army.

INTERPRETER NEEDS VISA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!!

youtu.be

INTERPRETER NEEDS VISA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!!

There is a government program for giving visas to Afghan nationals, but the process is taking too long and too few visas are being issued. Because of this reality and because I know the power of creating awareness through storytelling, I’m part of a team producing a short narrative film called The Interpreter.

The Interpreter is a short film that functions both as a stand alone piece to assist advocacy efforts, and also as a proof of concept for the feature film currently in development. The Interpreter is being produced by Her Pictures in Los Angeles in association with USC Media Institute for Social Change and Interpret America with most of the film’s proceeds going to the non-profit No One Left Behind. I’m directing the film, Jenna Cavelle wrote the screenplay and is producing, with Michael Taylor executively producing. Our technical advisory team consists of Afghan interpreter, Fahim Fazli, the founders of No One Left Behind, Matt Zeller and Jason Gorey, and the founders of Interpret America, Barry Olsen and Katharine Allen.

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

The costs of war are multi-fold and unforeseen at the outset, and the plight of Afghan interpreters is one such element. For years these brave men saved the lives of American service members while hazarding their own. America now needs to accelerate the process of doing right by them.

Robert Ham is an Army veteran and a frequent contributor to The Mighty TV, We Are The Mighty’s video channel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In the IRR? The military may want you back if you served in one of these jobs

At least one of the military services says it’s looking for members of the Individual Ready Reserve to come back into the fold — and the call goes beyond just those who served in medical specialties.

As the country faces a potentially monthslong emergency over the novel coronavirus crisis, the military services could turn to a pool of veterans who thought their days in uniform were behind them.


President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month giving the Pentagon the authority to recall some members of the IRR to active duty — a move that likely sent many veterans rushing to check their discharge papers. Veterans can typically be recalled to active duty for eight years after the start of their service contracts, even once they’re out of uniform.

Most of the services say they’re still assessing their needs in the wake of Trump’s new order. But Lt. Col. Mary Ricks, a spokeswoman for Army Human Resources Command, said they’re seeking volunteers who served in at least four fields outside medical jobs.

“The Army is also looking for soldiers who served in the areas of logistics, aviation, as drill sergeants or recruiters,” Ricks said. “Protecting our citizens from coronavirus is a whole-of-nation call, and we need the help of our Individual Ready Reserve and our Retired Soldiers to maximize this critical effort.”

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

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, she added, is an “extraordinary challenge [that] requires equally extraordinary solutions.”

The Navy and Marine Corps are still reviewing whether there’s a need to recall members of the IRR, spokesmen for those services said.

The Air Force expects to target medical personnel for mobilization first, but it could expand to other specialties. That includes command-and-control elements and logistics personnel, said Sean Houlihan, an Air Force Reserve Command spokesman.

While there’s not an immediate plan to tap former airmen who served in those fields, Houlihan said the Air Force has the authority to do so.

“[Air Reserve Component] members must be prepared for mobilization at any time,” he said.

This wouldn’t be the first time the military has turned to voluntary or involuntary recall to carry out a critical mission. The Army notified around 21,000 members of the IRR they were needed during Desert Storm, Ricks said. About 18,000 of them reported for duty.

The Marine Corps got the authority in 2006 to recall up to 2,000 members of the IRR for a one-year period, said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a Marine Corps Forces Reserve spokesman. That was in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., when combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq ramped up.

The military services have activated at least a portion of the Reserves to carry out missions tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The Army Reserve has several sustainment, logistics and civil-authority units providing services in Utah, as well as New Orleans and other U.S. cities.

The Navy has nearly 200 reservists serving on hospital ships in New York and California, said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale, a Navy Reserve Force spokesman. Dozens more Navy reservists are serving on COVID-19 response missions across the joint force, he added.

If the pandemic requires a large-scale military response, officials say there are a host of benefits to being able to tap into the IRR to recall service members.

“It is a pre-trained pool of manpower that is available for recall on short notice to fulfill service requirements,” Hollenbeck said. “This means that most IRR Marines will require only minimal screening and training in order to return to active duty.”

Ricks said former soldiers and retirees possess the skills, training and education to augment the Army’s COVID-19 responses.

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

That could prove invaluable, she added, “to ultimately win this fight.”

The likelihood of involuntary recalls being used will probably depend on how many veterans who recently left the service volunteer to fill in-demand requirements.

The Army over the last several weeks has seen an influx of volunteers after asking medical professionals in eight specialties to return to service to backfill hospitals after troops were called on to fill emergency field facilities in areas hard hit by coronavirus outbreaks. More than 25,000 retired and former soldiers have offered to return to their former uniformed roles.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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This is everything you ever wanted to know about US desert uniforms

Thanks to the generosity of military members who literally gave up the uniforms they wore on their backs, Alexander Barnes and Kevin Born have successfully authored a new book that is educating readers on the nuances of desert uniforms.


After more than two years, their 344-page hardcover reference book “Desert Uniforms, Patches and Insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces” was published in late 2016. It features more than 1,000 mostly color photos with detailed descriptions of a variety of uniforms, different unit patches and insignia and more. They had lots of willing help tracking these down – locally and around the globe.

To handle the massive project, they set up a small studio in Born’s house and spend nights and weekends photographing and scanning several hundred donated and loaned uniforms, patches and insignia worn by U.S. Armed Forces.

Barnes, a former Marine and National Guardsman, and Kevin Born, chief of the Collective Training Development Division in theCASCOM G-3/5/7, and retired Army major, often just needed to walk around CASCOM for help.

“Working in a building with so many military veterans,” said Born “one is bound to run into some who had served during the desert period. Retired Col. Charles (Charlie) Brown, director of the Battle Lab, gave me his 6-colored uniform from Desert Storm and 3-colored Desert Combat Uniform from Afghanistan. And on the day he retired, he loaned me his Army Combat Uniform off his back, which is in the book illustrating the transition to the ACU uniform.”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
This Coast Guard Desert Combat Uniform represents a Chief Petty Officer assigned to the 307th Port Security in Clearwater, Fla. The uniform is among the hardest to find since only a few few thousand Coast Guardsmen deployed. This unit saw deployments to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: U.S. Military)

Born said, “In another example, one day I walked out of my office in the CASCOM G-3 area and 10 feet away in Jason Aleo’s cubicle was hanging a rare desert Close Combat Uniform from his service as a field artillery captain with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. I asked to borrow it as well as photos of him wearing it in Northern Iraq. It’s included on two pages in the book.

Barnes, who retired as a CASCOM logistics management supervisor in 2015, has similar accounts of those assisting with the book.

“I sent an email to Lt. Gen. (Mitchell) Stevenson (in England), a former CASCOM commander, and asked if he could share a photo of his service. He replied a day later, ‘What do you need, and how soon?'” said Barnes. “He was in a civilian job, but he stepped forward and sent us a great picture of him in the desert.”

Born continued, “I walked by Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter’s office one day, and saw a set of framed photos from his service with the 10th Mountain Division very early in Afghanistan in 2001. He kindly loaned several for us to scan. These appear in the book with Trotter praying next to a Soldier.”

Barnes and Born together have more than 50 years of military service and share a long history and avid passion for military collecting. Barnes has a master’s in anthropology, grew up in a military family and has co-authored three other books on military history as well as writing many articles on the subject.

Born has a bachelor’s in history and education and has authored numerous articles on military insignia collecting, an area he has focused on for more than 40 years. While they worked at CASCOM for a number of years, they did not know each other until the August 2011 earthquake in Central Virginia.

”Al and I are both members of the U.S. Militaria Forum and he commented about the earthquake on the forum that night,” said Born. “I saw his post and realized there was another military collector one floor above me. I reached out to him through the forum.”

Barnes said, “the earthquake was the catalyst.”

They soon discovered like-minded military collectors on Fort Lee who included Richard Killblane, the Transportation School historian, and then Lt. Col. (now Col.) Robert Nay, the former deputy installation chaplain.

“We met periodically at lunch to talk about our collecting interests,” Born said. “The seeds for the book came out of these discussions.”

They also collaborated on several articles in Military Trader Magazine that allowed them to get used to each other’s writing styles and served as practice for writing the book.

However, there were no plans yet for a book.

Barnes continued, “We started having lunches with others who had the same interest. After several, we decided to have a military swap meet at Fort Lee.”

Three annual gatherings took place and there was a huge interest, Barnes said.

“After one of these, we said, ‘We need to do something about all these desert uniforms. If we don’t, it will be hard to do it in 20 years.'”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
A soldier enjoys breakfast in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 wearing the so-called “chocolate chip” desert camo uniform. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros via Flickr)

The two were unsure of any interest in a book about desert uniforms. “It was such a short period of military history,” noted Barnes. Others at Lee changed their minds.

“It was one of these serendipity things,” said Barnes as they began asking veterans about their desert tours. “So, you were there too. I’ll be darned. Would you have any pictures? And they would say ‘sure.'”

Barnes added, “most were surprised anyone cared. ‘You’re kidding. You really want pictures of me in Iraq. Sure – anything I have, you can have.'”

The original project was smaller in scale. “We thought it would be kind of an Army patch book – showing the variations of these with a couple pictures of uniforms,” said Barnes. “But it kept growing as we felt it important to add all services.”

Schiffer Publishing – the publisher of three other books by Barnes – quickly gave the go-ahead. Both were surprised to get a positive response. They were given nearly a year to pull it together – write the chapters and captions, gather the content, take photos and more.

After 10 months of gathering content and expanding the book, they submitted their package in August 2015. In December, they began receiving sections of the book from Schiffer. After receiving proofs, both saw areas where more details were needed, and they started a Facebook page to help in this process.

“We got more interest from around the world,” said Barnes.

In preparation for the book, they accumulated more than 1,000 government and theater-made desert patches and over 300 uniforms. A large number are in it. These came from numerous veterans and collectors.

Others at Fort Lee (some retired or at other bases now) who were helpful include retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffie Moore, formerly with the CASCOM Proponency office; Maj Mike Bethea, an Enterprise Systems Directorate officer in CASCOM; Dr. Milt Smith, a dentist at Bull clinic; and Capt. (now Maj.) Vance Zemke, a former instructor at ALU.

Born added, “I found out two weeks before Maj. Zemke was to PCS to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that he had a huge collection of theater-made patches acquired in his deployments. He kindly loaned them to me with the provision I get them back in a few days’ time for him to pack them up for the movers. I spent day-and-night scanning them. They can be found throughout the book.”

The book foreword is by retired Maj. Gen. Ken Bowra, a former Special Forces officer, a friend of Barnes and Born.

“He not only wrote the foreword, but he allowed us to take pictures of his personal uniforms and shared many photographs as well,” said Barnes. “He served in the entire desert uniform period, wore these uniforms and patches in Desert Storm/Somalia/Operation Enduring Freedom and many other places. Most importantly, he always had a great respect for all the men and women who served during this era.”

Bowra also is a military history writer and author of two Osprey Vietnam-era books.

There were some hard-to-get uniforms and patches, notably CASCOM patches.

“Most collectors do not have these,” noted Born. “These units are not normally in the desert environment, and fewer people were deployed from the schools. I only had a loose copy of the patch. But Al beat the bushes with all of his contacts to find a photograph of one being worn in theater, which are both in the book.”

They completed their final review in August 2016 and were pleased to receive finished copies in late December.

Born said, “writing the book was about two things for us – recognizing the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces who wore the desert uniform as well as advancing this area of military collecting. Whenever a reference like this is published, there is an increased interest among collectors.”

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This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

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The 17 coolest DARPA projects

Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research,  its startling advances, and its secrecy.


Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel – both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won’t work, and some of it won’t ever see the light of day – but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.

This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!

The Coolest DARPA Projects

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new Army artillery outclasses and outguns the Russians

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.

The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.


“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle break,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
US Marine gunners test fire an M777 howitzer.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority – long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

Early 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
(photo from Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.

“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.

Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.

Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.

After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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‘The Ghost’ is the most decorated infantry officer you’ve never heard of

Guinness World Records stopped tracking the world’s most decorated soldiers because the importance and distinction of certain medals outweighs the objective number of medals a service member can be awarded —a distinction veterans certainly understand.


What brought this to their attention was the medal count between Audie Murphy – long regarded as the most decorated U.S. soldier ever – and a little-known WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient named Matt Urban, whose medal count matched Murphy’s.

 

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Audie Murphy just after WWII. (U.S. Army photo)

But no one knew that Urban had matched the well-known Murphy until 36 years after the end of WWII because Urban’s recommendation and supporting paperwork were lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.

He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Merit but never knew until his military records were reviewed to award his Medal of Honor.

And there were a lot of actions to review.

President Carter called then retired Lt. Col. Matt Urban “The Greatest Soldier in American History” as he presented the Medal of Honor to Urban in 1980. The soldier’s Medal of Honor citation alone lists “a series of actions” – at least 10 – that go above and beyond the call of duty.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Urban receiving the Medal of Honor from President Carter in 1980. (White House photo)

 

The Nazis called Urban “The Ghost” because he just seemed to keep coming back to life when they killed him. The soldier’s seven Purple Hearts can attest to that.

Urban joined the Army ROTC at Cornell in 1941. It was just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and unfortunately for the Nazis, Urban graduated in time to land in North Africa in 1942.

He was ordered to stay aboard a landing craft off the Tunisian coast, but when he heard his unit encountered stiff resistance on the beaches, he hopped in a raft and rowed to the fight. There he replaced a wounded platoon leader.

Later, at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, Urban destroyed a German observation post, then led his company in a frontal assault on a fortified enemy position. During one German counterattack, Urban killed an enemy soldier with his trench knife, then took the man’s machine pistol and wiped out the rest of the oncoming Germans. He was wounded in his hands and arm.

 

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
German Medium Tank Mk-IV knocked out by American artillery fire, Kasserine Pass. (U.S. Army photo)

In North Africa, his actions earned him two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

It was in France where Urban would distinguish himself and earn his nickname. His division landed at Normandy on D-Day, and later at the French town of Renouf he spearheaded another gallant series of events.

On June 14, 1944, two tanks and small arms began raking Urban’s men in the hedgerows, causing heavy casualties. He picked up a bazooka and led an ammo carrier closer to the tanks.

Urban then exposed himself to the heavy enemy fire as he took out both tanks. His leadership inspired his men who easily bested the rest of the German infantry.

Later that same day, Urban took a direct shot in the leg from a 37mm tank gun. He continued to direct his men to defense positions. The next day, still wounded, Urban led his troops on another attack. He was wounded again and flown back to England.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
The notorious hedgerows in the French countryside, 1944. (U.S. Army photo)

In July 1944, he learned how much the fighting in the French hedgerows devastated his unit. Urban, still in the hospital in England, ditched his bed and hitchhiked back to France. He met up with his men near St. Lo on the eve of Operation Cobra, a breakout effort to hit the German flanks and advance into Brittany.

He found his unit held down by a German strong point with two of his tanks destroyed and a third missing its commander and gunner. Urban hatched a plan to remount the tank and break through but his lieutenant and sergeant were killed in their attempts – so he mounted the tank himself.

“The Ghost” manned the machine gun as bullets whizzed by and devastated the enemy.

He was wounded twice more in August, refusing to be evacuated even after taking artillery shell fragments to the chest. He was promoted to battalion commander.

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Matt Urban in 1944. (Polish-American Congress photo)

 

In September 1944, Urban’s path of destruction across Europe was almost at an end. His men were pinned down by enemy artillery while trying to cross the Meuse River in Belgium. Urban left the command post and went to the front, where he reorganized the men and personally led an assault on a Nazi strongpoint. Urban was shot in the neck by a machine gun during the charge across open ground. He stayed on site until the Nazis were completely routed and the Allies could cross the Meuse.

And that’s just his Medal of Honor citation.

In a 1974 interview with his hometown newspaper, the Buffalo News, he credits his survival to accepting the idea of dying in combat.

“If I had to get it,” Urban said, “it was going to be while I was doing something. I didn’t want to die in my sleep.”

 

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years
Urban after receiving the MoH in 1980. (U.S. Army photo)

 

The reason he never received a recommendation for the Medal of Honor was because the recommendation was just lost in the paperwork shuffle. His commander, Maj. Max Wolf filed the recommendation, but it was lost when Wolf was killed in action.

“When I came home, I never thought about war,” he said in a 1988 press report. “That’s why the medal was 35 years late. … I just never pursued it.”

It was the enlisted men who fought with Urban who started asking about “The Ghost’s” Medal of Honor.

“The sight of him limping up the road, all smiles, raring to lead the attack once more, brought the morale of the battleweary men to its highest peak – Staff Sgt. Earl G. Evans in a 1945 letter to the War Department that was also lost.

 

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

Matt Urban died in 1995 at age 75 and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

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