On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.
A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.
Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.
The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.
Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.
The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.
No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)
Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.
Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.
Joe Mantegna and writer, Danny Ramm stop by The Mighty studio to talk about the process writing, directing and starring in the hit show’s story arc and other personal connections they have to the military.
Bob Dorough was a prolific bebop and jazz musician whose popularity and talent earned him spots as a sideman alongside the likes of John Zorn and Miles Davis. But the talented jazzman got his start in music as a pianist, clarinetist, saxophonist, and arranger for the U.S. Army’s Special Services Band toward the end of World War II.
He died in Pennsylvania on April 23, 2018, at age 94, NPR reports.
(Photo by Brian McMillen)
Though his jazz career blossomed after the war, what became his life’s work didn’t start until 1973, when he was first asked to take the musical reins of a show that was to “set the multiplication tables to music.” Thus began the decades-long, beloved show Schoolhouse Rock! A program that educated and entertained generations of American kids.
Dorough didn’t sing all the songs performed on Schoolhouse Rock!, but he did have a hand in the music and lyrics, either in whole or in part, for every iteration of the show. Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock, Science Rock, Money Rock, and Earth Rock are just a few of his best.
5. “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote To College”
“I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College” was the Schoolhouse Rock! way of explaining the Electoral College system. The song’s music and lyrics were written by George R. Newall and Bob Dorough and it was performed by Jack Sheldon (of “I’m Just A Bill” fame) and Bob Dorough.
4. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”
“The Shot Heard Round the World” first aired in 1975 and is part of Schoolhouse Rock!’s telling of the American Revolution, from Paul Revere’s ride to the shots fired at Lexington. Bob Dorough was responsible for the music, lyrics, and vocals in this gem.
3. “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”
Dorough also did the lyrics, music, and vocals for this 1974 primer on the use of English adverbs. It was with this number that Sheldon and Lynn Ahrens became regulars to the series alongside Dorough.
2. “Conjunction Junction”
Jack Sheldon, Terry Morel, and Mary Sue Berry did the vocals on this catchy Dorough song about the many grammatical uses of conjunctions. To this day, Sheldon’s memorable voice plays in many of our minds when we think back to the rules of conjunction.
1. “Three Is A Magic Number”
“Three Is A Magic Number” was the pilot for the entire Schoolhouse Rock! series. It first aired in February 1973 and led to Bob Dorough’s decades-long career of educating children like nobody else could.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Tech. Sgt. Brandon Middleton, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads .50 caliber rounds into a machinegun aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, June 27, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The HH-60G flies with two pilots and two SMAs, who are responsible for pre-flight aircraft inspections, passengers, cargo and operating the aircraft’s weapons.
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. The training enables firefighters to hone the skills needed to combat aircraft fires, structural fires and vehicle extractions.
A convoy consisting of vehicles from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuvers out of the National Training Center’s “Colorado Pass” to engage armored elements of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, June 26, 2017. This phase of NTC Rotation 17-07.5 challenged the Raider Brigade’s ability to conduct zone reconnaissance and prepare the area of operations for follow on forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Company A, 4th battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, practice clearing rooms during Military in Urban Terrain training at Tellinda-Har Village June 28, 2017 at Fort Bliss, Tx.
Kenneth Kallen of the Fire Department at Stewart Air National Guard Base uses a hose to wash down number 7 aircraft of the Blue Angels, June 26, 2017. The Blue angels were performing as part of an airshow here at Stewart.
Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean. Nimitz is on an underway period in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa exit a MV-22B Osprey aircraft during assault training at Sierra Del Retan, Spain, June 26, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.
Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) fly in formation above Sydney, Australia. VMM-265 is part of the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). The 31st MEU partners with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 to form the amphibious component of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach approaches a capsized vessel near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, June 28, 2017. A 22-foot boat with four adults and one 4 year old aboard capsized about three miles off Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and the Wrightsville Beach boat crew rescued all five people from the water.
U.S. Naval Sea Cadets board a 25-foot Response Boat-Small at Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 26, 2017. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a Navy-based organization, which serves to teach teens about sea-going military services, U.S. naval operations and training, community service, discipline and teamwork.
VA nurses recently received an unexpected gift, thanks to Nike. The multinational footwear and apparel manufacturer donated nearly 3,800 pairs of Air Zoom Pulse shoes to VHA nurses on the frontlines battling COVID-19.
While roughly 1,300 pairs were received by VHA’s Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) volunteers dispatched to COVID hot spots, the others were sent to healthcare workers who have been implementing innovative care solutions at their home facilities.
VA’s Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships (SCSP) collaborated with several VA offices to handle the donation, including the Veteran Canteen Services (VCS), Office of Nursing Services, Voluntary Services, and the Office of General Counsel. Together, they coordinated a detailed distribution plan, involving 123 VA medical facilities and their respective Community-Based Outpatient Clinic locations.
“VA healthcare workers have demonstrated true heroism, working tirelessly caring for Veterans and civilians during this COVID-19 pandemic, including traveling to hot spots across the nation. Nike proactively reached out to VA with this generous donation to lend support and share gratitude to those who have dedicated countless hours caring for others,” said Deborah Scher, SCSP’s executive advisor to the Secretary.
According to Amy Kanfer, chief merchandising officer for VCS, Nike also worked with partners Good360 and Webco-Hale to ship the items to VCS locations throughout the nation. “Canteen locations were the most efficient way to make this donation happen,” Kanfer said.
“Nike has always believed in the outstanding values and character found in the military, and we are thankful to all those who serve – and those who serve them. We hope they know how grateful we are for their care of our Veterans,” said BJ Prendergast, Nike’s global category director for Special Field Systems, and brigadier general with the Oregon Army National Guard.
“Frontline healthcare workers are the true heroes of this extraordinary time, and the donation of a shoe designed just for them is our way of showing our gratitude,” he added.
More information on SCSP
VA’s SCSP works with external partners who wish to assist VA with providing quality care for our nation’s Veterans. Donations to help enrich our Veterans and health care workers’ lives during the current COVID pandemic can be sent to the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships at email@example.com.
Russian special forces staged a mock invasion of an island in the Gulf of Finland just days before President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital.
The Russian forces parachuted onto the island of Gogland, which is part of Russia but located roughly 70 miles from Helsinki, from a Mi-8AMTSH helicopter at an altitude of 2,500 meters. The soldiers used satellite equipment to steer themselves to the landing site, according to a July 10, 2018 press release from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Once on the ground, the Russian forces camouflaged their parachutes and headed into the interior of the island to destroy a series of mock communications stations, radars, and ASM batteries, Defense One reports.
The island is equipped with a helipad, but after destroying the targets the soldiers prepared a landing site for the helicopter for their escape.
The soldiers who participated in the mock invasion had “not less than a hundred jumps with parachutes of various types,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry statement.
This exercise comes amid increasing concern from many European countries about Russian agression in the region in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Meanwhile, as Trump prepares to meet with Putin, some NATO member states seem to be concerned he’s too soft on the Russian leader and doesn’t fully value the historic alliance.
Trump was widely criticized for his rhetoric and demeanor at the summit. Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, accused the president of “diplomatic malpractice” and expressed concern over Trump’s disposition toward Putin.
“You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO,” Burns said on July 11, 2018. “I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends, and he’s misrepresenting the facts.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
Just two weeks after American forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, Jack Leroy Tueller, one of those Americans, was taking sniper fire with the rest of his unit. Tueller played the sniper a beautiful song from his trumpet.
He was orphaned at age five, but before World War II, Jack Tueller would play first-chair trumpet in the Brigham Young University orchestra. After going to war as a pilot, his trumpet skills would serve him well, along with at least one German soldier and both their families.
Jack Tueller served in the Army Air Forces in the European Theater, flying more than 100 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. After the war, he became a missilier in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and would serve in Korea and Vietnam as well. But his most memorable military moment would always be a night in Normandy when the power of music risked — and saved — his life.
It was a dark, rainy night in Northern France when then-Capt. Tueller decided to play his trumpet for everyone within earshot. The only problem was that not everyone in the area would be very receptive to a song in the dead of night — especially not the sniper trying to shoot him dead.
That wasn’t about to deter a man like Tueller, who took his trumpet on every combat mission. If he was ever shot down, he wanted to use it to play songs in the POW camps.
Tueller had been grounded for the night. His unit already cleared most of the area of snipers, but there was one left. Tueller’s commander told him not to play that night because at least one sniper was still operating in the area. The sniper had a sound aimer, which meant he didn’t have to to see his target, only hear it.
But the pilot insisted. He needed a way to relieve his own stress. His commander told him, “it’s your funeral.”
Jack Tueller thought to himself that the sniper, suddenly being on the losing end of World War II in Europe, was probably as scared and lonely as he was. And so he decided to play a German love song on the trumpet, Lili Marlene, and let the melody flow through Normandy’s apple orchards and into the European night.
The airman played the song all the way through and nothing happened.
Listen to Tueller, who would live on to be a Colonel in the Air Force after the war, play his version of the tune in the video below (58 seconds in).
The very next morning a U.S. Army Jeep leading a group of captured Wehrmacht soldiers approached Tueller and his cohorts. The military policemen told Capt. Tueller that one of the POWs, who was on their way to England, wanted to know who was playing the trumpet the night before.
The captured German, just 19 years old, burst into tears and into the song Tueller played the night before. In broken English, the man told Tueller he thought about his fiancée and his entire family when he heard his trumpet — and he couldn’t fire. It was the song he and his fiancée loved and sang together. The man stuck out his hand.
Captain Jack Tueller shook the hand of his captured enemy.
“He was no enemy,” Tueller says, looking back. “He was scared kid, like me. We were both doing what we were told to do. I had no hatred for him.”
Jack Tueller died in 2016 in his native state of Utah at age 95, still playing the same trumpet he carried on all of his World War II air sorties.
It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.
The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.
After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”
The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.
“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.
“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”
“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.
The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.
“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.
Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.
Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”
Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.
He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.
It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.
In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.
Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.
There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.
Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.
Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.
Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?
There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.
That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Pentagon — led by the Army — is looking for a new handgun to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9.
The latest from the program office is that the Army is still in “source selection,” which means program managers are still trying to decide which companies will be finalists for a pistol that’s supposed to fit a wide range of troops, be convertible between a compact, subcompact, and full-size combat pistol, and be more accurate and maintenance-free than the existing M9.
While the specs for the so-called XM17 Modular Handgun System program have been on the streets for some time, the Army has just released an outline of how that pistol should be carried when attached to a trooper’s hip or anywhere else on his or her body.
According to a solicitation distributed to industry, the Army is looking for a holster that can be attached to a variety of items, including body armor, a utility belt or a trooper’s waistband, can work with a suppressed pistol or without, can fit a handgun with a laser sight and keep the handgun secure during combat operations.
In short, the Army’s looking for a holster that can do just about everything.
“Compact variant users may need to carry their handguns in an overt/tactical method in the course of their duties and it would be necessary for the full-size holster to accommodate the compact variant,” the Army notice says. “In the event a new handgun is needed, the existing holster will need to holster or adapt to holster the new weapon to ensure soldiers have a holster system available for use.”
Program officials suggest what they’ve dubbed the “Army Modular Tactical Holster system” could use a single attachment point and hold different shells to fit different-sized pistols or ones designed to for accessories like suppressors or flashlights. Shooting with pistol suppressors often requires pistols to be fitted with slightly longer barrels and higher sights in order for the shooter to properly zero in on his target, and a flashlight adds significant bulk to the slide.
Interestingly, the Army called for a retention system that did not have to be “activated” by the soldier like some holsters used by law enforcement where a lever is flipped over the handgun’s hammer or slide.
“Soldiers require the ability to draw handguns from holsters and re-holster with one hand reliably when transitioning from another weapon system, or when presented with a lethal force engagement with little or no warning when only armed with a handgun,” the notice says. “This requires that Soldiers be capable of drawing the weapon quickly with one fluid motion, attain a proper firing grip from the holster, engage enemy targets, holster the weapon and potentially repeat the process during the same engagement or in successive engagements. … Soldiers must be able to conduct draw and re-holster with one hand and without looking or glancing away from their near-target environment.”
All of this is to avoid the problem experienced with the popular Blackhawk! Serpa holster that many claim contributes to negligent discharges.
“No retention buttons, switches, levers, etc. will use the soldier’s trigger finger to release the handgun,” the Army says.
The Army also wants the AMTH to work both outside and inside the waistband for concealed carry environments.
That’s surely an ambitious list of specs for a do-all holster. And to top it off, the Army wants the base holster (without any accessory shells or attachments) to cost less than $100.
And industry has until early October to tell the Army what it’s got that can meet the AMTH’s lofty goals.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is known for hunting hurricanes in our hemisphere. But recently, this unit has been deployed a fair bit away from its normal haunts. Some of its assets are in Sri Lanka and doing a much less turbulent version of their usual mission.
So, with annual, stateside monsoons, why fly halfway around the world to do some research? Well, one reason is that the weather can affect military operations, and the Indian Ocean is a particularly important strategic location for the United States Navy. From there, during Operation Enduring Freedom, carriers, including USS Enterprise (CVN 65), launched air strikes into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A WC-130J Hercules in flight.
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)
The Hurricane Hunters are carrying out their research mission with the help of the University of Notre Dame, the Office of Naval Research, and the Sri Lankan government. The Office of Naval Research sent the research ship USNS Thomas G. Thompson (T-AGOR 23) to assist in the mission.
Preparing for start-up: A WC-130 on the flight line.
(USAF photo by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)
As is the case with their hurricane missions, the crews of WC-130 Hercules cargo planes collect oceanographic and atmospheric data on the monsoons using dropsondes and buoys. This also gives the squadron a good chance to train for their mission without flying into actual hurricanes — you can’t exactly call it a “dry run,” but a monsoon is much less intense than a hurricane.
A WC-130 taxis to its parking slot after completing its mission.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)
The 53rd will be making a return trip to Sri Lanka next year to gather more data on monsoons. In the long-term, the data they’re collecting may be of strategic use to the U.S., but it’s also sure to help Sri Lanka and nearby countries, like India, better prepare for heavy rains and flooding.
Calvin Graham was the youngest of seven children of a poor Texas farm family and because of his abusive stepfather, he and one of his older brothers decided to move out. Calvin supported himself by selling newspapers and delivering telegrams on weekends and after school, but he was curious about something more: the Navy.
He was just eleven when he first thought of lying about his age to join the Navy. The world was in the midst of the second world war and some of his cousins had recently died in battles. Graham made his decision. The question was how to do it.
He started by shaving, as he thought it would ultimately make him look older. (And, note: Contrary to popular belief, shaving has no effect on hair growth rates or thickness) More effectively, he had his friends forge his mother’s signature for consent, stole a notaries’ stamp, and told his mom he was going to visit relatives for a while.
Graham later recalled that the day he showed up to enlist, “I stood 5’2 and weighed 125 pounds, but I wore one of my older brothers’ clothes and we all practiced talking deep.”
Despite all his efforts, there was one problem- a dentist who helped screen the new recruits. Graham stated, “I knew he’d know how young I was by my teeth… when the dentist kept saying I was 12, I said I was 17. Finally, he said he didn’t have time to mess with me and he let me go.”
On August 15, 1942, Calvin Graham was sworn into the Navy. He was twelve years, four months and twelve days old, the youngest individual to enlist in the U.S. military since the Civil War and the youngest member of the U.S. military during WWII.
After spending time in San Diego for basic training, he sailed aboard the USS South Dakota as a loader for a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun, a “green boy” from Texas who would soon become not only the youngest to serve, but the nation’s youngest decorated war hero.
The South Dakota, known also as “Battleship X” during the war, was a destroyer under the command of Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch that was heading to Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. On the night of November 14, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the battleship was hit forty-seven times by Japanese fire. One explosion threw Calvin down three decks of stairs. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel that tore through his face and knocked out his front teeth. Additionally, he suffered severe burns, but in spite of his injuries he tried to rescue fellow Navy sailors from danger.
I took belts off the dead and made tourniquets for the living and gave them cigarettes and encouraged them all night. It was a long night. It aged me… I didn’t do any complaining because half the ship was dead.
For his efforts during the battle and aiding other soldiers, despite his own injuries, he received the Bronze Star as well as a Purple Heart.
However, the distinction did not last long. A year after serving in the Battle of Guadalcanal, while his battleship was being repaired, Graham’s mother learned of what her son had been up to and informed the Navy of his real age.
Rather than simply releasing him from his service, Graham was thrown in the brig for almost three months. It would seem the plan was to keep him there until his service time was up, but he was ultimately released when his sister threatened to go to the media and tell them about her brother’s imprisonment, despite his distinguished service. Graham was released, his medals stripped from him, and then dishonorably discharged, which is significant as it made it so he couldn’t receive any disability benefits, despite his injuries.
At only thirteen, Calvin Graham was a “baby vet” who quickly found he didn’t fit in at school anymore. Once again he chose a life of an adult, getting married and fathering a child at fourteen, while working as a welder in a Houston shipyard.
At seventeen, he got divorced and enlisted in the Marines. Three years later, he broke his back when he fell from a pier. This unfortunate event ended his service career and left him selling magazine subscriptions for a living.
For the remainder of his life, Graham fought for both medical benefits and a clean service record. In 1978, he was finally given an honorable discharge (approved by President Jimmy Carter), and all his medals except the Purple Heart were reinstated. He was also awarded $337 in back pay but was denied health benefits except for disability status for one of his two teeth he lost in the Navy during WWII.
In 1988, his story came to public attention through the TV movie, Too Young the Hero. The publication of his story pushed the government to review his case and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917 and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills incurred due to injuries sustained while a member of the military. However, this was contingent on receipts for the medical services. Unfortunately, some of the doctors who treated him had already died and many medical bills were lost, so he only received $2,100 to cover his former medical expenses.
Calvin Graham died of heart failure in November of 1992, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time of his death, all of his decorations were reinstated with the exception of the Purple Heart. Two years later, his Purple Heart was reinstated and presented to his widow at a special ceremony. He also received the National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze Battle Star device and the WWII Victory Medal.
Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”
So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.
Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.
And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.