WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”


Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.

However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.

To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.

Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”

The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.

Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”

Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”

After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”

When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”

After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.

Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.

Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.

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

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This is what the DoD has planned for a zombie apocalypse

We’ve all thought it. If the zombie apocalypse broke out right now, what would you do?


Rush to the nearest gun store or shopping mall like everyone else? Which are both a terrible ideas. Parents lose their sh*t over toys for Christmas, let alone survival for their kids.

Well, the Department of Defense has you beat.

The much belittled CONPLAN 8888, also known as the “Counter-Zombie Dominance” plan was created as a training guide. The guide accompanies the scenario of political fallout, a broken chain of command, and a target rich environment. The very first words of the manual are “This plan was not actually designed as a joke.” Think of how the modern U.S. military trains combating the fictional “Pinelandians,” “Krasnovians,” and those damned diabolical “Donovians.”

Also read: Why a zombie apocalypse will never happen on America’s watch

The scenarios are fun instead of setting off some political red flags. After the forward, detailing how it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of planning around complete and utter chaos, it jumps head first into the absurd — to “undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde” in varying levels of Zombie Conditions (Z-CONs.)

At the bottom Z-Con Levels are Chicken Zombies and Vegetarian Zombies (and yes, they are referring to Plants vs Zombies). The zombies you do have to worry about are Pathogenic Zombies (created from a virus or bacteria), Radiation Zombies, Evil Magic Zombies, Space Zombies, and Weaponized Zombies.

CONPLAN 8888 has a six-step operational chart — because even in the apocalypse, you can’t escape those things. They are:

Phase 0: Shape

This phase is the current state of things. Training continues as normal. Doctrine is written. Contingency plans are formed. No zombie outbreak has happened as of yet.

Phase 1: Deter

This is when things kick off. Unless they are controlled by a nation state or non-governmental organization, zombies aren’t cognizant and can not be reasoned with, there’s only one thing to do. Get ready to kick some ass!

 

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
It’s useless talking to zombies — because you know, they’re zombies. (Television series “The Walking Dead” by AMC)

Phase 2: Seize the Initiative

All units must be ready and willing to deploy for 35 days. Troops will head out to infected areas to provide security and aid and to quarantine the area.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Looking for more patriotic content, from sea to shining sea—and beyond? Military service members and veterans can get a FREE FOX Nation subscription until for a year! Sign up for your free subscription here!

Phase 3: Dominate

Now is the time for ass kicking and the fun part every zombie movie is based on. Control through superior firepower. Prepare to shelter in place for up to forty days in case the worst happens.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Phase 4: Stabilize

Repeat all steps until the location is rendered safe enough. Seek and destroy all remaining threats. Deploy counter-zombie teams to weed out pockets of zombie resistance.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Phase 5: Restore Civil Authority

The zombie threat is gone and damage is probably widespread. Time to rebuild the world.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

As silly and as ridiculous as the publication may seem, it takes the matter seriously. It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.

Articles

Israel honors US soldier who defied Nazi captors: ‘We are all Jews here’

U.S. Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was captured with thousands of others during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge in 1944. In all, he spent 100 days as a prisoner of war at Stalag IXA POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.


WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Stalag IXA circa 1942

As the highest ranking non-commissioned officer, he spoke for the group. When it came time for the Nazis to implement the policy of separating the Jewish prisoners and sending them off to labor camps where their survival was unlikely, Edmonds would have none of it. He ordered all his men to step forward and self-identify. The camp commander didn’t believe it.

“We are all Jews here,” he said.

Even when his captors put a gun to his head, the Tennessee native wouldn’t budge. His will was stronger than the Nazi’s threats. Edmonds continued, telling the Nazi camp commandant:

“If you are going to shoot, you are going to have to shoot all of us because we know who you are and you’ll be tried for war crimes when we win this war.”

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds

His defiant stand saved 200 Jewish lives. He posthumously received the highest honor Israel gives non-Jews who risked their lives to save those of Jewish people during WWII. He is one of four Americans, and the first GI, to receive this honor.

“Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial. “The choices and actions of Master Sgt. Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.”

The names of those who risked it all to save the Jewish people during the Holocaust are engraved down an avenue in a Jerusalem memorial called Yad Vashem.  It is the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, safeguarding the memories of the past and teaching the importance of remembering to future generations.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem

The honor the Jewish nation bestows on such people is “Righteous Among the Nations,” created to convey the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Edmonds joins the ranks of 25,685 others, including German industrialist Oskar Schindler and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Edmonds died in 1985. While in captivity, Master Sgt. Edmonds kept a couple of diaries of his thoughts, as well as the names and addresses of some of his fellow captors.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
An ID tag from Stalag IXA (Glenn Hekking via Pegasus Archive)

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hackers are not afraid to commit cyber attacks against the US

Russia, China, and other nations that have launched cyber attacks against the United States do not fear retribution and see no reason to change their behavior, the nominee to head the U.S. Cyber Command said.


Army Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1, 2018, that cyber threats against the country have grown significantly, and the United States must impose costs on online “adversaries” to make them stop.

“They don’t fear us,” said Nakasone, 54. “It is not good.”

Also read: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

“I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior,” he said. “They don’t think much will happen.”

His comments echoed statements by the current cyber commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, in testimony before the same committee on Feb. 27, 2018.

“I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity’,” Rogers said.

“Clearly, what we have done hasn’t been enough” to deter Russia, he said. “They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior.”

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
LTG Paul M. Nakasone, Commander of the United States Army Cyber Command. (Photo by U.S. Army)

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking internal Democratic party e-mails and waging an online disinformation campaign on social-media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Intelligence chiefs recently warned that Russia is using the same tactics to try to influence the midterm congressional elections in November 2018.

China, Iran, and other nations have also been accused of staging cyber attacks on U.S. facilities and government targets, although they have not been accused like Russia of attempting to interfere in the U.S. political system.

Related: North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks

Several senators asked Nakasone what the United States should do to combat nations that infiltrate government networks, steal data from contractors, or try to influence American elections.

“We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “Should we start cranking up the costs of the cyberattacks on our nation?”

Nakasone, who currently leads U.S. Army Cyber Command and is expected to win confirmation in the Senate, was cautious when asked what to do.

He said he would provide a series of options to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, including alternatives that would involve actions other than retaliatory cyber attacks.

More: Hackers can take a hidden test to become mid-grade officers in the US Army’s Cyber Command

U.S. officials have said they could deal with nations that conduct cyber espionage in a number of ways, ranging from U.S. sanctions and regulatory actions to various diplomatic and military responses.

Nakasone also told lawmakers that the United States must build its own cyber defense force and do what is needed to attract and retain the right people.

He said the Pentagon should offer incentives to attract people who have the necessary skills in computer languages, forensics, and other areas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL kicked PTSD with coffee

In 2008, former SEAL Salvatore DeFranco was busy ramping up for his second deployment to Iraq when an unexpected accident happened. Salvatore was in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident that left the SEAL with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in a coma, and with nearly half of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain.


Salvatore was in for a hard road ahead. He was sent home to Massachusetts to recover — and he has, but it took a while. He battled a number of issues daily in his recovery, which included depression. Salvatore had been seeing a mental health professional, but it was time to explore medication as an option in coping.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Salvatore DeFranco and wife Dana kicking depression with caffeine.

The doctor he went to see asked Salvatore two questions: Are you working out? Are you drinking coffee?

The answer to the first question was yes, but Salvatore’s answer to the second question was no. He had never been a coffee drinker. The doctor (which happened to be a former SEAL) stated that coffee was a natural anti-depressant and that it may help. After drinking coffee, things began to get better; he was happier and his energy came back. He started hanging out at cafes where the interaction with people was therapeutic and his passion for the coffee industry grew.

It’s not a stretch to say that coffee saved his life.

Battle Grounds Coffee is the product of this pain, hard work, and perseverance. Battle Grounds Coffee Company proudly roasts one of the finest coffee beans on earth. Alongside their popular house blends, they source a variety of seasonal single-origin coffees to provide their customers with a broad coffee experience. In addition to coffee, they serve breakfast sandwiches all day and a selection of salads and specialty sandwiches.

Salvatore and his wife Dana opened Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 and have never looked back. They opened it as a way to give back to their community. Dana comes from a military family; her father, uncle, and grandfather all served. Her grandfather believed in the business so much he provided the seed money to open the café. He was a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and was awarded the silver star, bronze star, and purple heart.

This family is no stranger to service for one’s country and community.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Coffee is an unexpected treatment that can have a positive effect on veterans suffering from depression.

Community is the corner stone for Battle Grounds Coffee. They strive to be at the forefront of initiatives for the local and state veteran’s community. From helping homeless veterans stay warm in the cold weather to helping veterans get back to work. Salvatore and Dana are a family owned and run business and want to serve as a bridge between veterans and civilians.

“Battle Grounds serves as a place for people to discuss ideas, build relationships and create business. In our community, we are the tip of the spear,” stated Salvatore.

Country, Community, Coffee.

Side note: The doctor that suggested the coffee as a solution was a sleep specialist.

Visit Battle Grounds Coffee, where you can buy coffee and merchandise.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Check out Battle Grounds Coffee Co. on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and US Army Infantryman. Bennett is the Co-Founder of Battle Sight Technologies, Cigars Sea Stories and 5Paragraph and is the Managing Editor of Change Your POV Podcast Network. Also, as a Certified Peer Support Specialist Bennett has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aid them in adding value to their communities.

Humor

8 reasons Marines hate on the Army

The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 1775, and on Nov. 11, the rivalry between Army soldiers and Marines began. Over the next couple of centuries, the inter-branch, verbal slap-boxing evolved into the passionate, “all in good fun” fight we know today.


The munitions for these verbal attacks are often exaggerated, sometimes malicious, but always spawn from some truth. Whether it’s your living standards or your vernacular, one thing is for certain, Marines will let you know what they think of you — and in the case of the U.S. Army, we will be heard.

8. Soldiers insist on saying we are the same.

Every Marine has the experience of going home on leave and finding themselves in a bar (probably with some friends from high school) when suddenly, it happens: The sound of a young soldier detailing the trials and tribulations of his day-to-day in the Army, culminating in the statement, “Army, Marines; it’s all the same shit.”

The violation of 242 years of exponentially growing ego and pride saturates his thoughts like the cranberry juice in that soldier’s vodka. The same? We may seem similar (and we are), but we are not the same. The Army is the same as Marines in the way dogs are the same as wolves. The way turkeys are the same as Eagles. The way dolphins are the same as killer whales.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Yup! Huge difference.

7. Only a small portion of the Army is combat-oriented.

Ever heard of a Marine veterinarian? No? Would you like to know why? Because that isn’t a thing — but it is in the Army. The Army has such a huge budget that they have room for completely non-combat and support specialties that seem to have no place in the military.

Every Marine Corps MOS is either infantry or in direct support of infantry. Shout-out to the cooks, supply, administration, and all those responsible for the bullets, beans, and Band-Aids needed to win America’s wars! The Marines don’t even have medical or religious personnel; they borrow from the Navy. Meanwhile, the Army is busy training entomologists, dietitians, and shower/laundry and clothing repair specialists.

6. The Army gets high-speed, low-drag gear while Marines are rocking hand-me-downs from Desert Storm.

I started my career with an M16 A2, carried an M16 A4 for many years, and I remember the pride I experienced the day I was finally issued an M4. I was a sergeant with five years logged. It was so light and compact, I felt like a kid on Christmas. Meanwhile, big Army is issuing one of those elite Veterinary Specialist Privates an M4 on day one.

My NVGs were either non-existent on night patrols or so old that all I could see was green.  The Army is rolling deep with brand-new, up-armored vehicles, each outfitted with a handy-dandy Blue Force Tracker. Meanwhile, Marines are riding dirty in a soft-top, high-back HMMWV that’s been spray-painted green.

Site: The hater’s guide to the US Army

5. They say ‘Sarge!’

The rank is ‘sergeant.’ It has never been, nor will it ever be, ‘sarge.’ Also, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, 1st sergeant, and sergeant major are all different ranks from sergeant. When you call everyone sergeant, nothing makes sense.

Also, why in the yut do you call a 1st Sergeant ‘Top?’ There are over ten ranks that outrank him. It’s not even the top enlisted rank. Why are you doing this?

4. Lower standards.

This one isn’t even up for debate. Fact: Male Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFT) require a 2-mile run at a 6:30 pace, 82 sit-ups, and 50 push-ups. This is the most demanding standard the Army has and they reserve it for the 27 to 31-year-old men (since I guess those are the only four years you are expected to be this fit).

In the Corps, Marines are expected to run 3 miles in 18 minutes (6-minute pace), do 100 sit-ups in two minutes, and 20 dead-hang pull-ups for a maximum score of 300, regardless of age.

Doesn’t sound the same does it?

How about marksmanship? In official Army qualification courses, one must shoot targets (single and pop-up) from three firing positions: supported prone, unsupported prone, and foxhole (replaced the kneeling position). In order to qualify, one must hit at least 23 out of 40 pop-up targets at ranges varying from 50 meters to 300 meters (approximately 80 to 327 yards).

In order to qualify as an “Expert” shooter on the rifle range for the Marine Corps, you must score a combined score of 305 or greater. “Marksmen” is the lowest score obtained, a scoring range of 250-279, with “Sharpshooter” placing second, a combined score falling between 280-304. The target distances are 200, 300, and 500 meters and the targets are engaged in a variety of firing positions, from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. None of which are supported by anything other than the Marine’s strength and skill – and that’s not an opinion, it’s science.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Shots fired.

3. Marines are a little jealous of very particular things.

Not knowing what it is to field day and not having to have a fresh haircut every seven days must be nice, but no one in the Marine Corps will know because these are just parts of life in the Corps.

2. They can wear their utility uniform anywhere.

This one most likely belongs with the jealousy paragraph, but with a slight difference: Marines don’t want to wear the dirt suit anywhere outside of base anyway.

Seeing a bunch of soldiers getting bumped up to first class because they are peddling their uniform to the public can be a little irksome. It’s not that the Marines are any less noticeable — the farmer’s tan and ridiculous haircuts help them stand out just fine. Jarheads just don’t get the upgrades and comps that a uniformed soldier does and, in turn, there is a deep rage that grows with every priority-boarded soldier that saunters by a devil dog.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
These soldiers get celeb treatment at their local Twin Peaks restaurant. (Source: Twin Peaks)

1. The Army has literally tried to eliminate the USMC on several occasions.

Following almost every American war, there was a proposal to either disband or absorb the Marine Corps into the other services. Then-Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the strongest attempt after WWII to President Truman.

In the end, the rivalry between the Army and Marines akin to a sibling rivalry and any outside threat that decides to take their chances with any branch will find out real quick how strong the bond between branches really is.

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These guys made an epic D-Day model with Legos

Lego lovers are known for their massive, over-the-top recreations of everything from The Wall from Game of Thrones to the battles and spaceships of Star Wars, but three big “brickheads,” Dan Siskind, Yitsy Kasowitz, and Cody Ossell, debuted a recreation of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day+1 at a large Lego convention in 2016 — to massive acclaim.


www.youtube.com

The beach scene features everything from tanks to mortars to ships and sea, as well as landing vehicles moving back and forth, ferrying supplies.

A medical unit treats wounded troops in one section while other soldiers move German prisoners across the sand.

The brick display features obstacles and fortifications, but wasn’t made to be perfectly accurate to history. For one, not everything is to scale. Most of the armored vehicles are nearly as tall as the cliffs they’re moving towards — and there’s a mermaid on the Landing Ship, Tank. The hippos in the water are probably incorrect, too, but we couldn’t tell you for sure as our zoologist is out sick today.

Check out the video above to see the map rooms, bunkers, and spent shells hiding in their complex, massive design.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
A wide shot of the D-Day+1 scene created for Brickmania 2016 showing Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy and pushing inland.
(Screenshot via Beyond the Brick YouTube)

 

The LST portion of the build is particularly impressive and has ranks of trucks waiting for their chance to drive down to the beach with towed artillery, supplies, and water tanks. Anti-aircraft crews man guns across the uppermost levels, and there’s even a signalman directing traffic on the deck.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Canadian troops guard German prisoners on the day after D-Day, June 7, 1944.
(Library and Archives of Canada)

 

Some of the scenes in the Lego creation are more accurate than the men in the video imagined, like the troops guarding German prisoners. The interviewer and one of the creators go back and forth about whether it was likely that German prisoners would still be on the beach, but some Canadian troops spent the early hours of June 7, you guessed it, guarding German prisoners.

Still, it’s doubtful that Captain America was in attendance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.


In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.

Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.

One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

Also Read: Iraqis want Shia militias to disarm in the wake of ISIS defeat

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.

“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.

He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.

The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.

Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.

While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.

The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
A soldier with the United States Army shows off a captured ISIS flag. (US Army photo)

While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.

ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.

Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.

There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

Articles

Top US Pacific commander wants the Army to start sinking ships

The always-candid U.S commander in the Pacific declared that “the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the most consequential region for America’s future.” He added that he did not see any change in the United States’ commitment to his theater as a result of the presidential election or the public turmoil with the leaders in the Philippines and South Korea.


Addressing a Defense One forum Nov. 15, Adm. Harry Harris expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology and “Chinese assertiveness” in the South China Sea, but said “America has critical national interest in the region and must alleviate the concerns of our allies and partners.” He added the need to deter any potential adversaries as well.

“The United States is the guarantor of security in the region and will remain so,” he said.

To support that view, Harris noted that America is sending its best military systems to the region before they go anywhere else.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg)

He cited the decision to send the Marine Corps’ F-35Bs to Japan next year, saying it sends a “signal that we’re sending our most powerful aircraft to the Indo-Asia-Pacific before anywhere else. No other aircraft can approach it. I’m a big fan. But in a bigger sense, it’s a signal that Indo-Asia-Pacific is important.”

Harris also noted that the Navy’s new massive destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, is homeported in the Pacific. The Navy is increasing the number of Virginia-class attack submarines in the theater and sent the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Japan on its first deployment.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
A Zumwalt class destroyer and Navy F-35C. (U.S. Navy photo)

Although the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program has been plagued with problems, Harris gave a strong endorsement for the relatively small, fast and modular ships. Recalling the concern he and other Navy officers had during the Cold War over the Soviet Union’s force of small, fast missile craft, the admiral said if the LCS were equipped with anti-ship missiles it would force a potential adversary to spread its defenses against that threat.

And despite the usual naval focus of his vast command, Harris praised the Army’s increasing strength and capabilities in the Pacific.

What the Army brings, he said, “is what it always brings: mass and fire power.”

Harris said he also encourages Army leaders to contribute more to what he called “cross-domain fires,” which would include cyber and information warfare.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Defense contractors are working with the Army to develop a land-based launcher for the Long-Range Anti-Ship missile. (Photo from US Army)

He added, “I think the Army should be in the business of sinking ships with land-based ballistic missiles,” which is similar to what the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force is planning to do in response to China’s aggressive claims in the East China Sea.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently declared anti-ship weapons as a necessary Army capability. And the Marine Corps, in its recently released Operating Concept, said the Corps should be able to support the Navy’s ability to project power by developing anti-ship systems.

Harris said he thought that if the Army would put those kinds of weapon systems in place, it would be “a threat to potential adversaries in the Western Pacific,” which apparently referred to China.

While criticizing China’s “assertiveness” and its construction of military facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea, Harris said his personal relations with his Chinese counterparts were good and he stressed the importance of continued military-military contact.

The admiral also insisted that, despite the anti-American rants of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, there has been no change in U.S. access to bases there and no orders to remove Special Operations forces advising Philippine troops in their anti-terrorist actions.

Harris carefully avoided any questions about the possible changes in his command due to the election of Donald Trump, but said, “America never has a lame-duck commander in chief…I continue to serve President [Barack] Obama until January 20, at which point I’ll serve President Trump.”

“That said, I have no doubt we will continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army hero posthumously receives the Distinguished Service Cross

Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a 10th Mountain Soldier who gave his life shielding Polish Army Lieutenant Karol Cierpica from a suicide bomber while deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville, during a ceremony on Staten Island, New York June 8.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army.

“Every generation has its heroes,” McConville said during his remarks. “Michael Ollis is one of ours.”


WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, greets Karol Cierpica, the Polish army lieutenant who Michael Ollis gave his life for on June 8, 2019 outside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War post on Staten Island, N.Y.

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)

Staff Sgt. Ollis’s father and sister, Robert Ollis and Kimberly Loschiavo, received the award from McConville at a Veterans of Foreign War post named in Ollis’s honor.

“Through the tears, we have to tell the story of Karol and Michael,” said Robert Ollis during the ceremony. “They just locked arms and followed each other. They didn’t worry about what language or what color it was. It was two battle buddies, and that’s what Karol and Michael did. To help everyone on that FOB they possibly could.”

The Distinguished Service Cross ceremony, held in a small yard just outside the VFW post, was packed with veterans, friends and Family members who all came to honor him.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, talks with General James C. McConville on June 8, 2019 inside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War Post on Staten Island, N.Y.

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)

“I was privileged to serve with Michael and Karol when I was the 101st Airborne Division commanding general in Regional Command East while they were deployed,” said McConville. “Their actions that day in August against a very determined enemy saved many, many lives.”

To close out the weekend, a 5 kilometer run will be held to commemorate the memory of Staff Sgt. Ollis and to raise money for veterans.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

That time Chile used a US Navy hand-me-down to bail out Canada

Ships are often handed down from one nation’s navy to another. More often than not, the countries responsible for passing ships along are leading naval powers, like the United States, France, or the United Kingdom. Usually, the ships that get handed down are warships, but recently, the U.S. Navy gave up a replenishment oiler, which ended up going halfway across the world — and then came back.


The Henry J. Kaiser-class oiler, USNS Andrew J. Higgins (T-AO 190), named after the man who designed the famous “Higgins boat,” entered service in 1987. In 1996, after less than a decade of service, she was laid up in reserve for 12 years, part of the post-Cold War drawdown, before the George W. Bush administration offered her to Chile.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

USNS Andrew J.Higgins (T-AO 190) during her service with the United States Navy.

(US Navy)

Originally, there were plans to build 18 Henry J. Kaiser-class oilers. Two of these, the planned Benjamin Isherwood (T-AO 191) and Henry Eckford (T-AO 192), were halted when nearly complete. Of the remaining 16 vessels, 15 still serve in the United States Navy. In 2010, the USNS Andrew J. Higgins was renamed the Almirante Montt as she was commissioned into the Chilean Navy.

These oilers can hold up to 180,000 barrels of fuel — that’s a lot when you consider that each barrel holds 42 gallons. They have a top speed of 20 knots, a range of 6,000 nautical miles, and have a crew of 86 merchant mariners and 23 Navy personnel. And, to make sure they can keep all that oil, it can be equipped with two Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon systems and also pack a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

The Almirante Montt refuels the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Boone (FFG 28) in 2011, shortly after entering Chilean service.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith)

Chile maintains a rather prominent navy in South America. For a while, it operated a pair of Brooklyn-class light cruisers alongside a Swedish cruiser. These days, their Navy centers on a mix of former British and Dutch frigates, as well as German-designed submarines.

The Almirante Montt has not exclusively stayed south of the equator. In 2014, Canada got rid of its Protecteur-class replenishment oilers before their replacements could enter service. So, they signed a deal with Chile. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, this Chilean oiler went north to keep the Royal Canadian Navy’s at-sea refueling skills sharp.

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Watch this 92-year-old World War II veteran bring the heat at a major league baseball game

Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.


On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.

See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below:

Intel

‘Dr. Death’ discovered how to use blood from corpses in wounded troops

Best known as the doctor who pioneered doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill and elderly patients in the 1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s biggest breakthrough was engineering new sources of blood for transfusions to wounded troops in Vietnam.


The U.S. news media dubbed Kevorkian “Dr. Death” for his work in helping patients who wanted to end their suffering die with dignity — for it, he went to prison for eight years after being convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. This is where his notoriety began. Even though he paved the way for a later “right-to-die” legislation, helping create the right of voluntary euthanasia isn’t even his most astonishing accomplishment.

Kevorkian earned the “Dr. Death” moniker long before the media gave it to him.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
This is a face that says he’s very concerned about his nickname.

In his Biography.com story, Kevorkian is quoted as saying he found death very interesting extremely early in his medical career. More than that, he was fascinated because the subject of dying was so taboo. He went on to suggest that criminals on death row should give something back to society before being executed by being the subject of medical experiments. This fascination with terminal illness and death is where he earned the “Dr. Death” nickname — not from the media, but from his peers. This is why he was forced out of the University of Michigan Medical Center.

But he stayed in Michigan and went to Pontiac General Hospital in suburban Detroit. It was there that he heard of Russian teams who pioneered the transfusion of blood from corpses into live subjects, especially during World War II. So, he reproduced those experiments, publishing a paper on the subject in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology in 1961, thinking the technology could be used on the battlefields when no other source of blood was available.

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Like this, except one of those people would be dead.

The Soviets, Kevorkian claimed, had been doing postmortem blood transfusions since the 1930s.

“The idea has an ostensible undercurrent of repugnance which makes it difficult to view objectively; but it also has obvious advantages,” he wrote.

Kevorkian’s method was to remove the blood from the corpse via the neck within six hours of death, a death that would have to be sudden and unexpected — such as one from combat — to avoid postmortem clotting. The dead would be held at a 30-degree angle, drawing the blood through standard equipment. The blood in Kevorkian’s experiments was thoroughly tested to be of a matching type, free of diseases, and clean for transfusion.

The only hitch was the owner had just died — a pretty big hitch. He conducted four experiments on infirm patients who were already looking pretty bad

His first transfusion donor was a 51-year-old male who died suddenly while mowing his lawn. The recipient was an 82-year-old woman who received three pints of donor blood over three days, dying after the third day.

The second donor died in a car accident, a 44-year-old white male. The recipient was a 78-year-old white male with heart disease, intestinal cancer, and congestive heart failure. He received two pints of donor blood but died nine days after being admitted.

Kevorkian’s third corpse donor was a 46-year-old white male who was dead on arrival at the hospital. The recipient was a 56-year-old female intestinal cancer patient with severe anemia. She was discharged from the hospital three days after receiving a pint of corpse blood.

His fourth donor was a 12-year-old boy who drowned suddenly. Two pints of his blood were given to a 41-year-old woman who left the hospital “alert, cheerful, comfortable.”

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day
Except for that weird urge to dance to pop music atu00a0midnight…

Kevorkian noted that the presence of increased sugar, potassium, and non-protein nitrogen in cadaver blood is less than optimal in — but not a major roadblock to — transfusions. He also noted that corpse blood is usually “washed down the drain” anyway and no toxins were present in the blood. He wrote:

“Most of these objections are more imaginary than real — a sort of emotional reaction to a new and slightly distasteful idea… Our 8 pints (on a short-term basis) and over 27,000 transfusions in Russia bear this out. Not a single hint of a reaction or other ill effect was observed by us personally on very close clinical observation, despite the fact that 2 of the patients were already moribund and very toxic and none of the 4 had any anti-allergic therapy.

His research and experiments found cadaver blood perfectly suitable for donation to living patients, so long as it was drawn less than six hours after death and used within 21 days. It is perfect for people with severe anemia or those requiring massive, continuous blood transfusions.

The Pentagon declined to fund his research grant.

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