To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive, massive understatement. If there’s a single reason no one goes to war with Nepal, it is because of the Gurkhas’ reputation. They are elite, fearless warriors who serve in not only the Nepalese Army but also in the British and Indian armies as well, a tradition since the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. Faithful to their traditions, one Gurkha in Afghanistan, Dipprasad Pun, singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.
It was a September evening in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It was 2010, and Sergeant Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was on duty at a two-story outpost. He heard some noises and found two insurgents attempting to lay an IED in a nearby road. He realized he was surrounded. The night sky filled up with bullets and RPG fire.Taliban fighters sprang into a well-planned assault on Pun’s outpost.
Pun responded by pulling his machine gun off its tripod and handholding it as he returned fire toward the oncoming fighters. He went through every round he had available before tossing 17 grenades at the attackers. When he was out of grenades, he picked up his SA80 service rifle and started using that. He even threw a land mine at the enemy.
As Pun defended his position, one Taliban fighter climbed the side of the tower adjacent to the guard house, hopped on to the roof and rushed him. Pun turned to take the fighter out, but his weapon misfired. Pun grabbed the tripod of his machine gun and tossed it at the Taliban’s face, which knocked the enemy fighter off of the roof of the building.
Pun continued to fight off the assault until reinforcements arrived. When it was all said and done, 30 Taliban lay dead.
He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
“At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone,” he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. “I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”
In all, he fired off 250 machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, threw six phosphorous grenades and six normal grenades, and one Claymore mine.
Pun comes from a long line of Gurkhas. His father served in the Gurkha Rifles, as did his grandfather, who received the Victoria Cross for an action in the World War II Burma theater.
Badass nicknames become even better when they have a great backstory like being bestowed by an enemy who faced the unit in battle. While the Marines probably weren’t dubbed “Devil Dogs” by the Germans, a number of other military organizations claim their nicknames come from the enemy. Here are 7 of them:
The 9th Armored Division was deployed to the northern front of the Battle of the Bulge as it was beginning in 1944. The Germans began referring to the unit as “Phantom” because it seemed to appear everywhere along the front.
2. “Bloody Bucket”
Soldiers with the 28th Infantry Division were known for vicious fighting tactics during the Normandy Campaign. Since they wore a red patch that was shaped like a bucket, the Germans began calling the division the “Bloody Bucket.”
3. “Devils in Baggy Pants”
During the invasion of Italy in 1943, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were defending the right flank of the 3rd Infantry Division and conducted regular raids into the enemy’s outposts. A dead German officer’s diary supposedly contained the nickname for the airborne infantrymen.
4. “The Blue Ghost”
Japanese propaganda kept reporting that the USS Lexington had been sunk and kept being proven wrong when the blue-hulled aircraft carrier came back and whooped them time and time again. This eventually led Tokyo Rose to dub it “The Blue Ghost.”
5. “Grey Ghost”
“Grey Ghost” was applied to a few ships because the Tokyo Rose writers were apparently lazy. The USS Hornet, the USS Pensacola, and the USS Americaall claim the nickname and the story for each is the same, Tokyo Rose bestowed it on them in World War II.
6. “Black Death”
Iraqi troops resisting the American advance in Desert Storm learned to fear the Apache helicopter even before the “Highway of Death.” After the Apache destroyed their radar stations and many of the tanks and troops, Iraqi soldiers began calling it the “Black Death.”
7. “Steel Rain”
Iraqi soldiers who survived the first combat deployment of the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which can fire rockets that explode over the enemies head and releases hundreds of lethal bomblets, dubbed the weapon “Steel Rain.” The 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment soldiers who fired on the soldiers adopted “Steel Rain” as their official unit nickname.
Gemini 3 was the first American space mission to be crewed by more than one astronaut. Gemini 3 performed the first orbital maneuver ever by shifting its orbit mid-flight. This breakthrough performance also showed that a re-entry vehicle could change its touchdown point. What it will be remembered for in the annals of NASA history, however, is a corned-beef sandwich.
For just shy of five hours, the Gemini 3 mission experienced very few setbacks — none of them major. From the takeoff aboard a Titan-II Rocket to the capsule’s recovery by the USS Intrepid, the crew would tell you it was a very smooth, well-run mission. The 89th U.S. Congress, however, had a different opinion.
The crew of Gemini 3. Not pictured: pocket sandwich.
Strangely enough, one of Gemini 3’s other mission requirements was to test space food in the capsule — specific food, not just whatever food the astronauts wanted to bring. The mission took five hours, but the non-rated food incident lasted less than a minute. The two astronauts were working in the capsule when pilot John Young, who was on his first spaceflight, pulled out a corned-beef sandwich.
“I was concentrating on our spacecraft’s performance, when suddenly, John asked me, ‘You care for a corned-beef sandwich, skipper?'” Grissom later recounted. “If I could have fallen out of my couch, I would have. Sure enough, he was holding an honest-to-john corned-beef sandwich.”
“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked. Corned-beef sandwiches were his favorite. “I brought it with me,” Young answered. “Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?” The smell of corned beef did indeed fill the spacecraft. The astronaut picked up the sandwich from a local deli called Wolfie’s inside the nearby Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach. Wally Schirra gave the sandwich to Young, who stowed it away in a pocket in his spacesuit.
Grissom took a bite, but the sandwich was not holding its integrity in zero gravity. The astronauts opted to put the sandwich away. Young admitted that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to bring the sandwich into low earth orbit. Grissom told him the sandwich was “pretty good, if it would just hold together.” With crumbs of rye bread floating around the cabin, the crew continued their mission.
“It didn’t even have mustard on it,” Young wrote. “And no pickle.”
While mission control at NASA and Young’s superiors were less-than-thrilled with the smuggled sandwich, the rest of the mission went ahead as planned and though the two were given slaps on the wrists and told, in no uncertain terms, that non-man-rated corned-beef sandwiches were out for future space missions, nothing more was really thought of it.
Until Congress stepped in.
Vietnam, civil rights, and corned beef.
It was the height of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Gemini 3 was supposed to be the first orbital mission ever to have more than one astronaut, but the Soviets had beaten NASA to the punch by a week — when it launched the Voskhod 2 mission. Regardless, the United States was behind in the race and the costly program was under close scrutiny.
The House Appropriations Committee began a full review of the incident, concerned that those rye crumbs were a serious threat to the safe operation of the spacecraft. It’s true that the greasy crumbs could have played havoc on the craft’s electronics and computer systems. The sandwich was nicknamed the “-million sandwich.”
A replica of the million sandwich.
(Grissom Memorial Museum)
Congress thought the astronauts were ignoring the space food they were sent to evaluate and were wasting taxpayer money. John Young later wrote that he didn’t think it was that big of a deal and that it was common to carry sandwiches aboard. The offending corned-beef sandwich wasn’t even the first smuggled sandwich — it was the third. These days, astronauts make sandwiches in space all the time, they just use ingredients that keep the crumbs to a minimum.
What they were supposed to be eating.
Young commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981. And carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia was a menu that included corned beef. The smuggled sandwich itself is lost to history, but a good likeness of the original can be found preserved in acrylic at the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana.
China’s insatiable hunger to become the apex superpower of the world, and the manner in which they do it is a threat to our way of life. For decades corporations have intentionally failed to raise the alarm to our government about the theft of intellectual property fearing an immediate cease of business with the Chinese. Corporations have silenced themselves against communist China fearing retribution and sold out the American people in the process.
Emboldened by appeasement, the regime now deliberately targets our national security apparatus to destroy us using our own technology.
Trade, our mutually beneficial common ground that our two ideologies stood on, has become the very source of tension between us. This is nothing new, China has always been an enemy of the west, quietly stealing our national treasures and sabotaging our infrastructure. There is no underhanded tactic that the People’s Republic of China won’t lower themselves to as long as it means victory for the dishonorable state. These are the 3 times China has hacked the U.S.
“For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries,” said former FBI Director James B. Comey.
First time criminal charges are filed against known state actors for hacking
On May 19, 2014, The Western District of Pennsylvania (WDPA) indicted five Chinese state-sponsored hackers for targeting six American entities in the U.S. nuclear power, metals, and solar products industries. The attacks were a coordinated assault to steal state secrets that would directly benefit State-Owned Enterprises in China. The stolen data would reveal our strategies and vulnerabilities to the enemy.
The victims of these attacks on our soil were: Westinghouse Electric Co., U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, United States Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) and Alcoa Inc.
The hackers performed a wide variety of criminal acts that include:
1 count of Conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse.
9 counts of Accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.
23 counts of Transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers.
29 counts of Aggravated identity theft.
30 counts of Economic espionage.
31 counts of Trade secret theft.
Another hacker related to this case wanted by the FBI
Chinese military hacked into the computer networks of major U.S. defense contractors
On July 13,2016, Su Bin, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China that was sentenced to 4 years with a ,000 fine by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Su was communicating with the Chinese military and informing them of targets and their vulnerabilities, which files to steal and how it would benefit their government. Su stole military and export-controlled data and sent the stolen data to China.
He targeted the aviation and aerospace fields in order to steal military technical data. This is particularly problematic for our armed forces because he stole data relating to the C-17 transport aircraft and fighter jets produced for the U.S. military. Su was arrested in Canada in July 2014 and extradited to the United States in February 2016.
He admitted that as part of the conspiracy, he sent e-mails to his co-conspirators with guidance regarding what persons, companies, and technologies to target during their computer intrusions. One of Su’s co-conspirators gained access to information located on computers of U.S. companies, and he emailed Su directory file listings and folders showing the data that the co-conspirator had been able to access. Su then directed his co-conspirator as to which files and folders his co-conspirator should steal.
After that, Su would contact the Second Department, General Staff Headquarters, Chinese People’s Liberation Army with translated documents and communicated their value. At this point, his intent was to sell the information for financial gain.
These are the faces of those who prey on the innocent
Department of Justice
Government backed Chinese hackers steal the identities of 78 million Americans
On May 9, 2019, an indictment was issued for several Chinese nationals who engaged in an extremely sophisticated hacking group operating from China. The illicit band of thieves targeted businesses in the United States, including a computer intrusion and data breach of Anthem Inc., a health insurance provider.
This is the most recent attack by the Chinese government against the United States. The Chinese are relentless in their disregard for the law and have shown no indication of slowing down.
“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history.These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors, and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII (Personal Identifiable Information).” – Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
The hackers used a technique called “spearfishing” where they attached links to e-mails sent to potential victims. When the links are clicked they download a type of file known as a backdoor which they can use to infiltrate the computer. Once they successfully tapped into vulnerable computers they watched the network identifying potential targets. They waited for months before striking.
…they collected the relevant files and other information from the compromised computers using software tools. The defendants then allegedly stole the data of interest by placing it into encrypted archive files and then sending it through multiple computers to destinations in China. The indictment alleges that on multiple occasions in January 2015, the defendants accessed the computer network of Anthem, accessed Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse, and transferred encrypted archive files containing PII from Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse from the United States to China. – Department of Justice
That same PII can be used to take out credit cards or loans in the name of the victims. This kind of identity theft is the most destructive, malicious, and the hardest to recover from. Attacks on innocent civilians such as this proves that the People’s Republic of China has nothing but contempt for Americans. If the Chinese continue to show apathetic targeting of our civilians during peacetime, what are they capable of doing to civilians in wartime?
A few weeks ago I posted a video by DCS player Forest Rat who recreated the aerial scenes in the very first minutes of “Top Gun” (when the two F-14s piloted by Mav and Goose and Cougar and Merlin are vectored by the aircraft carrier to intercept the incoming aircraft that will turn out to be MiG-28s) using the famous Digital Combat Simulator World combat flight simulator.
Forest Rat did it again.
This time he’s recreated the first official trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick”, the sequel of the original 1980s blockbuster that will hit theaters in June 2020, released on Jul. 18, 2019.
Once again, some details are not exactly the same as the trailer, but the work Forest Rat has done is remarkable and shows the realism that DCS world is able to offer.
A comparison between the official trailer (below) and the one recreated in DCS World (top).
(Image credit: Forest Rat/Youtube and Paramount Pictures)
Noteworthy, the new clip is split into two parts: the first one shows the trailer recreated in DCS World except for the last few seconds, when the F-14 (in CGI) makes a cameo flying over snow-topped mountains; the second one, from mark 02:27, provides a scene-for-scene comparison too. At the end of the second part you can also see the final Tomcat scene. To be honest, I enjoyed very much the very last scene of the trailer, the one that shows the somewhat mysterious F-14 Tomcat (04:39 mark), that in my opinion looks better the way Forest Rat has recreated it in DCS World than it appears in the official trailer…
Here’s what I wrote about DCS World in the previous article:
“DCS World is fundamentally a deep, authentic and realistic simulation designed also to offer a more relaxed gameplay to suit the user and his particular level of experience and training. The ambition is to hand hold users from novice pilot all the way to the most advanced and sophisticated operator of such complex weapons systems as the A-10C Warthog or the F/A-18C Hornet. The only next step is the real thing!” says its official website.
DCS is expandable through additional modules as well as user-made add-ons and mods and this is one of the reasons why the are hundred websites, forums, Reddit Communities and Youtube channels dedicated to the “the most authentic and realistic simulation of military aircraft, tanks, ground vehicles and ships possible.”
Just Google “DCS World” and a microcosm of interesting content (that can also be useful to learn more about combat aircraft!) will appear in front of your eyes.
As pointed out by some readers, while baseline DCS World is technically free, additional stuff (including aircraft, maps, etc.) has to be paid for.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
On April 11th, 1966, three companies of the 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Mud Soldiers,” were pinned down by Viet Cong forces outside of Cam My, Vietnam. Pararescuemen of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were dispatched to evacuate the wounded. The battle raged and the soldiers were taking a heavy beating.
As if an angel were descending from the heavens, Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, lowered onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded. When given the opportunity to fly back to base, he elected to stay and care for the men he didn’t even know that remained in harm’s way.
He did all he could to save his fellow troops before paying the ultimate price. Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice ensured at least nine men made it home. It took him 34 years to be recognized fully for his incredible actions.
The Last Full Measurefaithfully and honestly retells this story — and it’s something that our military community must see and support.
In the aftermath of the battle, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. However, his fellow PJs and the Mud Soldiers he fought with continued to advocate for the award to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that he was finally bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving, what President Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, his last full measure of devotion.
Keep an eye out for Jeremy Irvine. His portrayal of William Pitsenbarger will catapult him far in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Todd Robinson, The Last Full Measure follows Scott Huffman, a jaded Pentagon lawyer (played by Sebastian Stan) as he is tasked with upgrading Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor at the behest of Pitsenbarger’s fellow pararescueman veteran (played by William Hunt) and father (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).
The story unfolds as Huffman pieces together the gallantry of Pitsenbarger by interviewing the soldiers who had been saved back in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson, the late Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and John Savage each portray the Mud Soldiers and give fantastic performances as they crawl through painful memories. The audience watches the fateful day in Vietnam through flashbacks as the veterans recall being saved by Pitsenbarger (portrayed by Jeremy Irvine).
Pictured left to right: Kimberly Breyer, producer of Last Full Measure, Sidney Sherman, and Kimberly’s husband Sean Breyer
(Photo by Eric Milzarski)
Kimberly Breyer, the niece of William Pitsenbarger, was in attendance of the world premiere of The Last Full Measure. She told We Are The Mighty,
“This film means people get to hear the very important true stories of my uncle Billy Pitsenbarger, Frank, Alice, and all the people who fought with him. We want as many people who possibly can so these stories keep being told and retold.”
She also noted how true-to-life Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of her grandfather, Frank Pitsenbarger, felt. “When we saw it, especially my grandma Alice, the hair went up on the back of her neck and she started to cry. He makes me miss Frank so much. We’re very grateful to him for how beautifully he portrayed our grandfather on screen and how hard everyone worked for so many years to get this project to come together because it’s so unique in so many ways.”
(Photo by Eric Milzarski)
The production covers two key time periods, from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Pentagon. The star-studded cast filmed in the United States and Thailand to portray the retelling of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice. The film stays away from typical action movie tropes and instead dives deep into the psyche of the troops who returned home. It gives an accurate depiction of what goes on behind-the-scenes when a Medal of Honor is to be awarded. The film helps us understand the excruciating lengths (and sheer volume of bureaucratic red tape) that stands between valor and recognition — and leaves you wondering how many heroes haven’t been given the credit they deserve.
Dale Dye, USMC veteran who served in the Vietnam War and military advisor for many of the greatest war films, played a large role in ensuring the film was as accurate as possible. It’s all the perfectly-captured, little moments that help set the stage.
Dye tells We Are The Mighty, “This is a film that goes directly to my heart and soul. And the reason is because it talks about the selfless nature of veterans and the dedication we have towards each other. This is a story of veterans who go to extraordinary lengths to get recognition for one of their own. And that’s the nature of every combat veteran.”
The writer and director of the film, Todd Robinson, tells We Are The Mighty, “The military was very bullish about this film. It promotes a career field called pararescue, which promotes saving lives. So it wasn’t hard for them to get behind this film.“
The Last Full Measure is a beautiful film that is rare in Hollywood. It’s not an action-packed film made with set pieces for the trailers. It’s not an overly played-out drama that uses war as backdrop. It’s the real-life story of a man who gave his all for his fellow troops and those men fighting tooth-and-nail to get him the honor he deserved.
I can’t recommend this film enough for every veteran, active duty troop, their family, and anyone who’s life has been touched by the actions of these brave men and women.
Though they’re often overlooked by military historians – not Native historians, mind you – the Plains Wars of the post-Civil War era saw some of the most brutal fighting between the American government and the native tribes fighting for their way of life. Eventually, the U.S. government was determined to move the native people to reservations. Those who did not sell their land were moved by force.
The fighting on the Plains saw the Battle of Little Bighorn, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the Sand Creek Massacre, just to name some of the bloodiest moments. The fighting West of the Mississippi claimed countless lives, not to mention the end of the traditional ways for many Native Americans. Still, some fought back, with varying degrees of success.
Kiowa Warriors at Fort Sill, 1872.
An ally of the dreaded Comanche, the Kiowa were usually at war with anyone the Comanche went to war with, including the US Army. For 50 years, the Kiowa moved from the central United States westward to join the Comanche in raiding and trading from the American Southwest into Mexico, killing thousands. Even after most of the Kiowa moved to reservations in 1877, many warrior bands remained loose on the American frontier.
A Cheyenne “Dog Soldier”
As more settlers rushed to the Rocky Mountains area, the area began to fill up with heavily-armed militias who would raid neighboring Arapaho and Cheyenne tribal settlements. In response, the Cheyenne began to fight back, forming different kinds of warrior bands, including the now-famous Dog Soldiers – warriors who would hold their ground, no matter what came at them. The Dog Soldiers rallied Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesmen together to wreak havoc on the Colorado ranching industry.
Sitting Bull, pictured, was one of the Sioux’s most famous leaders.
The Sioux were not the first tribe to fight the U.S. government, and they weren’t the last, but they might be the most famous. The Sioux produced some of the most notable names and places in all the Indian Wars, including Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, to name a few.
When the Army came upon bands of Sioux warriors, they didn’t know if they would just be fighting the handful of warriors they saw or if another 5,000 to 7,000 were waiting somewhere they couldn’t see.
Geronimo and three other Apache warriors.
If there’s one thing the Union and Confederate Armies could agree on, it was fighting the Apache tribes. In the early days of the Civil War, Confederate forces took on Apaches in the West before transferring to the actual Civil War they were needed to fight.
Clans of Apache rarely gathered in great numbers. They only did so in order to gather their forces to hit the U.S. Army in large formations. The US Army hated the Apaches so much, they would fight any sized organization they happened to come across, fearful of them massing numbers to form a war party. It took more than 20 years of concerted effort to end the Apache resistance.
“Manifest Destiny? Never heard of her.”
The Comanches not only stymied the Army’s effort to contain or destroy them, but they also took down other Native tribes, eradicating them or driving them out of their traditional lands. The reason the Spanish Empire stopped expanding northward was because they were stopped by Comanches. The Texan Republic stopped expanding westward because of Comanches. The United States frontier actually receded because of the Comanches.
By the end of the 1860s, the men who won the Civil War for the Union were now running the country and President Grant, Commander of the U.S. Army William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gen. Philip Sheridan were determined to end the Comanche threat, finally subduing them with overwhelming force in 1875.
Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.
Yeah, we’re all comedians.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)
Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.
More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.
Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.
(Imperial War Museum)
So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.
But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.
Navy SEAL Lt. Thomas “Tommy” Norris and South Vietnamese naval commando Nguyễn Văn Kiệt pushed off from the shore in an abandoned sampan while dressed as Vietnamese fishermen. The pair were on an impossible mission to find Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, a US Air Force navigator who was shot down over Quang Tri Province and had been on the run from more than 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.
All previous rescue attempts had been failures — eight aircraft were shot down, 14 Americans killed, two of the rescue team captured, and two more missing in action. The largest search and rescue effort of the entire Vietnam War had dwindled down to the efforts of a handful of Navy commandos.
Two nights prior to their risky undercover paddle, Norris led a five-man patrol to rescue Lt. Mark Clark, a forward air controller who was shot down while searching for Hambleton.
Lt. Thomas Norris stands in the background at center as Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton (on stretcher) is taken to a waiting M113 armored personnel carrier to be evacuated. Photo courtesy of the US Department of Defense.
Clark had received a cryptic message that instructed him to float down the Cam Lo River: “When the moon goes over the mountains, make like Esther Williams and get in the Snake and float to Boston.” He needed to go to the river and head east.
As Norris moved toward the riverbank, he heard Clark’s heavy breathing before he spotted the downed pilot floating in the river. However, a North Vietnamese Army patrol was crossing the same area, forcing Norris to maintain cover and helplessly watch Clark float by. For the next two hours Norris searched the water for any signs of the missing aviator. At dawn — and 2,000 meters behind enemy lines — Norris and his team rendezvoused with the American pilot and brought him safely back to a forward operating base. That protection lasted only hours as they were hit with mortars and rockets that decimated their South Vietnamese partners, cutting down the force by nearly half.
Hambelton had called airstrikes on NVA supply lines from his emergency radio while simultaneously evading capture. Hambelton’s health was fading fast after more than a week’s time on the run with little food and contaminated water in his stomach. After a forward air controller informed Norris that Hambelton was not hitting his calls on a time schedule and when he did he barely could talk, Norris asked for volunteers. The only other commando that would join him on the one-way rescue mission was Kiệt. They were determined to not let Hambleton fall into the enemy’s hands.
Lt. Thomas R. Norris in Vietnam with Nguyen Van Kiet, the Vietnamese Sea Commando who accompanied him on the rescues of Clark and Hambleton. Kiet was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in this operation, the highest award the Navy can give to a foreign national. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.
Hambleton, a navigator by trade, was an avid golfer and could envision the layouts of golf courses in his mind. Knowing the NVA were monitoring their radios, the rescue planners ingeniously relayed cryptic messages as they had with Clark, but used navigation points of Hambleton’s favorite golf courses this time.
“You’re going to play 18 holes and you’re going to get in the Suwannee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna,” Hambelton said in an interview. “The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National.”
The No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards southeast, information only he would know, and he traveled that distance through enemy minefields to the river. Seeing the precise locations of the the water hazards or the fairways of his favorite golf courses in his mind acted as a mental compass through the jungles of Vietnam — and led him to a banana tree grove that provided some sustenance to his malnourished body.
Hambleton hugged the bank of the river for three long days and nights. Clinging to life, Hambleton saw two men paddling quietly up the river, both carrying AK-47s and dressed as fishermen. As the most-wanted man in the region, his first thought was to be afraid. And then his delirious focus noticed Norris’ eyes — an American. After 11 days on the run, Hambleton was helped into the bottom of the sampan and was covered in bamboo with instructions to lay motionless. Norris and Kiệt feared waiting until nightfall would worsen his condition, so they returned back the way they came.
Officials dedicated a 10-foot statue depicting Lt. Thornton carrying Lt. Norris on his shoulders during the facility’s 28th annual Muster reunion at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. The sculptor is Paul Moore of Norman, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.
They passed numerous NVA positions, tilting their heads away from the enemy’s menacing glares. When a suspected enemy machine gun position opened up on their boat, Kiệt pulled the sampan to the shore to conceal it behind some vegetation. Norris called in close air support, hoping to pin down the enemy and allow to get the rest of the way back to the FOB. The plan worked.
Norris had successfully rescued both Clark and Hambleton and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions between April 10 and April 13, 1972. Kiệt was one of two South Vietnamese soldiers to be awarded the Navy Cross during the war. The rescue even garnered Hollywood’s attention, and Gene Hackman took the role starring as Hambleton in the movie Bat*21.
Norris continued his military service in Vietnam and participated in a historic reconnaissance operation where he was shot in the head and eventually lost an eye while providing suppressive fire while his SEAL element retreated to the water for exfiltration. When Norris became too wounded to escape the ambush, another Navy SEAL named Mike Thornton, who later became a founding member of SEAL Team 6, charged through the onslaught of enemy fire back to Norris’s position and rescued him. This was only the third time in US military history that a Medal of Honor recipient rescued another Medal of Honor recipient.
Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.
Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg
Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.
He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.
Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.
For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.
The Vanscoyk family in Yuma, Arizona. All photos by Kayla Mattox Photography.
Family first, mission always.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.
The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.
“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.
Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.
“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.
Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.
“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.
Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.
“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.
“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.
Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.
“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.
The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.
“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley is a firm believer that a strong military is key in a whole-of-government approach to national security issues.
Still, he cautions, there are Americans who believe some myths about the military.
Here are his four “Myths of War”:
Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan in the general’s tent.
(Library of Congress)
1. The ‘Short War’ Myth.
This is a very prominent myth and one that recurs throughout history, Milley said.
President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion in 1861. He was so sure it would be a quick war that he only called for 90-day enlistments. Both the French and Germans in 1914 believed the conflict would be short, but World War I lasted four years and took millions of lives.
“War takes on a life of its own,” Milley said. “It zigs and zags. More often than not, war is much longer, much more expensive, much bloodier, much more horrific than anyone thought at the beginning. It is important that the decision-makers assess the use of force and apply the logic we’ve learned over the years. War should always be the last resort.”
Gen. Mark Milley, then Army chief of staff, at the 2019 Army Birthday Ball, in honor of the 244 Army Birthday, at the Hilton in Washington, DC, June 15, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)
2. The ‘Win From Afar’ Myth.
Americans’ belief in technology encourages this myth. At its heart is that wars can be won from afar, without getting troops on the ground. Whether it is the strategic bombing during World War II or launching cruise missiles, there are those who believe that will be enough to defeat an enemy.
“These allow you to shape battlefields and set the conditions for battle, but the probability of getting a decisive outcome in a war from launching missiles from afar has yet to be proven in history,” Milley said.
Troops of the US Army 2nd Infantry Division.
(U.S. Army photo)
3. The ‘Force Generation’ Myth.
This is the idea that it is possible to quickly generate forces in the event of need.
In World War I, it took more than a year for American forces to make a significant contribution on the battlefields of France after the United States declared war in April 1917. In World War II, the US Army fought on a shoestring for the first year.
War has only become more complicated since then, Milley said, and it will take even longer for forces to generate. “I think for us to maintain strength and keep national credibility, we need a sizable ground force, and I have advocated for that,” he said.
Milley at the Anakonda 16 opening ceremony at the National Defense University in Warsaw.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Betty Boomer)
4. The ‘Armies Go to War’ Myth.
“Armies or navies or air forces don’t go to war. Nations go to war,” Milley said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force players take to the field prior to the opening kickoff in 2019 during a football game against Army at Falcon Stadium. Photo/Trevor Cokley.
Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo will lead the Midshipmen into a game at Air Force for the seventh time on Saturday.
This trip to Colorado Springs will have a unique feel.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Niumatalolo said. “None of us have done this before. Obviously, we’ve played there many times when it’s a full stadium. This will be different.”
Navy (1-1, 1-0 in the American Athletic Conference) and Air Force (0-0) will meet for the 53rd time in a rivalry that the Falcons lead 30-22. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be Air Force’s season opener. The Falcons will travel to face Army on Nov. 7, the only other game on their schedule so far, but will add more after the Mountain West Conference reversed course and announced it will play a fall football schedule after all. That schedule will start on Oct. 24.
Only Air Force cadets will be admitted into Falcon Stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 47,000 fans, for this weekend’s game. Roommates will be seated in twos, and they will be required to be socially distanced and wear masks. No tailgating will be allowed.
“Maybe the noise level won’t be as loud, but I don’t expect the atmosphere at the game between the players to change at all,” Navy junior safety Kevin Brennan said.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said not having played a game before facing Navy, which won the 2019 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after defeating Air Force and Army, is not ideal.
“In fact, only three weeks ago, … we mentioned, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could find somebody on Sept. 26 to try to have a game under our belt?”’ Calhoun said. “Naturally, you want to play as much football as you can possibly play, but it is quite, quite different that way.
“Hopefully we’ll go 130 years until maybe it has to happen again, too.”
Navy will seek to ride the momentum it built after erasing a 24-point halftime deficit and winning at Tulane two weeks ago to avoid an 0-2 start.
Air Force is trying to replace several key pieces off a team that finished 11-2 last season, including quarterback Donald Hammond. The school announced in late July that Hammond “is no longer a cadet in good standing,” and Calhoun has not revealed who will spearhead the Falcons’ triple-option attack.
Both coaches are approaching 100 victories at their respective schools. Niumatalolo is 99-61 since taking over the Midshipmen in 2008, while Calhoun is in his 14th season and has led the Falcons to a 98-69 record.
Niumatalolo downplayed the milestone, as did Calhoun.
“I know at least here, since 2007, a coach has never, ever, ever won a game and never, ever played a snap,” said Calhoun (Air Force Class of 1989). “That’s not being evasive, as it is just truth. That’s the way we feel in our heart, too.”
Air Force, which will wear uniforms honoring the Tuskegee Airmen on Saturday, won its final eight games of last season. The Falcons hold the nation’s longest active winning streak and have not lost in nearly a year.
Their last setback came on Oct. 5.
Navy was their opponent that day.
“The world is not the same now,” Niumatalolo said.