I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years - We Are The Mighty
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I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive. 


Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.

The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.

In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.

After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.

The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”

The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.

 

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Thanks, Time Magazine.

Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.

The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
(Photo Credit: BJ Small, Mechanicsburg, PA)

As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.

The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.

Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.


But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)

Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.

Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.

“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”

The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.

The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.

“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.

Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.

Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.

But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.

The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.

All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.

It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.

Lists

4 epic rivalries between military commanders once on the same side

Throughout military history, it was common for generals to only know of each other by reputation or by the deeds of their troops.


But when lines are drawn, ideologies change, and another war is fought for another reason, you may find yourself fighting against your former allies and those old interpersonal rivalries can get ugly fast. It takes a darker turn when both sides of that rivalry have an army ready to kill and die at their command.

Let’s take a look at some of history’s greatest rivalries between former brothers-in-arms.

1. George Washington and Benedict Arnold — Revolutionary War

One man would later be known as the “Father of America” while the other would become synonymous “traitor.” Both Washington and Arnold were heroes of the American Revolution early on and fought many battles together.

This was until Arnold switched allegiances back to the crown. His reasons for turning his back on America are still debated by historians, but the accepted reasons include money, disillusionment, and personal vendettas against the Continental Congress.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Their relationship is spot-on in AMC’s show, Turn (Image via AMC)

2. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee — Siege of Veracruz

Both Generals would earn historical prestige leading their respective armies against each other during the American Civil War, but they weren’t always enemies. In fact, at the beginning of the Civil War, Lee was offered command of the U.S. Army before resigning his commission. Eight days later, he accepted command of Confederate troops in Virginia.

Back in the Mexican-American War, however, both men fought side-by-side as then-Lieutenant Colonel Lee led troops in Scott’s March on Mexico City with a young then-First Lieutenant Grant. Both Lee and Grant marched under the command of then-General Zachary Taylor. In fact, the Siege of Veracruz was full of names that would eventually become essential pieces of the Civil War, including future Generals Meade, “Stonewall” Jackson, and Longstreet.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Appomattox, where two old friends caught up over a nice surrendering. (Image via Fine Art America)

3. Charles de Gaulle and Phillipe Petain — Battle of Verdun

Petain rose in rank to eventually become Marshal of France and, later, Prime Minister of the Nazi puppet state, Vichy France. He took strong and direct opposition to Charles de Gaulle’s revolutionary Free France. After the fall of the Nazi Regime, Petain was spared the gallows because of his actions as “The Lion of Verdun” and hero of France. France’s new leader, Charles de Gaulle, refused to execute the disgraced former-Marshal.

Petain’s military mind helped save France in WWI at the Battle of Verdun. One of the most heroic battles and early turning point of Verdun took place when the Germans were contained at Douaumont and surrounded by 90,000 men and 21,000 tons of ammunition. There stood de Gaulle, the then-Captain in the French 33rd Infantry Regiment, leading Petain’s charge. Charles de Gaulle was wounded and captured in that battle.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Like every stereotypical Frenchman, these military minds both sported stylish mustaches. (Image via Les Observateurs)

4. Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek — Second Sino-Japanese War

While Mao Zedong is etched in history as the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, his main rival was Chiang Kai-shek, the Chairman of the National Government of China (or, as it’s more commonly known in America, Taiwan). To briefly summarize a long, storied conflict, both of these nations claim to be China. As the Communist Revolution swept over the mainland during the Chinese Civil War, the capitalists fled to Formosa (the island of Taiwan), but neither ceded statehood.

Just like the nations they led, Mao and Chiang have a history that oscillates between cooperation and opposition. First, they supported each other during the Northern Expedition. Then, they went at each other’s throats during the Chinese Civil War. Then, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Axis-aligned Japan invaded a Soviet- and American-backed China, they allied again.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

MIGHTY MOVIES

The top 5 armies of the future in cinema

Hollywood has the ability to spark every veteran’s imagination and when the big screen explores what future militaries may become, it’s enough to make even the most content retiree dream of taking the oath all over again.


Let’s explore the fantastic armies any veteran would love to be a part of.

Related: 4 military movies whose hero should be dead

5. Imperial Klingon Wehrmacht – Star Trek

Now, they aren’t human, but they are badass. A Spartan-esque class of alien warriors whose greatest pride is their fighting lineage.

 

As for leadership, well, if the captain of any Klingon vessel is seen as too weak or unable to perform, it’s the first officer’s duty to kill him and take his place.

4. United Defense Force – The Edge of Tomorrow

It’s not the leadership, tactics, or the personnel’s esprit de corps that makes this future army enviable, it’s the standard-issue armaments that make us wargasm.

 

Mech-warriors. They issue you the tech to become a f*cking mech-warrior.

3. The Resistance – Terminator 2

 

They were all that was left of humanity after Skynet nuked the planet, leaving only the hardest humans to band together under the game-changing leadership of John Connor.

2. The U.S. Colonial Marine Corps – Aliens

If you haven’t dreamed of being a part of this platoon of barrel-chested, xenomorph-eradicating, smoke-breathing badasses, then you either haven’t seen Aliens or you are wrong.

 

Also Read: If you need a spouse, this is what the Marines would issue

1. Mobile Infantry – Starship Troopers

The source material for this sci-fi classic is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ reading list for Valhalla’s sake. Everyone fights and no one quits in this testament to warrior virtue.

 To quote the son of President Gerald Ford (who plays a character in the movie),

“We are going in with the first wave! Just means more bugs for us to kill. You smash the entire area. You kill anything that has more than two legs, you get me?!”

Lists

The best military photos for the week of April 13th

Across the military, great things happen every day. If you blink, you might miss something. Luckily for us, there are talented photographers in service who capture some of those amazing moments.

Here’s what happened this week:


I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno)

Air Force:

Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

Army:

Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cory Asato)

Navy:

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)

Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Marine Corps:

MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

Coast Guard:

Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s what US Army soldiers said in a WWII uncensored survey

In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.

That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.

Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.


In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.

“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”

“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(National Archives photo)

In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.

Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?

Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.

Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.

Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.

When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.

With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.

The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.

The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.

Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.

To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.

If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.

Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?

Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.

A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.

Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.

The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.

Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.

But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.

Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.

They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”

Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?

Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy photo)

That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.

The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.

“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.

This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.

Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?

Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.

We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?

Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.

It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.

But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.

Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?

Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.

For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”

The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.

That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there’s one complaint common across the military, it’s that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It’s problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.


Troops are quick to recognize this behavior but, unfortunately, commanders don’t see it in themselves or they just don’t care. There are plenty of cases, though, in which a leader will stick their neck out for the sake of their subordinates at the risk of their own career — because they understand what it means to be a leader.

This doesn’t mean you should be soft. It means that you should think about being in your troops’ shoes and understand the sheer magnitude of unnecessary bullsh*t they go through.

Here’s why leaders need to care more about their troops and less about their promotion.

They’re essentially your children

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Tough love without the love is tough. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

No one like to feel unwanted — and that’s exactly what it feels like to have a commander who cares more about their career. It just results in unnecessary misery across the board.

Troops respond to care with motivation

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
They’ll even charge into battle behind you. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger)

As previously mentioned, troops know when you’re only after a promotion. Once they pick up on it, they’re going to be reluctant to follow you anywhere. When it becomes clear that you do care, it motivates them to want to work for you. When your troops are motivated, they’ll follow you anywhere.

You gain more respect

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Respect is a two-way street. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

If you rely on your rank to get your respect, you’re going to have a bad time. Your goal as a leader should be to earn the respect of your subordinates by being the commander who gives a sh*t.

Here’s a tip: if a troop comes to you with a problem that doesn’t need to be reported to someone above you, handle it in-house. Your goal should be to do everything you can to avoid having your troops crucified if they don’t deserve it.

They’ll follow the rules

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Maybe your sign will look less and less like this over time. (Terminal Lance)

This may not always be true but when troops respect you, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you look good because they want you to succeed and climb through the ranks. After all, kids want to impress their parents by doing good things.

They’ll understand when they have to do something stupid

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
They’ll be happy to do things like this for you, but only after you earn respect… (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

If your troops know you’re the type who won’t ask them to needlessly do stupid tasks, they won’t blame you when you have to. Instead, they’ll blame someone above you for giving you such a task to pass down and understand that you aren’t trying to make their lives miserable.

In fact, they may even start to take initiative for minor tasks so you won’t have to ask them to do it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 American flag memes to really put the ‘Merica in your day

It’s the red, white and the blue. It’s the patriotism, the pride and the spirit. It’s songs about the homeland, and it’s thanking those who serve — pledging allegiance to all it represents. It’s the recognition of the American flag, and we’re here for it!

Celebrate the U. S. of A. with us through these favorite memes.


I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

And a S/O to our forefathers for their support:

Absolutely love the American flag? How about getting an American-made one that doesn’t burn. That’s right, the veterans and patriots at Firebrand Flag Company value the American spirit, the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and the pride they feel every time the American flag flies high above us. That’s why the Firebrand Flag Company set out to create the first and only official flag that is tough as the people sworn to defend it.

Each Firebrand Flag incorporates the same fire-retardant, kevlar fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe. Our flags maintain strict adherence to height, width and color specifications. To ensure our Flags can never BURN, we reinvented the manufacturing process right here in the U.S. so that you can rest assured that our Firebrand Flags will always stand for the values we hold dear. Get your Firebrand Flag here.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Why a leader of the Benghazi attacks only got 22 years in prison

On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. diplomatic facilities in a newly Qaddafi-free Libya were hit by a coordinated assault by an Islamic militant group. The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and two special operations veterans who responded to the attack as part of a volunteer CIA quick reaction force. The special operations community got their revenge, capturing ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya in 2014.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012.

On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Khattala was convicted for his role the attack but his sentence was only 22 years in prison. The reason: he was found not guilty of murder by a Washington jury.

Khattala was accused of being the leader of an extremist militia and directing the Benghazi attacks. Prosecutors alleged Khattala was responsible for the deaths of the four Americans, but could not find any evidence of the extremist leader actually holding a weapon.


He was caught on camera driving fighters to the attack site and his mobile phone records proved he was communicating with the attackers. Among the witnesses testifying against him were the FBI plant who got close to Khattala and helped the FBI arrange his capture by U.S. Army Special Forces.

The attack on the compound that killed Ambassador Stevens was the first that resulted in the death of such a high-profile diplomat since the 1979 killing of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs during a botched kidnapping attempt in 1979. Also killed was State Department Information Officer Sean Patrick Smith, along with former Navy SEALs Glen “Bub” Doherty and Tyrone “Rone” Woods, who both served with valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
Four Americans killed in Benghazi: Ambassador Stevens, Smith, Doherty, and Woods.

After CIA contractors who responded to an attack on the consulate compound removed Smith’s body and aided survivors (they were unable to find the ambassador), the attacking forces moved on to the CIA’s annex, where the defenders took cover. Doherty and Woods died in defense of the annex.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years
U.S. complexes in Banghazi, 2012.

Though there have been many investigations in the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks and an exact timeline isn’t clear to this day, what is clear is that it was a coordinated assault by members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, a group formed to fight the government forces of Muammar Qaddafi – and the Abu Khattala was involved.

Khattala was convicted on four charges, including providing material support for terrorism, but was cleared of 14 others including the four deaths of Americans on the ground in Benghazi that night.

MIGHTY MOVIES

United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force battle storms in new NATGEO show

Gathering Storm is an intense new show on National Geographic featuring the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Each branch is highlighted as they race against time to complete vital missions during catastrophic storms.

Keo Films spent over a year developing the six-part series for National Geographic. The show will bring viewers inside the intensity of the world’s most powerful storms and outline the devastating impacts of climate change. Keo Films gave hundreds of cameras to maritime workers to document a year at sea and what happens during a major storm. Cameras also followed the three military branches serving in the midst of deadly storms.

The Coast Guard can usually be found right in the middle of it all, always ready.


I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

Chief Warrant Officer Paul Roszkowski is a part of the leadership within the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office and was involved in the series from the start. “The Coast Guard worked with Keo Films for more than a year to coordinate filming part of our mission the public generally doesn’t get to see. This involved getting international film crews cleared to film at a moment’s notice at a number of Coast Guard units across the country and prestaging cameras at some units in case a storm formed. We are grateful to all of the units that participated in this which include USCGC Cypress, USCGC Alex Haley, Sector Guam and Sector Miami. Gathering Storm will give a peek behind the curtain of what Coast Guard personnel are doing before a major storm hits and the rescues start,” he shared.

Sector Miami is one of the busiest areas of responsibility for the Coast Guard. When hurricane season approaches, that responsibility increases tenfold. “We have two of the busiest cruise ports in the country… The port coordination team is vital. The decisions that are made [during a storm] are impactful. When we set those port conditions, the implications they have on all the stakeholders in the area are huge,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delgado explained.

As the Incident Management Division Chief for Sector Miami, Delgado worked closely with Keo Films for the series. “They were interested in seeing the preparation that goes into the ‘before the storm’ work. A group of people were here with us here in the sector building and also gave cameras to our teams that went out to verify pre-storm preparations. It was great working with the crew and they were very respectful of us and the work we had to do and didn’t impede it,” Delgado shared.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

When hurricanes are approaching, the Coast Guard receives daily updates from the National Hurricane Center, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although the public has probably heard of the term “hurricane hunters,” they may not realize who’s flying many of those planes to gather vital weather data that gets dispersed to the Coast Guard: the United States Air Force.

In the first episode, viewers watch as the production crew follows members of Sector Miami navigating the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane which devastated the Bahamas and Abaco Islands in 2019. The damage left the islands in ruins and Hurricane Dorian was soon declared the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history. The Coast Guard saved the lives of over 400 people, flying and sailing through hurricane force winds and almost zero visibility to do it.

While the first two episodes focus on powerful hurricanes, the series then takes viewers into typhoon alley and through the roughest and most deadly fishing ground on the earth – the Bering Sea. Then watch as the Coast Guard and Navy rush to respond to typhoons in the Pacific, all while the Air Force is flying through the storms to gather the important data needed to respond.
I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

“We featured the ‘Hurricane Hunters’ of the 53 Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the USAF Reserve, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Executive Producer Matt Cole said. He shared that he enjoyed getting to personally interview veteran Hurricane Hunter Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross about what it’s like flying into powerful storms.

Viewers will also watch the Navy become storm chasers with their advanced technology. “It was fascinating to see how the US Navy center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plays a lead role for the whole of that region in tracking typhoons and even providing life-saving forecasts. So, out there where typhoons are such a serious and life threatening problem, the forecasts provided by the US Navy using satellite data are invaluable,” Cole said.

The Keo Films also learned a lot during the filming process. For instance, prior to working on the series Cole and the film crew thought ships were safer in harbor during a storm – an assumption the Coast Guard was quick to correct.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

“The folks who work out at sea face these huge storms at their fiercest. By filming with maritime workers on ships at sea we were able to capture the reality of cyclonic weather events and to track their development, through the eyes of these people who work in their path,” Cole explained. Although Hurricanes receive a lot of attention from the media during hurricane season, the show goes even deeper by revealing what it’s like to be in the middle of it all.

Film taken from over 1000 cameras paint a stark and terrifying picture of the impact of storms and climate change, felt on every corner of the globe. “I think that like us, the viewers of the series will come away with a lot more respect for the workforce that makes a living out on the ocean and the military teams that are on constant vigil to try to keep them safe when storms are brewing, through understanding the power and scale of the dangers they face,” Cole said.

The six-part series on National Geographic will air two episodes in a row each Saturday beginning August 15th, 2020 at 10pm.
MIGHTY FIT

‘Better dad because I let other men beat me up twice a week’

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column in which real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their lives. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, parenting will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. Just ask Jason Goldstein, who is 34 and lives in Boston. He’s a dad of one and a husband to his wife and has been doing jiu-jitsu on and off for the past ten years. The practice has been enormously beneficial to him.

I got into jiu-jitsu around 2009 when I started watching UFC. I had gotten into it right around the glory days, the Chuck Liddell era and wanted to see if I could do anything like that. I walked by a jiu-jitsu gym called Mass BJJ in Arlington. I just walked in and asked: “How does this work?”


From there, I got kind of obsessed with it, for four or five years, before I had kids. I did it like three or four times a week, at least. It’s pretty intense, so that’s a lot. And then about three years ago, I had my daughter. I was still doing it when she was a newborn but it became really difficult to do when she became 1 or 2. She wanted to see me all the time. So I had to put it down for a little bit, but now I’m back into it again, and trying to balance everything.

I love jiu-jitsu. It’s a great workout. But there’s also a mental health aspect to it. Jiu-jitsu really helps me get a mental distance from my work and from my home-life. When you’re sparring and rolling, you are focused on that. You don’t have to worry about work or anything else. You’re either trying to choke or tap someone out, or you’re trying not to be choked or tapped out. It’s definitely an in-the-moment thing, where you have to focus on something you have fun with, something that keeps you in great shape.

Right now I’m hitting the mat two to three times a week. I’d love to go more, but when you have a three-year-old, it becomes tough to do stuff like that. It’s usually an hour to an hour and a half class. It starts off with aerobics, and stretching, and it goes into technique, where you learn specific moves you can use against your opponents. And after that, it’s usually sparring sessions or rolling.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

(Flickr photo by Sylvain)

I get some of the tougher emotions out when sparring. Emotions that I wouldn’t have gotten out otherwise. I am going against, for the most part, other grown men who don’t necessarily want to hurt me but they want to do their best to impose their will upon me. I don’t want to sound like a misogynist or anything, but when I get to be a man, to follow my instincts, and get those instincts that I have to “fight” out, it’s a really good feeling. There’s a big release of endorphins. There’s also a sense of kinship to the practice. I fight with the guys at my gym often. We’ve become friends. It’s a fun thing to learn together and get better at together.

I am pretty exhausted by the time class finishes up. I get home, and I try to see my daughter before she falls asleep if I can, but even if I miss out on seeing her, it’s a great feeling to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’ve done a full day, I’ve gotten a good workout in. You’re doing something you like.

The biggest thing that jiu-jitsu has helped me with is how to deal with those times in life where I’m in a bad position, and I just want to quit. One of the things I learned really on during a match is having to push through that feeling. Like, with my daughter, when she’s crying at 3 a.m. like she was last night for no reason. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I wanted to cry myself! That’s a moment where I realized that I have to take a big breath, and just decompress and compartmentalize and say, “I can do this, we can do this, and I am going to get through this.” That’s all jiu-jitsu.

With jiu-jitsu, when you advance, you get belt buckles. My instructor, Mike Pellegrino, recently brought up the carrot or the stick metaphor to me. It’s a metaphor for what motivates you. It’s a combination. The belt can be the carrot, and the stick is me, forcing myself to go to the gym to get beat up by other grown men. Jiu-jitsu is an escape. My friends are there. It’s my own space, my own thing that I can do by myself. People have asked me to bring my wife in but I feel like it’s my thing. I want to keep it that way, to some degree.

And every time I go to the gym, I always know that I have someone waiting back home who wants to see me. It might seem like a contradiction, but the act of balancing work, my passions, and family life is difficult, and that helps. I need to be present in all the areas in my life. The sense of being present, on that mat, carries over into parenting, to work. It helps me balance and value the time I have when I’m with my daughter more, and it also helps me value my time when I’m at jiu-jitsu, and just value my free time, however limited it might be.

Featured image by Sylvain.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The best American tank of World War II rarely saw combat

Sometimes, a good weapon system never gets a chance to shine. In some cases, there simply aren’t any conflicts going on through which the gear can demonstrate its worth (the B-36 Peacemaker comes to mind). In other cases, a piece of technology might mark an important milestone, but end up virtually obsolete by the time the next war rolls around, as was the case with USS Ranger (CV 4).

Well, the M26 Pershing fits into neither of these categories. While over 2,000 of these tanks were produced, they largely missed World War II because of bureaucratic infighting. The few tanks that did get to the front lines performed well, though — leaving many to wonder what might have happened had an Army general by the name of Leslie McNair been more open-minded.


Here’s the deal. Prior to World War II, the United States Army didn’t think that tanks should fight other tanks. Instead, that job was relegated to the aptly named tank destroyer class of vehicle. These vehicles were fast and had potent guns, but sacrificed a lot of armor to achieve such a speed. Meanwhile, the mission of the tank was to support infantry.

That was the leading theory of the time and, as a result, the Army went with the M4 Sherman – producing over 50,000 of those tanks.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

One of the few M26 Pershing tanks that got to the front lines.

(US Army)

Reality, of course, tells a different story. If tanks support infantry and infantry fights infantry, then logic would tell us that tanks would end up facing off against other tanks as those tanks supported opposing infantry. In essence, a key capability in supporting infantry is the ability to kill the other side’s tanks.

The Pershing could do just that with its 90mm main gun (and the 70 rounds it carried for it). Unfortunately, GIs would never get the chance to witness that.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

M26 Pershings being prepared to embark on LSTs in Pusan, South Korea.

(US Army)

According to tanks-encyclopedia.com, Leslie McNair, who headed Army Ground Forces, stuck with the pre-war theory. His opposition to a new tank delayed the M26’s service entry. Eventually, McNair was given a combat assignment and killed by friendly fire during the fighting near Saint-Lô.

The Pershing reached the front lines after the Battle of the Bulge proved the inadequacy of the M4 Sherman in tank combat.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

The M26 Pershing saw some action in the Korean War, but many were soon shipped to Europe to bolster NATO.

(USMC)

The Pershing went on to see some action in the Korean War, but it was quickly shifted to Europe to bolster the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Eventually, it was replaced by the M46/M47/M48 Patton family of tanks.

Watch the video below to learn more about this great tank that never get a real shot to prove itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FURywJI-MkU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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