This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died - We Are The Mighty
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This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

 

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

 

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
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The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

Articles

The story behind Saddam Hussein’s massive $1 billion bank robbery

Three trucks pulled out of the Central Bank of Iraq at 4 a.m. local time on March 18, 2003. Their cargo was nearly $1 billion dollars, a full quarter of the country’s currency reserves. The loot was taken by a team led by Qusay Hussein, the son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

It’s safe to say that Qusay didn’t quite get away with the heist. The heir-apparent to the Ba’athist regime would meet his end a few months later in an ill-advised shootout with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and a team of Special Forces operators. Still, a huge chunk of the money was never recovered. 

If March 18, 2003, sounds like a familiar date to many post-9/11 veterans, that’s because it is. The air war that signaled the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was set to begin the next day. Anticipating the American move, The dictator (correctly) predicted that once the air war began, it might be difficult for him to move about the country and get things done, so he sent his son to get a useful supply of liquid assets. 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
U.S. troops guard the Central Bank of Iraq several months after the invasion (Wikimedia Commons)

Qusay Hussein arrived at the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad with a handwritten note from his father, ordering that $1 billion in U.S. greenbacks be withdrawn and released from the country’s coffers. Three trucks and a number of Iraqi regime officials, including Qusay, supervised the transfer of funds. 

Despite the large sum of money, the forced withdrawal may not have actually been illegal, according to some legal experts. Saddam Hussein was an absolute dictator with personal, direct control over every aspect of the country’s governance, including the central bank and other economic institutions. The $1 billion might even have been Saddam Hussein’s own personal funds, collected over the course of more than two decades of ruling Iraq. 

At first, American intelligence officials believed that Hussein may have been trying to transport the spoils of his time in power over the border to escape the American invasion. A team of U.S. Army Special Forces near Iraq’s border with Syria reported seeing trucks matching the description crossing over the border to escape. 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Evidently, he was not using it to pay a barber (U.S. Army photo)

Others believed that Hussein would use the money to foment resistance inside of Iraq as the American troops advanced throughout the country. Many Iraqis agreed with that assessment. The money may have also been used to fund the flight of those closest to the Iraqi dictator, including his family and personal friends. 

In the days and weeks that followed, Coalition forces managed to find an estimated $650 million of the money taken from the central bank. They found the caches of funds through searches and various patrols around the country that led them to the money, stashed away in one of the palaces used by Uday, Saddam Hussein’s other son. 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Flame erupts from a building hit with a TOW missile launched by soldiers of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) on July 21, 2003, in Mosul, Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a gun battle as they resisted efforts by coalition forces to apprehend and detain them. DoD photo by Spc. Robert Woodward, U.S. Army. (Released)

When Qusay was finally tracked down to a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, he tried to resist numerous raids on the house from American forces. He and his brother Uday were turned in by one of the other guests of the house who wanted the $30 million reward. American troops began firing TOW anti-tank missiles, 12 in all, into the house, killing everyone inside. 

When they were finally able to search the premises, there was no sign of the remaining $350 million from the Iraqi Central Bank. No one has seen or heard of the money since.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

Feature image: A stack of playing cards displaying Iraq War’s “most wanted” rests on a shelf in the Louisiana National Guard Museum’s archive department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Sampson/Released)

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Watch what happens when an anti-tank rifle destroys armor plates

The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.


Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.

YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.

 

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
GIF: YouTube/FullMag

 

The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.

When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.

For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.

These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.

See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:

MIGHTY GAMING

The Navy will recruit drone pilots using video games

Can a video game help the U.S. Navy find future operators for its remotely operated, unmanned vehicles (UxV), popularly called drones?

To find out, the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Adaptive Immersion Technologies, a software company, are developing a computer game to identify individuals with the right skills to be UxV operators. The project, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is called StealthAdapt.


“The Navy currently doesn’t have a test like this to predict who might excel as UxV operators,” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Walker, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This fast-paced, realistic computer simulation of UxV missions could be an effective recruitment tool.”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, UxV have played ever-larger roles in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other missions. Consequently, there’s an increasing need for well-trained UxV operators.

In recent years, the Air Force established its own formal screening process for remotely piloted aircraft operators, and the Marine Corps designated an unmanned aviation systems (UAS) career path for its ranks.

The Navy, however, doesn’t have an official selection and training pipeline specifically for its UxV operators, who face challenges unique to the service. For UAS duty, the Navy has taken aviators who already earned their wings; provided on-the-job, UAS-specific training; and placed them in temporary positions.

However, this presents challenges. It’s costly and time-consuming to add more training hours, and it takes aviators away from their manned aircraft duties. Finally, the cognitive skills needed for successful manned aviation can vary from those needed for unmanned operators.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

StealthAdapt is designed to address this issue. It consists of a cognitive test, personality assessment, and biographical history assessment. The cognitive exam actually is the game-based component of the system and takes the form of a search-and-rescue mission. Each player’s assignment is to rescue as many stranded friendly forces as possible, within a pre-set time limit, while avoiding fire from hostile forces.

If that’s not stressful enough, players must simultaneously monitor chat-based communications, make sure they have enough fuel and battery power to complete missions, memorize and enter authentication codes required for safe rescue of friendlies, decode encrypted information, and maintain situational awareness.

“We’re trying to see how well players respond under pressure, which is critical for success as an unmanned operator,” said Dr. Phillip Mangos, president and chief scientist at Adaptive Immersion Technologies. “We’re looking for attention to detail, the ability to multitask and prioritize, and a talent for strategic planning — thinking 10 moves ahead of your adversary.”

To maintain this pressure, players complete multiple 5- to 10-minute missions in an hour. Each scenario changes, with different weather, terrain, number of friendlies and hostiles, and potential communication breakdowns.

After finishing the game portion, participants answer questions focusing on personality and biographical history. Mangos’ team then crunches this data with game-performance metrics to create a comprehensive operator evaluation.

In 2017, over 400 civilian and military volunteers participated as StealthAdapt research subjects at various Navy and Air Force training centers. Mangos and his research team currently are reviewing the results and designing an updated system for validation by prospective Navy and Air Force unmanned operators. It will be ready for fleet implementation in 2018

Mangos envisions StealthAdapt serving as a stand-alone testing and recruitment tool, or as part of a larger screening process such as the Selection for UAS Personnel, also known as SUPer. SUPer is an ONR-sponsored series of specialized tests that assesses cognitive abilities and personality traits of aspiring UxV operators.

Articles

Russia just tested this ultra-fast ship-killing missile

Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.


The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.

However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.

Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.

The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.

Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.

“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.

The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.

 

Articles

Forget Godzilla, Russia is building this new sea monster

Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but during the Cold War, he’d find the Caspian Sea a little crowded.


Now, Russia is building a new Caspian Sea Monster.

According to a tweet by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the Chaika A-050 is slated to enter service by 2020. The A-050 is what is known as an “ekranoplan,” or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed these airplane hybrids during the Cold War, largely because they offered a unique mix of the capabilities of ships and aircraft.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
A Ekranoplan, or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed development of these Caspian Sea Monsters during the Cold War. (Youtube Screenshot)

According to militaryfactory.com, the Lun-class ekranoplan is one such example. It had a top speed of 342 miles per hour — slightly slower than the B-29 Superfortress — which could go 358 miles per hour. However, the Lun carried six SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, which are limited for use on surface combatants like the Sovremenny-class destroyer and Tarantul-class missile boat. The Lun could climb to as high as 24,000 feet.

According to a 2015 report by Valuewalk.com, the Chaika A-050 will travel at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, with a range of 3,000 miles. It will be able to carry at least nine tons of cargo or 100 passengers. However, a Sputnik News report indicated that the Russians could install the BrahMos missile on the new ekranoplan.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
A model of the BrahMos II, Russian-Indian hypersonic missile under joint development.

The BrahMos is a version of the SS-N-26 Oniks surface-to-surface missile that has been installed on a number of Indian Navy vessels. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 2.8 and a range of 500 kilometers. The missile carries a 300-kilogram warhead, and can hit surface ships or land targets. The missile can be used by submarines and surface ships.

Articles

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Photo: DARPA.mil


The Pentagon wants to launch satellites from a fighter jet as it seeks to lower the costs of sending Defense Department satellites into space.

Also Read: Can You Identify These Jets? Take The Quiz 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is leading the project called Airborne Launch Assist Space Access, or ALASA. Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said earlier this month the agency plans to  execute the program’s first flight demonstration by the end of the year and then 12 orbital tests in 2016.

Engineers have designed a launch vehicle that can be carried under an F-15. The F-15 would carry the launch vehicle to a high enough altitude before the launch vehicle would separate from the aircraft. The vehicle would then use its own rocket boosters to leave the Earth’s atmosphere before delivering the satellite into orbit.

DARPA officials hope the program can deliver satellites under 100 pounds within 24 hours notice and for a price tag under $1 million.

The Boeing Company, which builds the F-15, is the prime contractor for ALASA.

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army creates ‘Mad Scientist’ program

In the distant future, teams of soldiers equipped with high-powered exoskeletons disembark a series of autonomous personnel carriers outside the enemy’s position. Overhead, a small fleet of drones scans the engagement area, giving each soldier a real-time view of the battlefield through their heads-up display.

As each team moves into position, they hear a series of explosions on the other side of the enemy base. From over 2,000 meters away, the Army’s high-energy precision fires systems have just disabled the enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.

At the same time, teams of soldiers use their exoskeleton suits to leap over the perimeter wall to engage the enemy and secure the compound.


This is one scenario of a future operating environment. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how the Army will operate and fight in a distant future, said Matt Santaspirt, an Army Futures Command intelligence representative.

To guide the Army in the right direction, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist team functions like a scout on the battlefield, always looking ahead and evaluating ideas to help build the force, he said.

Nested within both Army Futures and Training and Doctrine Commands, the MadSci initiative was created to address opportunities and challenges in the Army’s near-, mid-, and far-term future, said Allison Winer, the team’s deputy director of engagement.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)

The goal is to maximize the Army’s limited resources and help soldiers fight and win in a futuristic operational environment, she added.

“The Army only knows what it knows; and [the Army] always talks to itself,” Santaspirt said. “We want to break out of that echo chamber.”

“We are harnessing the intellect of the nation to describe the art of the possible,” he added. “We know that you can’t predict the future, but we’re trying to say, ‘Here is a range of possibilities.’ [The goal] is to be less wrong than our adversary.”

To accomplish this goal, the MadSci team compiles information from a wide range of sources, in support of Army senior leaders’ priorities, Santaspirt said.

These sources include traditional mediums: academia, industry, think tanks, labs, reports, and white papers; to the more nontraditional platforms: crowdsourcing, social media, science fiction, and cinema, to name a few.

Beyond the collection of materials, the MadSci team often organizes themed conferences, bringing communities together to address key Army topics. For example, the team recently conducted the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Future Operational Environment Conference in Austin, Texas.

During the conference, presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains, according to MadSci officials.

“We had somebody come in and talk about robotics and how we can use them in an austere environment,” Santaspirt said, adding there were specific examples of robotics used in Fukushima, Japan.

“The approach is to bring together experts … so we can refine those key ideas, and disrupt [the Army’s] assumptions,” he said.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)

A week after the event, the team posted some key takeaways from the conference on the Mad Scientist Blog. The MadSci blog and other social media platforms are often used as a crowdsourcing tool to help poll an audience or generate conversation about key Army topics, Winer said.

Some of the conference findings included: a need to set left and right boundaries for artificial intelligence and autonomy, increased crowding of assets in space will cause operational challenges, and fake news coupled with hyper-connectivity is changing the nature of information warfare.

Additionally, the MadSci team organizes science fiction writing competitions to help determine possible futures for crucial Army programs, Winer said. For years, science fiction has depicted worlds that are both logically possible, but functionally different than current society.

“Science fiction is used as a kind of forecasting to see what possible futures might look like,” she said. “Aside from being just plain-on cool, it gives the Army a way to use storytelling, historical analysis, and outsourcing to write about the realm of the possible. And it is an effective tool for a lot of businesses and other leaders in industry to try.”

Through their research and continual online engagements, the MadSci team creates a range of possibilities, then later presents their findings to Army senior leaders and key decision makers, Santaspirt said.

“It is a different way of thinking,” Santaspirt said. “If [the Army] can get that out there and start meeting the right people, make certain decisions or investments, or get people thinking in a different way … you might see what we’ve discovered — as it comes to light down the road.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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10 things to avoid saying to veterans

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century and America’s “forever wars” in the Middle East continue, it’s more important than ever to consider the plight of our veterans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 18 million veterans in the United States in 2019. In Charles W. Hoge’s 2010 handbook Once a Warrior–Always a Warrior, the MD and retired Army Colonel writes: “Warriors and their family members are often surprised at how difficult the transition period is after coming back from a combat deployment. Many expect that they’ll need just a little time for things to go back to ‘normal,’ but find that ‘normal’ is elusive and time is relative.”

With that sensitivity in mind, here are some things to avoid saying to our brothers and sisters returned from the front line. Warriors recognize that most of these awkward overtures are well-meaning, but it’s worth developing a keener sense of empathy when relating to those who have served.

1. “Is it tough being away from your friends and family?”

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Spc. Robert Costa, Human Resource Specialist of the 147th Human Resource Company, returned to his family and friends in Minnesota from a year long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

The answer to this question is usually contradictory. While being separated from loved ones can be challenging, warriors find new friendships and familial bonds in each other during deployments. 

2. “I would’ve joined, but…”

Projecting your own fantasy of the road not taken to a veteran only demonstrates self-centeredness, thwarting any meaningful connection. 

3. “How many people did you kill?”

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
A Green Beret assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires the M240B machine gun during a training exercise at Camp McGregor, New Mexico March 24, 2020. 

Asking this of someone who served might force them to relive a trauma they experienced – and the guilt, shame or rage associated with it. It’s a personal question that requires a great deal of trust. While some vets may be open to sharing this sensitive info with their closest friends or family, others prefer not to discuss it at all. Leave this one up to them.

4. “It must’ve been Hell over there.”

There’s an uncomfortable voyeurism to asking too many details of a veteran’s combat experience (unless that information is volunteered freely), but it’s also wrong to assume what the working environment was like for a soldier.

5. “My uncle or cousin was in this unit, did you know him?”

The U.S. Armed Forces are a humongous outfit. The Army’s 101st Airborne division alone has 18,000 soldiers. You probably don’t even remember everyone who went to your high school. Whoever said “there are no stupid questions” didn’t hear this one. 

6. “Do you have PTSD?”

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Then 2nd Lt. Tom Blackburn sits in the turret of his tank while on a mission in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007. Blackburn’s deployment would leave many scars that he still deals with today.

Though we shouldn’t stigmatize mental disorders, it can be tough for those with PTS to talk about their experiences. As HelpGuide explains: “Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling engaged and accepted by you, not necessarily from talking.”

7. “Did you lose any friends in combat?”

Trauma doesn’t only occur in those veterans who have taken lives, but from the survivors of combat as well. We should always tread lightly over these themes in conversation with warriors. 

8. “You must be happy to be home.”

The feelings of returning soldiers are often complicated. “Roughly two-thirds of all veterans (68%) say, in the first few years after leaving the military, they frequently felt proud of their military service.” It’s better to not risk patronizing a warrior by making broad assumptions.

9. “What do you think of the president?”

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One here at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, Feb. 16, 2021. Biden made his first official trip as president to tape a town hall meeting in Milwaukee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kellen Kroening)

This question puts veterans in a bind. They are required to respect the office and defend the Commander in Chief, but still do possess independent political views that fall anywhere across the spectrum. 

10. “I’m sorry you had to go through this.”

This is a condescending statement to make to anyone who has served, a sentiment expressed succinctly in a 2014 WSJ article: Treat Veterans With Respect, Not Pity.
For most of us, trying to connect with veterans comes from a good place. If you’re in doubt about what to say and what to avoid, here’s an easy rule: when in doubt, talk less and listen more. That’s the beginning of a real conversation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 epic ships that changed naval warfare forever

A great navy is key to any great military. It’s what allowed Brittania to rule the seas for decades, France to establish vast colonies around the world, and Japan to assert itself over European powers in Asia in the early 1900s. But navies are, obviously, made up of dozens or hundreds of individual ships, and not all of them are created equal.

So we’ve dug through the history to find out top 10 picks for ships that, either because of revolutionary designs or because their crews made a new technology work where all others had failed, changed naval combat overnight:


This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

The 64-gun warship Vasa was built in the tradition of the Mars, the first great artillery-focused naval warship.

(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)

Mars

The Swedish warship Mars was the test platform for a bold new strategy in the 1560s: Elevate naval artillery from from a weapon used to hurt enemy ships to one that can actually sink enemy ship. The Swedish king was obsessed with the concept, and commissioned the Mars with five decks, two of them dedicated to naval artillery carrying massive cannons.

And the Mars was successful, reportedly sinking the enemy ship Longbark with concentrated artillery fire on its first day in combat. Unfortunately, the ship was so large and powerful that the opposing Lubeck fleet concentrated on it the next day, setting it on fire and causing a massive explosion and sinking the ship in 250 feet of water.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

The USS Nautilus was the first nuclear-powered vessel in history.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Nautilus

As America wrestled with the implications of nuclear power after World War II, naval planners had a question about the new-fangled reactors: Can they give our ships unlimited range? The USS Nautilus was proof that, for submarines at least, the nuclear reactor could achieve nearly infinite range.

The Nautilus set speed and range records. It even conducted an entire cruise where it surfaced only once, rising to the open air only to transit the Panama Canal. It also completed the first transit of the ship across the North Pole, conducting the crossing underwater on August 3, 1958. Now, the entire U.S. submarine fleet is nuclear-powered.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

The first-nuclear powered carrier and first nuclear-powered surface vessel in history, the USS Enterprise set range and speed records thanks to its powerful fuel source and engines.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Enterprise

The USS Enterprise of World War II was the most decorated ship of the war, and the Navy brought the name back to commission its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in 1960. That USS Enterprise would, like the USS Nautilus, set speed and range records. It also led the Navy’s first and only all-nuclear task force, sailing around the world with USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge, a cruiser and frigate.

The ship launched planes during that cruise and also took part in the blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis, launched fighters into combat in Vietnam, and sent up jets in support of troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sinop and Chesma

Russian torpedo boats Sinop and Chesma were pretty forgettable warships except for one exchange in January 1878, when they launched the first successful self-propelled torpedo attack in naval history. The torpedo they used had been invented in England in 1866, but no navy had successfully used it in combat yet.

But 12 years later, the Russians ships were trying to take out larger and better-armed Turkish ships, and their torpedo attacks had failed repeatedly. The Sinop and Chesma went after the armed steamer Inibah, using their speed to avoid the Inibah’s fire before launching two torpedoes from less than 100 yards away. Both slammed home and sunk the enemy ship in less than a minute, proving the torpedo boat concept and leading to the torpedo’s prominence in World War I.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

HMS Cobra and Viper

Without getting too technical, there’s a difference between steam-piston engines and steam-turbine engines. Steam turbines are much more powerful, and the HMS Viper and HMS Cobra were British torpedo destroyers commissioned at the same time in order to take advantage of the additional speed turbines gave.

Both ships were capable of flying across the surface at almost 40 mph (about 34 knots for the actual sailors out there). They were over 10 percent faster than most other warships of the day, and they helped prove the steam turbine technology. Today, steam turbines powered by nuclear reactors propel the new Ford-Class carriers.

H.L. Hunley

The H.L. Hunley was named for its inventor, and it was an ill-fated but game-changing submarine of the Confederate Navy and famously was the very first submarine to sink an enemy ship. There were drawbacks to its designs, though.

It sank three times during testing, killing the crews each time and its inventor in one incident. Still, the Confederate Navy raised it one more time and sent it on its successful mission where it rammed the Union Housatonic with a mine attached to the spar in 1864. But the blast also killed the crew and sank the sub a fourth time. Obviously, submarine became a potent weapon of war, partially thanks to the Hunley, but the design was overhauled so crews would stop dying.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

The Union referred to the CSS Virginia as the Merrimack, the name originally given to her by the Union, throughout the war.

USS Monitor and CSS Virginia

At the Battle of Hampton Roads, the clash of two American ships changed naval warfare overnight. The CSS Virginia, a Confederate ship captured from the Union, attacked the northern fleet at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, and the Union ironclad USS Monitor showed up the next day to protect the rest of the fleet.

The Virginia mounted ten guns and the Monitor had two, more advanced cannons, but neither ship could deliver a decisive blow against the other despite fighting at close range for hours, ending in a stalemate. Immediately, it was clear to naval experts that wooden ships would become obsolete as the iron behemoths were created in larger quantities and new configurations.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

Napoleon

The Napoleon was a 90-gun warship that was launched in 1850 and soon changed the way steam-powered ships operated. Prior to the Napoleon, steam was used to power paddle wheals on one side of a warship. Sails provided primary power, and the wheel helped the ship maneuver quickly during fights.

But the paddles were enormously vulnerable and blocked parts of the hull from being able to mount cannons, huge shortcoming in combat. But the Napoleon introduced screw propulsion, moving the action under the water, making it less vulnerable and more lethal. The ship fought in the Crimean War in 1852, and countries lined up to get their own screw-powered ships.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

HMS Furious

The HMS Furious was originally laid down as a battlecruiser in 1915 and slated to receive epic, 18-inch guns. Instead, it became the first aircraft carrier to conduct a successful raid, launching Sopwith Camels against German zeppelins in July 1918. The small planes successfully set a hangar ablaze and burnt two zeppelins to the ground, but most of the pilots were forced to ditch their planes at sea or in neutral Denmark.

The Furious had all sorts of shortcomings as a carrier, most notably the short flight deck that made landings extremely hazardous. It underwent multiple redesigns and refits between World War I and II, eventually becoming a full flat-top carrier.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

HMS Dreadnought

Any naval buffs out there saw this one coming. While there are plenty of game-changing ships on this list, as well as dozens more from history that we could have chosen, the Dreadnought was such a game-changing ship that the entire world sought to copy its design and methods of construction, leading to the “Dreadnought Era” followed soon after by the “Super Dreadnought Era.”

The behemoth could throw 3 tons of steel and explosives in a single broadside and featured armor that could survive nearly anything available when it was launched. And, it was built quickly, launching in 1906 after just a year of construction. Germany raced to keep up with Britain’s new navy, building Dreadnought copies as fast as it could.

When the German and British fleets clashed at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, 50 battleships built in the Dreadnought’s image traded blows in a 250-ship fight that is, by some metrics, still the largest naval battle ever fought.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.

Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.


Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.

(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)

After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.

On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.

“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.

A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.

Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.

“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.

“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.

Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.

All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.

In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.

In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.

He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.

Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.

For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.

Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.

The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.

He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.

After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.

Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.

He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Chesty Puller: The life and quotes of a beloved Marine legend

Practically from the day of his birth, it was clear that Lewis Puller was destined for military greatness. Better known as Chesty Puller, the boy spent his youth listening to veterans discuss their time in the Civil War–perhaps to fill the void that the death of his father created.


Chesty Puller would go on to become a United States Marine officer whose accomplishments remain unmatched to this day. The most decorated marine in United States history, Chesty Puller was a fearless leader who dedicated his entire life to his country and his troops. Known for his sharp wit, resilience, and expertise in combat situations, Puller was truly one of the greatest troops to ever fight for our country.

Puller was born in 1898 to Matthew and Martha Puller in West Point, Virginia. The stories he heard about the Civil War fostered what would become a lifelong adulation of Stonewall Jackson. He attempted to join the army before his 18th birthday, in 1916, but his mother refused consent–Chesty would have to wait just a bit long before beginning his storied career.

In 1917, Puller joined the Virginia Military Institute as a step towards his long-desired army entrance. He quickly realized that staying in school meant staying away from the action, and, only a year later, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps

Hoping to get in on some of the action, Puller enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1918 to train and put his skills to the test. Despite his stellar performance in the Marines and being appointed a second lieutenant in the reserves, Puller missed out on World War I. Not to worry though–Chesty would have many opportunities to shine on the battlefield in the following years.

Puller served as a lieutenant in Haiti during the Banana Wars in the early 1920s. Even during his first ever experience on the battlefront, Puller’s extensive training and leadership abilities shone through during the toughest of battles. After a tough but successful campaign, Puller would continue rising through the ranks for the next few decades.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

Chesty Puller at age 50.

After fighting through World War II and the Korean War, Puller had finally decided to retire in 1955. Over his astounding 37 years of fighting, Puller was able to snag over 25 military awards, and was one of two people in military history to receive the second-highest U.S. military award six times.

When asked about his nickname, Puller was never really sure how and why “Chesty” came about. Having been called plenty of names before during his time on the battlefield, Puller was always fascinated with how Chesty stuck. Regardless, he embraced the nickname, and went on to become a legend and icon in U.S Marine Corp history, even past his death in 1971. To this day, officers who are training troops will always make mention of Chesty in chants during exercises.

In life, Puller was an American hero like no other. Many of Puller’s exploits, achievements, and snarky quips can be found in Burke Davis’s beloved biography of the soldier, Marine! The New York Times bestselling author goes into riveting detail about Puller’s humble beginnings and gradual rise in the Marines. Filled with exciting war scenes and anecdotes about the accomplished marine, this book is an absolute must-read for veterans and military history buffs alike.

With a tongue just as sharp as his physical skills, Puller is easily one of the most quotable soldiers in our country’s history. Many of the marine’s famous sayings are often delivered with such undeniable American gusto that you can’t help but chuckle at each one. These Chesty Puller quotes paint an incredibly humorous, honorable image of the accomplished marine.

“I want to go where the guns are!”

When Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute during his early years, he was extremely eager to fight on the front lines. Hearing about the battles being fought during World War I, Puller had a quick response when asked why he dropped out of Virginia Military Institute and signed up for the Marines.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

Chesty Puller cutting the Marine Corps birthday cake.

“Don’t forget that you’re First Marines! Not all the Communists in hell can overrun you!”

During the Korean War, Puller was caught up in Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. This decisive battle proved to be a grueling and deadly conflict that would put Puller and his troops to the test. Working through the harsh conditions, Chesty reminded his soldiers that they would be successful no matter what–if he had anything to do with it, at least.

“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”

Chesty Puller was always ready for a good fight, and this quote sure proves it. Apparently, when he was being shown how to use a flamethrower for the first time during World War II, Puller asked this. In addition to setting his enemies ablaze, he also wanted to know whether or not a flamethrower could stab them like the old school bayonet on a rifle. Enthusiastic, in this case, is an understatement.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

Chesty Puller (right) exploring Korean terrain.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

This special instinct can help troops survive an ambush

In the spring of 1970, U.S. forces attempted to fracture an NVA supply line in the Vietnam jungle, as 79 soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry came under a vicious attack and became trapped in a heavily bunkered NVA fortification — unable to escape.


With nowhere to run, the troops began taking heavy casualties.

The hellish area was covered in thick towering trees which ruled out any possibility of dropping off extra supplies or evacuating the wounded. The only way to get to the ambushed men was from the ground.

Related: These are the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

If these ground troops were to lose this area to the enemy, the hope of an offensive victory would have died. The men at the point of attack managed to pull their wounded brothers out of harm’s way and quickly render care. The American forces formed a secure perimeter with the men they had left.

“Human instinct tells you to stay on that ground don’t move, return fire, don’t move,” Ken Woodard of Charlie Company explains during an interview. “You can get killed.”

The men did just that, without being ordered.

They were then able to create a base of fire putting rounds down range — buying time.

Also Read: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Monitoring the radio 2.5 miles away was Alpha Troop who closely studied how Charlie Company was maneuvering and volunteered to go in as a quick reaction force.

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died
Alpha Troop in Vietnam (Source: John Poindexter)

Led by Capt. John B. Poindexter, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Alpha Troop) loaded up onto their Sherman tanks and armored personnel carriers and went in to help Charlie Company.

Not long after, the 11th ACR reached their brothers-in-arms in time and completed their rescue mission

Check out American Heroes Channel‘s video how these brave Americans reacted to being trapped by enemy fire.

(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
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