Today in U.S. military history: Wally Schirra’s ride, and Black Hawk Down

Cmdr. “Wally” Schirra

1794: President George Washington calls on the governors of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to mobilize troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington himself will lead the army – the only time a sitting president commands troops in the field. Henry “Light Horse” Lee, veteran of the American Revolution and father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee will also lead troops, and also participating in the campaign is Pvt. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

1912: Four Marine battalions – including one led by Maj. Smedley Butler – converge and assault the fortress atop the 500-ft. Coyotepe Hill. Nicaraguan rebel commander Gen. Benjamin Zeledón is killed during the battle, and the rebellion effectively ends once the Marines capture the city of León in two days.

Butler, a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution, and World War I, is the only Marine in history to be awarded two Medal of Honors and the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. His Medal of Honor citations can be read here: 1st award / 2nd award

1950: Major League Baseball rules that Philadelphia Phillies’ 17-game winner Curt Simmons, who had been drafted by the Army for service during the Korean War, would not be eligible to pitch in the World Series, despite the fact that he was on furlough.

1962: Cmdr. Walter M. “Wally” Schirra, Jr. (USN) becomes the fifth American in space when he orbits the earth six times in his Sigma 7 capsule. After a nine-hour flight, he splashes down just half a mile from the recovery ship USS Kearsarge (CVS-33), joking that his target was the carrier’s “number three elevator.”

1993: Special operations forces board several Army Black Hawk helicopters and set out to capture the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The snatch-and-grab operation was supposed to take only one hour, but when a rocket-propelled-grenade takes out one of the helicopters, Operation “Gothic Serpent” begins to spin out of control. As the vehicle convoy, originally intended to haul the captured leaders of the Habr Gidr clan, races through barricaded streets to establish a security perimeter around the first Black Hawk, another Black Hawk is shot down.

With resources stretched to the maximum and the vehicle convoy unable to reach the crash sites, Delta Force snipers Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart volunteer to land and provide cover fire for the second downed helicopter. Both are overrun and killed while protecting the four wounded crew members in the face of overwhelming numbers, and will be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison assembles a quick reaction force of 100 UN and 10th Mountain Division vehicles as the task force battles through the night. 19 American service members will be killed and 73 wounded during the intense urban combat of the Battle of Mogadishu. Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant, one of the downed Black Hawk pilots, is captured and held as a prisoner for 11 days.

2010: 92 years after the end of World War I, Germany makes its last reparation payment demanded by the Treaty of Versailles.

Posted on October 3, 2017 at 10:39 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Today in Medal of Honor history

On Oct. 2, 1969, Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel gets the call that a team of South Vietnamese are pinned down in Vietnam’s Kien Tuong Province, and the medevac pilot heads to the rescue. As he circles overhead to rally the beleaguered troops while they prepared to be lifted out, enemy fire is so intense that his helicopter is driven away six times. Undeterred, Novosel – who would be wounded by close-range automatic weapons fire during the daring mission – performed 15 extractions under fire, saving 29 soldiers.

This was Novosel’s second tour flying medevac helicopters in Vietnam. The “Dean of the Dust-Offers” flew an amazing 2,543 missions, rescuing 5,589 personnel. He had flown B-29s during World War II, and also served during Korea. By the time Novosel retired in 1985, he was the last World War II aviator still on active duty. His son also flew medevac choppers, and both father and son would take turns rescuing each other during the Vietnam War.

Novosel’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On Oct. 2, 1952, Private First Class Jack W. Kelso’s platoon is hit by a heavy enemy assault that takes both the platoon commander and platoon sergeant out of action. Kelso exposes himself to enemy small arms and mortar fire, attempting to rally his fellow Marines. Met by a hail of fire, he seeks cover in a bunker, which is quickly targeted by an enemy grenade. Kelso picks up the grenade and moves to an exposed position to throw it back at the enemy when it goes off after leaving his hand – peppering Kelso with shrapnel. Instead of remaining in the bunker, the mortally wounded Kelso opts to expose himself to the withering fire and provide cover fire while his men move to another position.

Kelso’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On this date 73 years ago, as the 85th Infantry Division fights their way across Italy, Sgt. Christos H. Karaberis’ platoon was pinned down by enemy fire. Karaberis – who changed his name to Chris Carr following the war – crept to the rear of an enemy machine gun position. Leaping forward and shooting his submachine gun into the position, he caught the occupants by surprise – capturing eight enemy soldiers. Carr moved on to the next position – this time maneuvering to avoid enemy fire – killing four soldiers and capturing another. Carr then moved against a third machine gun position, forcing the enemy troops to surrender. Incredibly, Carr would charge two more positions, bringing his total to five machine gun nests, killing eight enemy soldiers, and capturing 22.

Carr’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

Posted on October 2, 2017 at 10:28 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Twenty life truths

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

This morning as I was shaving, I began thinking about things I’ve learned to be true over my 58-plus years on this earth so far. They are truths that I know to be, not based on any particular degrees or specific levels of training, but on pure experience.

Here are 20 of these truths –

  1. A three-blade razor will always give you a closer shave than a two-blade or a one-blade. And a cheap razor will cut you.
  2. It is essential to the life of your car to regularly change the oil in it.
  3. The perfect elementary school (1960s-era) cinnamon roll no longer exists.
  4. At the primal level (I’m not talking about post-conditioning), men and women will react differently to immediate dangerous stimuli. Sorry, but it’s true.
  5. There are things in this world which can only be explained by the existence of evil and dark forces.
  6. All Marines with 0300-infantry MOS’s love to fight. I don’t, but I’m the exception.
  7. A broken bone will heal in time as will a broken heart.
  8. There is something inherently good about a person who sacrifices his or her time and money to go on a Christian mission trip (and no, I’ve never been on one.)
  9. A drop-dead-gorgeous woman will make a smart man lose his mind for a split second (and nobody will ever know). But she will make a stupid man lose his mind indefinitely.
  10. Everybody, at a minimum, needs a smile and a kind word.
  11. Nobody cooks as good as my mom. They may exist, but I’ve never met them.
  12. If a person talks bad about his friends to you, he’s probably talking bad about you to his friends.
  13. When alone and in the middle of nowhere, a .45 is always more reassuring than a 9mm.
  14. People will leave you in this life. Some will die. Some will walk away. Some will also betray you or otherwise let you down. God will never do any of those things.
  15. Holding a newborn baby heals and comforts the one holding it in ways impossible to describe.
  16. Elderly people are treasures.
  17. Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.”
  18. There is something spiritually uplifting about mowing the lawn. Preteens and teenage boys don’t understand this. We have to get some age on us before we begin to appreciate the spirituality in grass cutting.
  19. Miracles from God still happen.
  20. God’s Word is true.

Alright, back to work.

– Please visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at

Posted on September 29, 2017 at 11:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 29 in U.S. military history

2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. in front of his SPAD XIII fighter, near Verdun, France on Sept. 19, 1918 (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

1909: Construction begins on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. when President (and former commander of the “Rough Riders”) Theodore Roosevelt lays the cornerstone. 81 years later – to the day – work on the church is completed when the “final finial” is placed with Pres. (and former World War II torpedo bomber pilot) George H.W. Bush in attendance.

1918: During the opening days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a battalion of African-American soldiers serving under French command secures Sechault, France, but is quickly surrounded when the French units on their flanks retreat. German troops surround the “Hell Fighters from Harlem”, as the Americans hold their ground through the night despite numerous assaults and artillery barrage that devastates the town.

Once relief arrives, the former members of the 15th New York Infantry have nearly exhausted their supplies, and have suffered 982 casualties. One officer receives the Medal of Honor, two soldiers will earn the Legion of Honor (France’s highest award for valor), and another 100 are decorated for valor.

That same day, 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. takes to the skies on a voluntary patrol, shooting down four German observation balloons despite hot pursuit by eight enemy fighters. Luke exposes himself to additional ground fire when he strafes German troop positions, crippling his SPAD XIII warplane. The fate of America’s second-leading ace of the war remained a mystery until after the armistice, when America learns that Luke pulled out his pistol after crash-landing and the wounded pilot fought off approaching German infantry until he was finally killed.

Luke, whom America’s top ace Eddie Rickenbacker described as “the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war,” shot down an incredible 14 enemy aircraft in ten days – a feat surpassing all aviators during the war. Luke is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base is named in his honor.

1941: Outside of Kiev, Ukraine, German SS troops massacre 33,371 Jews in just two days at the Bibi Yar ravine. The captives are driven from town, stripped, and forced to lay down on the pile of corpses when they are systematically shot in the back of the neck by a submachine gun.

1942: Three new U.S. fighter squadrons are formed, consisting of American pilots that had crossed into Canada to join the war in Europe. The aviators had previously flown for the Royal Air Force, under English squadron commanders, until rejoining the Army Air Forces.

1946: A Lockheed P2V “Neptune” patrol aircraft takes off from Perth, Australia for a non-stop, unrefueled flight to the United States. The Truculent Turtle manages to cover 11,235 miles, in 55 hours and 17 minutes – setting a record that will stand until 1962.

1990: The YF-22, predecessor for the F-22 “Raptor” makes its first flight. Although slower and less stealthy than Northrop’s YF-23, the jointly produced Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22 is far more agile, and will soon win the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition.

Posted on September 29, 2017 at 08:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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In Light of Protests and Politics, Let Us Remember the NFL Veterans of World War II

[Originally published at]

On December 7, 1941, 27,000 Americans watched the Washington Redskins cruise to a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Griffith Stadium. During the game, the loudspeakers announced that various government and military officials in attendance needed to report to work. Players and fans were blissfully unaware, for the moment, that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and the nation was now at war.

Nearly 1,000 athletes in the National Football League joined the ranks of 16 million Americans serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. The NFL was so depleted by the war that in order for the league to survive, teams merged or were scrapped altogether. But professional football continued. 21 players lost their lives, and many lost valuable playing time to the service. Below are some of their stories.

The crew of Waddy’s Wagon

After being named a consensus All-American as a right end for the University of Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to their first-ever bowl game in 1939, Walter R. “Waddy” Young is drafted by the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers. When war breaks out, Young leaves behind his professional career and enlisted in the Army Air Forces, ultimately becoming a bomber pilot. Young racked up 9,000 combat hours flying his B-24 “Liberator” in Europe.

Once the Nazis surrendered, Young transferred to the Pacific Theater and began flying the new B-29 “Superfortress” heavy bomber. After a raid on mainland Japan, a bomber in Waddy’s group was struck by a kamikaze fighter. Rather than leave the stricken crew to their fate, Waddy’s Wagon left formation and accompanied the damaged B-29 so they could relay the location to search and rescue crews where the bomber went down.

Waddy and his crew were never heard from again.


Before enlisting in the Army, James L. Mooney, Jr. was an All-American end and punter for Georgetown, playing five seasons in the NFL. Cpl. Mooney was killed by a German sniper in Sourdeval, France, just days before his fellow soldiers in the 28th “Keystone” Infantry Division triumphantly marched through the streets of Paris after liberating the French capital.


Read the rest of this post »

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 09:59 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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Sept. 28 in U.S. military history

Auguste Couder’s Bataille de Yorktown

1781: Gen. George Washington leads a combined army of 8,000 Continentals, 7,800 French soldiers, and 3,100 Colonial militia out of Williamsburg (Va.) to the newly constructed trenches surrounding Lt. Gen. Lord Cornwallis’ trapped British forces at Yorktown, beginning the siege that will effectively bring an end to the American Revolution.

1787: After putting the finishing touches on the Constitution of the United States, the Continental Congress sends copies out to the states for ratification.

1924: Two Douglas DT-2 biplanes land at Sand Point, Wash., completing the U.S. Army Air Service’s 175-day, 27,553-mile journey, marking the first ever aerial circumnavigation of the globe.

1941: Capt. Joseph J. Rochefort, officer-in-charge of Pearl Harbor’s cryptology section, warns commanders that a change in Japanese radio traffic could indicate a major operation.

1945: Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower relieves Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. of his post as military governor in Bavaria following controversial statements about the de-nazification process. Next month, Eisenhower transfers Patton from his beloved Third Army to lead the Fifteenth Army, a relatively small staff responsible for compiling a history of the European War.

1964: The Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarine USS Daniel Webster departs Charleston (S.C.) Harbor, becoming the first ship to deploy with the new Polaris A3 missiles. The A3 carries three 200-kiloton warheads with a maximum range of 2,500 nautical miles. When the USS Daniel Boone joins the Pacific Fleet in December, American nuclear missiles can now target anywhere on the entire Eurasian landmass.

2001: President George W. Bush declares that American combat forces are in “hot pursuit” of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, while the Pentagon adds that American and British special operations forces have deployed to Afghanistan.

2012: Contrary to the Obama Administration’s narrative that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announces that it was in fact a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack.”

Sept. 27 in U.S. military history

Bell X-2 accelerating away from a B-50 mother ship

[Originally published at]

1860: During an insurrection on Panama, a landing party of Marines from the sloop-of-war USS St. Mary’s land and take control of a railway station.

1941: At Baltimore Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launches SS Patrick Henry – the first of what will be 2,710 “Liberty Ships.” 13 more of the cost-effective and mass-produced cargo ships are launched this day, and the ships will carry millions of tons of supplies across the Atlantic during World War II.

1942: The Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins becomes the only U.S. merchant ship to sink a vessel when she refuses to surrender to the German raider Stieg. Hopkins will slip under the waves, but not before her crews mortally wound Stier with their 4-in. gun. 15 of the ship’s 58-man crew will survive 31 days at sea on an open lifeboat before reaching the shores of Brazil.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Theater, when three companies of Marines are surrounded by Japanese forces along Guadalcanal’s Matanikau River, battalion commander Lt. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller assembles a rescue force to prevent the annihilation of his men. The destroyer USS Ballard (DD-627) bombards Japanese positions for 30 minutes while Coast Guard landing craft withdraw the Marines under heavy fire.

Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro, leader of the Higgins boats, is killed while covering the evacuation – becoming the only Coast Guardsman awarded the Medal of Honor.

1944: As 39 B-24 “Liberator” bomber crews of the 445 Bomb Group attack Kessel, Germany, over 100 Luftwaffe fighters take to the skies to square off against the American attackers. In what becomes perhaps the worst disaster for the Army Air Forces during World War II, 25 Liberators are shot down in Germany. Two of the crippled warplanes crash-land in France, one in Belgium, and another in England. Two bombers are forced to make emergency landings at alternate airstrips, and only four crews manage to return to Royal Air Force Station Tibenham.

1956: Over California’s Mojave Desert, Capt. Miburn G “Mel” Apt (USAF) cuts loose from the B-50 “Superfortress” and his Bell X-2 rocket plane streaks past the chase planes. Apt becomes the first pilot to fly past Mach 3 (2,098 mph), but sadly Apt’s tenure as the “Fastest Man Alive” is short lived. Just after setting the record, his plane loses control and breaks up, killing the test pilot.

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 11:53 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 26 in U.S. military history

American troops operating the M1916 37mm gun in France, 1918

[Originally published at]

1777: Gen. Sir William Howe outmaneuvers Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army and takes the American capital of Philadelphia. Historically, wars usually end when the capital city falls into enemy hands, but the American Revolution will continue for another six years.

1918: Though technically launched at 11:30 p.m., Sept. 25, with an intense artillery barrage; the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the six-week long “greatest battle of World War I in which the Americans participated” – officially begins just before dawn when whistles are blown along the American trench-lines, and with fixed-bayonets, American soldiers clamber over the top and begin their assault against the German lines. On this day alone, the Army awards eight soldiers with the Medal of Honor.

The battle, which begins with approximately 600,000 American soldiers and Marines, will see U.S. ranks swell to more than one million men. 26,277 Americans will be killed, another 95,786 wounded. But the campaign will end the war.

Meanwhile off the coast of Great Britain, a German U-boat sinks the Coast Guard cutter Tampa on convoy escort duty. Tampa takes 119 Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors and 11 Royal Navy passengers with her to the bottom of the Bristol Channel – the greatest combat-related loss of life at sea for the Americans during World War I.

1945: U.S. Army Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, the chief of the Saigon Office of Special Services, is mistaken for a Frenchman and shot in the head by Viet Minh forces, making Dewey the first American killed by communists in Vietnam.

1983: Shortly after midnight, Moscow’s early warning network reports the launch of an American intercontinental ballistic missile. Despite a period of high tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov realizes that it must be a glitch in the computer system since an American first strike would surely involve hundreds of missiles and does not initiate a retaliatory strike, as Soviet doctrine required. Later, another the system reports the launch of another four missiles. This marks the closest the United States and Soviet Union come to accidental nuclear war.

Posted on September 26, 2017 at 15:52 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 25 in U.S. military history

1775: A small force of American and Canadian militia led by Ethan Allen attempts to capture the British-held city of Montreal. British Gen. Guy Carleton quickly gathers a force of British regulars and Canadian militia, scattering Allen’s troops and capturing the hero of Fort Ticonderoga and former commander of Vermont’s famed “Green Mountain Boys.” Allen will remain a prisoner in England until his exchange in 1778.

That same day, Col. Benedict Arnold sets out with 1,000 men on a poorly planned expedition to Quebec. The trip takes far longer than anticipated, forcing the men to eat their shoes and other leather equipment to survive, and they are soundly defeated by the British once the weakened force reaches their objective in December.

1918: Former Indianapolis 500 driver – now Captain and commander of the Army Air Corps’ 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron – Eddie Rickenbacker becomes a double ace, singlehandedly attacking a flight of seven German warplanes and downing two. For his actions on this day, he will receive one of his nine Distinguished Service Crosses – later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Rickenbacker’s 26 aerial victories by war’s end marks the most by any U.S. fighter pilot during World War I.

1950: Following the successful landing at Inchon and capture of Kimpo Airfield, soldiers and Marines cross the Han River and enter Seoul. The following day, Gen. Douglas MacArthur declares that his forces have recaptured the South Korean capital.

1957: U.S. Army paratroopers – members of the 101st Airborne Division – escort nine black students into Little Rock (Ark.) Central High School, ending racial segregation. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that racially segregated schools are unconstitutional, Governor Orval Faubus, a Democrat, had deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from attending.

1993: A week before the Battle of Mogadishu, an American Blackhawk helicopter is shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade while on a patrol mission over the Somali capital. American and Pakistani units brave heavy enemy fire to secure the site and recover the three soldiers killed in the crash.

Posted on September 25, 2017 at 09:08 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 22 in U.S. military history

An F-14 Tomcat rides off into the sunset

1776: When Gen. George Washington asks for volunteers to go behind enemy lines and report on British troop movements in New York City. Capt. Nathan Hale is the only man to step forward. A fire devastates the city shortly after falling into British hands, and Hale is one of some 200 Americans swept up in the aftermath. Legend states that before Hale is hung, he tells his audience that “My only regret is that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

1927: One year after Gene “The Fighting Marine” Tunney defeats Jack Dempsey and becomes heavyweight champion, the two square off again in one of boxing’s most famous matches. In what will be Dempsey’s last fight, the former champ manages to knocks down Tunney – a veteran of World War I – for the first time in Tunney’s career, but loses the rematch in a unanimous decision. The Fighting Marine, victorious in all but one of his professional matches, will retire after successfully defending his title following his second fight with Dempsey.

1950: Gen. Omar Bradley is promoted to General of the Army. Bradley is the ninth – and last – American officer to wear five stars. While serving as the first Chairman of the newly formed Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bradley will be instrumental in removing fellow five-star general Douglas MacArthur following his public clashes with the Truman Administration.

That same day in Korea, the Communists are in full-scale retreat after being outflanked by the landing at Inchon and the breakout of the Pusan Perimeter.

1975: President – and former Lt. Cmdr. in the Naval Reserve – Gerald Ford survives his second assassination attempt in 17 days when former Marine Oliver Sipple disrupts the attack by hitting the would-be assassin’s gun arm before she can kill the president.

1980: Iraq invades Iran without warning, launching the nearly eight-year Iran-Iraq War. The United States, the Soviet Union, and many other nations throw their weight behind Iraq. Saddam Hussein will kill tens of thousands of Iranians with chemical weapons, and both Iranian and Iraqi will hit American ships during the conflict.

2006: The Navy retires the Grumman F-14 “Tomcat” after 32 years of service. The iconic swept-wing interceptors provided air cover during the American evacuation of Saigon, shot down four Libyan Air Force fighters during the 1980s, dropped precision-guided munitions in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, and saw action in virtually every American conflict during their operational history.

Posted on September 22, 2017 at 09:07 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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