If you had to sit down with a pencil and paper and come up with who you think is the best soldier in American history, who would you choose?
Before we ask who we would choose, we better think of HOW we would choose, because to call this a hard question would be an epic understatement. How would we even pick what elements factor in? To make things easier, perhaps we could name some of our most famous fighting men and work backwards to the question. General George S. Patton and Gen. “Chesty” Puller probably come to mind for most history buffs; both were legendary leaders and tremendous force multipliers. If there was no Patton leading tanks across Europe or Puller commanding Marines in the Pacific, you could safely make the case that World War II would have been longer and more costly.
But narrowing our hypothetical question down to famous officers is too narrow of a scope. Besides, if you invented a program that mass-produced officers on par with Patton and Puller, but didn’t have spectacular privates and non-commissioned officers to command, that force would be combat ineffective. So what about enlisted soldiers like Audie Murphy, who is perhaps the most-decorated soldier in our history? We have to be careful when considering medals, because the military awards process is flawed and highly subjective; for example, the chain of command can lose paperwork (perhaps intentionally); acts can go unwitnessed, such as if the whole unit is wiped out; the war might be unpopular; the secretive nature of special operations forces or combat taking place in sensitive areas; or any of a number of other factors. Plus sometimes well-connected people, like Naval officer (and U.S. Congressman) Lyndon B. Johnson, are awarded medals that they didn’t earn.
Though the system has its flaws, at least medals are a decent indicator of valor, and that is why we publish citations for valor on this site.
If you’ve ever tried to keep pace with another vehicle and talk to someone while both vehicles are in motion, you can probably appreciate how difficult it must be to accomplish the feat at 17,000 miles per hour like Gemini 6 and 7 astronauts had to.
On 15 December 1965 Walter M. Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford blasted off from Cape Canaveral to rendezvous with Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, who had already been in space for several days, studying the effects of long-term spaceflight. The original Gemini 6A aborted on the pad, and some quick thinking by Schirra saved the mission, when he opted not to follow procedure and eject the capsule when their Titan II launch vehicle failed to lift off. Three days later, the astronauts were back on the pad and lifted off without a hitch — with Borman and Lovell watching from space.
Just under six hours later, Gemini 6 closed in on the cramped and weary Gemini 7 crew and practiced rendezvous procedures. Schirra flew circles around Gemini 7 and the astronauts spent five hours traveling together, sometimes just inches apart. NASA produced a fascinating film about the joint missions called PROUD CONQUEST, which you can watch below the fold. Continue reading “Sunday Movie Matinee: Gemini 6 and 7”
1777: A month after arriving in the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette is commissioned “major general” in the Continental Army after offering to serve without pay. Lafayette will meet Gen. George Washington in five days, who is in Philadelphia to brief the Continental Congress on military affairs, then joins Washington’s staff and the two become close friends.
1942: (Operation WATCHTOWER) As Army Air Forces aircraft begin their week-long preparatory bombardment, 16,000 Marines of Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandegrift’s soon-to-be-famous First Marine Division board their landing craft and depart for the invasion of Guadalcanal – the first American offensive of World War II.
1943: As ten soldiers work to fill in a crater on a Sicilian road, the Americans come under machinegun fire from two enemy positions. Sgt. Gerry H. Kisters and his officer move forward to the first nest and captures the gun and its four operators. Then, Kisters closes in on the second gun – by himself. Although wounded five times during his approach, he kills three of the emplacement’s occupants and captures the second machinegun.
For his actions, Kisters is awarded the Medal of Honor. As he is presented with the nation’s top award, he is also awarded the Army’s second highest medal, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), for actions during a May, 1943 battle in Tunisia. Kisters is the first American to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the DSC during World War II.
That same day on New Georgia, Pvt. Rodger W. Young’s men were ordered to fall back as the brass reorganized the defensive lines for the night. Suddenly, an enemy machinegun opens up on the soldiers, and Pvt. Young spots the gun through the foliage 75 yards away. Despite being wounded by the opening burst of fire, he he charges the enemy position as his fellow soldiers fall back. Wounded again on his approach, he reaches a distance where he can engage the enemy with grenades, but is finally cut down. Thanks to his sacrifice, Young’s teammates escape without injury and several Japanese soldiers are neutralized. Young is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: Around the world in 65 days”
COLUMBIA, S.C. – More than 400 runners many with dogs joined Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD) for the 9th annual K9-supporting GUARDIANS OF THE NIGHT 5K run beginning at the S.C. State Fairgrounds, Sat. July 27.
The nighttime run, which began at 10:30 p.m., began inside the fairgrounds with runners exiting the main gate before heading toward and winding through the Rosewood neighborhood and adjacent communities for 3.1 miles (5K). All proceeds from the run went toward the forthcoming purchases of protective vests for RCSD K9s (police service dogs), their veterinarian bills and other needs not covered by the County.
“Much of the costs of caring for the K9s are incurred by individual deputy K9 handlers,” said Capt. Maria Yturria, director of RCSD’s public information office. “This annual run helps with that. And the event is growing in terms of popularity and numbers of participants each year. We had hundreds of runners participating this year not counting several hundred of their family members, friends, and spectators.”
Sheriff Lott said, “This was and always is a fun night for all. It is a huge help and support for our K9 teams, and it is but another opportunity for us to involve the community in the things we do, for citizens to interact with our deputies and they with them. And the kids always love seeing the dogs.” Continue reading “South Carolina Run raises funds for dogs”