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President Trump presents Medal of Honor to widow of World War II veteran Garlin Murl Conner

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H/T Fox News.

R.I.P. 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner June 2,1919-November 5,1998.

This honor is long overdue.

For Pauline Conner, Tuesday is a day she wasn’t sure would ever come.

The widow of 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner waged a 22-year campaign to get his Distinguished Service Cross – which he was awarded for his actions on Jan. 24, 1945 in France – upgraded to a Medal of Honor, as his World War II battalion commander had wanted back then.

“After all these years it really is and truly is an honor,” the 89-year-old widow said Monday at the Pentagon. “I had really and truly given up on it. I just didn’t think it would ever happen. But he has a [combat] record that speaks for itself. I don’t have to tell it.”

President Donald Trump awarded the nation’s highest military decoration to Pauline in a White House ceremony honoring a remarkable moment of heroism from Conner’s 28-month combat career, which took him to North Africa and Europe.

MOH

President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to the widow of 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, above, at the White House on Tuesday.  (U.S. Army)

“Today we tell the story about an incredible hero,” Trump said during the ceremony. “Although he died 20 years ago today he takes his rightful place in the eternal chronicle of American valor.”

The Medal of Honor makes Conner the second-most decorated soldier of World War II, according to the Army, surpassed only by legendary 1st Lt. Audie Murphy.

As it turns out, the veteran’s upgrade needed eyewitness accounts, which were finally found by Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield, who sent a staff member to the National Archives where the necessary documentation was discovered.

army medal

 (U.S. Army )

His widow spoke about the toll his tour of duty, which included being wounded seven times, had on her husband – who she married at the age of 16.

“You know, in World War II and Korea, they didn’t recognize PTSD like they did in Vietnam,” Pauline said at the Pentagon. “But I’ve always said if anybody ever had PTSD, he did. Because many of the times, he’d wake up in the night, you know, with nightmares. And after I would wake him up, and he would go outside, sit on the porch, smoke cigarettes for hours at a time.”

However, her husband still never spoke about what happened to him overseas.

On Jan. 24, 1945, Conner’s soldiers – 7th Infantry, 3rd Battalion – were facing a counterattack from 600 German troops armed with tank destroyers. Instead of retreating, he chose to run forward into enemy fire with a telephone in order to direct artillery fire in hopes of ending end the attack. He stayed in an irrigation ditch for three hours until the battle was won as swarms of German soldiers moved toward his battalion.

“He’d just come back from being wounded. He wasn’t even supposed to be there,” said Erik Villard, digital military historian from the Army Center of Military. “But he came back to his unit and ran forward and volunteered the mission, and did what he did.”

“Today we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared
down evil,” Trump said. “He was indeed a giant, larger than life, he will never ever be forgotten.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, spoke about Conner’s sacrifice on the floor of the senate Tuesday

“I’m proud to congratulate Pauline and her family today. And I would like to thank her, for giving our nation the opportunity to salute First Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner,” McConnell said in a statement. “He embodied the highest values of our Commonwealth and our nation. But this humble man never called himself a hero. So, it’s incumbent upon us to do just that.”

Conner’s Army record during the war included four Silver Stars, French valor awards and three Purple Hearts. He earned the decorations in savage battles between October 1942 and March 1945 as his 3rd Infantry Division unit pushed from Morocco, across Tunisia into Italy, across France and into Germany.

“My husband was a very humble man, and I’m honored to represent him. It’s—it’s not about me; it’s about him. And he was my hero. He was for 53 years, and he still is since he’s been gone 20 years.

 

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Harold Agerholm: Medal Of Honor recipient saved 45 of his comrades to safety before he was cut down in the prime of his life by a sniper

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Private First Class Harold Christ Agerholm January 29, 1925 – July 7, 1944.

Left: Private First Class Harold Christ Agerholm. Right: Two Marines crawling under enemy fire to reach their assigned positions, Saipan, June 1944.

Harold C. Agerholm had a quiet start to his life. After qualifying from school in Racine, Wisconsin he worked as a multigraph operator for the Ranch Manufacturing Company. Then in July 1942, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve.

Upon completion of his recruit training in San Diego, California, Agerholm was sent to the Headquarters and Service Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. He received further training for eleven months with his battalion in Wellington, New Zealand. In January 1943 Agerholm was promoted to Private First Class.

PFC. Harold C. Agerholm, Medal of Honor recipient

In November 1943, a year and a half after first signing up, the young soldier took part in the war, engaging with Japanese forces on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll.

It was the first time American forces faced serious opposition to a landing. The 4,500 Japanese soldiers on the island were well prepared and fought to the last man. They extracted a high price for their deaths. Throughout the incredibly intense battle which lasted for 76 hours, the defenders killed 1,696 and wounded 2,101 US servicemen.

Battle of Saipan, June 1944. The ship in the foreground is the USS Birmingham (CL-62); the cruiser firing in the distance is the USS Indianapolis(CA-35).

The main Japanese defensive plan was to stop the attackers on the beach or in the water. To do so a large number of pillboxes and firing pits had been constructed – all of them with an excellent field of fire over the shoreline. Despite the challenges and the fierce resistance put up by the Imperial Japanese forces, the Marines won the day.

Agerholm then traveled to Hawaii to train for the impending invasion of Saipan. On June 9, 1944, just days after the D-Day landings in Europe, he sailed for Saipan.

In the build-up to the invasion, 14 battleships had fired 165,000 shells at the beaches, although a fear of mines had kept the craft 5 miles out to sea. Also, the inexperience of the artillerists resulted in the bombardment not being as efficient as it could have been.

On June 15, 3000 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the Island’s west coast, while 11 boats gave fire support to cover the operation.

The battle to take the island raged for three weeks as the Japanese displayed the courage and fanatical approach to war as they had shown previously. The defenders launched counter-attack after counter-attack. On July 7 a battalion neighboring Agerholm’s was overrun.

As the Marine’s had been mown down by the Japanese attack, the 19-year-old offered to evacuate casualties. Single-handedly, Agerholm commandeered an ambulance Jeep and made repeated trips, under heavy fire, loading, and unloading wounded men. For three hours he battled through Japanese sniper and mortar fire to move 45 of his comrades to safety before he was cut down in the prime of his life by a sniper.

Very effective Japanese sniper.

The final day of the battle on July 9 witnessed the largest banzai attack in the entire Pacific War. The suicide charge involved 3,000 of the remaining fighting Japanese and also, incredibly, the walking wounded behind them.

The terrifying Banzai charge.

The soldiers surged over the front line of the Americans, killing or injuring 650 members of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment. During the fifteen hour attack, over 4,300 Japanese were killed. Three men of the 105th Infantry earned a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Marines dig in after hitting the beach

 

The victory was costly for the American forces, who lost 2,949 men killed and 10,464 wounded. It was much worse for the Japanese. The defenders, who fought so fiercely to resist the invasion, had almost their entire garrison of 30,000 killed. Among the dead, were around 1,000 civilians who committed suicide. Emperor Hirohito ordered them to do so as he did not want the generosity offered to them by the Americans used as propaganda against Japan.

Agerholm was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. His citation read:

“Locating and appropriating an abandoned ambulance jeep, he repeatedly made extremely perilous trips under heavy rifle and mortar fire and single-handedly loaded and evacuated approximately forty-five casualties, working tirelessly and with utter disregard for his own safety during a grueling period of more than three hours. Despite intense, persistent enemy fire, he ran out to aid two men whom he believed to be wounded Marines but was himself mortally wounded by a Japanese sniper while carrying out his hazardous mission.”

Navy SEAL to Receive Medal of Honor for Rescue Attempt in Afghanistan

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H/T Breitbart.

It is good to hear that Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski is finally being honored for his bravery.

U.S Navy

A retired Navy SEAL who led an attempt to rescue a fellow service member stranded on a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002 will receive the Medal of Honor on May 24, the White House announced Monday.

Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski will receive the medal later this month for leading a reconnaissance team that was under fire to rescue a “seriously wounded teammate” stranded on an Afghanistan mountaintop on March 4, 2002, according to the statement released by the White House.

The Navy Times reported that Slabinski carried out the rescue during Operation Anaconda in 2002.

Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he engaged in a pitched, close-quarters firefight against the tenacious and more heavily armed enemy forces,” the announcement stated.

He led his team “through waist-deep snow” while continuing to fight the enemy.

The man Slabinski and his team tried to rescue, Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman, later died an exchange of fire with the enemy combatants. Although the White House has not announced it publicly, a report from last month stated that Chapman would receive the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The Medal of Honor is given to those who risk their lives to go above and beyond their duties as service members.

Slabinski is only the 12th living service member to receive the Medal of Honor for displaying bravery in Afghanistan, and his Medal of Honor is an upgrade from the Navy Cross he received for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the Navy.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and became a SEAL two years later, according to the White House. Throughout his career, Slabinski went on nine overseas deployments and 15 combat deployments to operations supporting the War on Terrorism— including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Douglas Jacobson: The Iwo Jima Killing Machine Who Took Out 75 Enemy Soldiers And 16 Fortified Positions in the Battle of Hill 382

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Major Douglas Thomas Jacobson November 25, 1925 – August 20, 2000.

Marines land on the beach at Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima was a unique bloodbath in the American Pacific campaign. It was the only time in the entire conflict that Japanese casualties numbered less than the United States dead and wounded.

The battle for the strip of land raged for five weeks. Those who fought for control of the rock engaged in some of the most bloody and fierce fighting that took place in the whole of the Pacific theater during WWII.

Iwo Jima sits halfway between the Mariana Islands and Tokyo. It contained two airfields that were strategically important. From them, short-range planes could take off to escort the thunderous B-29 bombers that were trying to pummel Japan to surrender. The strips could also be used to allow the pilots to land in an emergency after a raid.

Defending the volcanic outcrop were 20,000 Japanese fighters hidden in caves and blockhouses.

Douglas T. Jacobson;

Jacobson was born in Rochester, New York in 1925 and went to elementary and high school locally. After graduation, he joined the family business and worked for his father before becoming a lifeguard and swimming instructor. At the tender age of 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve.

At the completion of his training, Jacobson was transferred to North Carolina and promoted to private first class in July 1943. He took part in combat action in Tinian, Marianas Islands, Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division.

By the time he got to Iwo Jima, Jacobson had already been earmarked as an excellent warrior. He had been commended during the fighting on Saipan for his performance with a Browning automatic rifle.

Assaulting Iwo Jima alongside Jacobson were 75,000 Marines who attempted to defeat their enemy for weeks. The Japanese had built themselves an extensive network of bunkers and artillery positions as well as over 10 miles of underground tunnels.

Apart from the massive numerical advantage, the American forces also had naval and aerial supremacy over the Japanese.

Members of the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines on Yellow Beach 1.  Mount Suribachi is in the background;

Commanding the garrison force was Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who knew he could not avoid defeat. The Japanese, therefore, focused on causing massive casualties on the attacking Marines. In order to achieve it, Kuribayashi arranged his defenses further inland and used a connected tunnel system to help troop movements go undetected.

Despite the careful planning, each American soldier was given only 60% of the ammunition required for an engagement by one division and four months worth of food.

When the Marines landed, the Japanese held their fire until their numbers piled up on the beach. Then they unleashed hell upon the Americans. Machine guns, mortars and heavy artillery thundered into the volcanic ash, which was useless for digging defensive foxholes.

The battle is famous for the picture of five marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. In reality, it raged on for 31 more days, and Jacobson made his name in action three days after the flag had been raised.

Jacobson was fighting for his life on Hill 382, the meat grinder when his platoon’s advance was stalled. After snatching a bazooka from a dead marine, normally wielded by two men, and a satchel of explosive he used it to destroy an anti-aircraft gun and its crew. He then calmly followed that up by eliminating two machine-gun positions. After that, he took out a blockhouse and succeeded in wiping out the occupants before proceeding to kill five men in a pillbox and blowing it up.

Not content, Jacobson then advanced and wielded his weapon with fearsome accuracy to destroy seven rifle emplacements that made up the perimeter of defenses in his assigned sector.

US Marines pose on top of an enemy pillbox with a captured Japanese flag;

Jacobson then joined another assault company and destroyed a further pillbox that was holding up their advance. He pounded fire down onto a tank and then amazingly smashed the tank’s gun turret before taking out another blockhouse in a single-handed assault.

This superhuman feat of soldering carried on when Jacobson destroyed a tank and continued attacking blockhouses. At the end of the day, the Marine had succeeded in killing 75 enemy soldiers and taking out 16 enemy fortifications. Despite his heroic efforts, it took them four more days to capture Hill 382.

When asked what had inspired such incredible feats, the New York Times reported Jacobson simply replied: “I don’t know how I did it, I had one thing in mind – getting off that hill”. In October 1945, he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.

After the war he became disillusioned with civilian life and the hero re-enlisted in the Marines, serving in China and Vietnam. Jacobson eventually rose to the rank of Major and died in Florida in 2000. He was survived by his wife, three daughters and two grandchildren.

After suffering horrendous wounds, Rodolfo Hernandez eventually woke up with the Medal of Honor

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Corporal Rodolfo Pérez “Rudy” Hernández April 14, 1931 – December 21, 2013.

Left: Rudy Hernandez, U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient, outside the Hangar at NASA Langley in 2009. Right: US 187 RCT airdrop near Sunchon.

Left for dead, it was only when placing Rodolfo Hernandez into a body bag that a fellow soldier noticed his fingers twitching. Covered in blood and officially pronounced dead by those present, this story of resurrection to the Nation’s highest military honor is one for the halls of history.

In 1951 Korea, Hernandez and his platoon were in defensive positions on Hill 420. When the enemy came surging across the lines in numerically superior groups backed by heavy artillery and mortar fire, Hernandez’s platoon was forced to withdraw. Refusing to give ground, Hernandez continued to exchange grenade fire with the enemy. Despite already being wounded, when his stash of grenades ran empty, he charged headlong into the enemy with nothing but a rifle and fixed bayonet. Slicing and dicing he killed six enemy soldiers, disrupting their attack until he eventually collapsed due to extensive grenade, bayonet and bullet wounds. He woke up a month later and had to learn how to walk, write and talk again. However, he did so as the newest recipient of America’s highest military honor.

Ready for His Turn

Rodolfo P. Hernandez was born in 1931 rural California into a family of Mexican American farmworkers. Not content for a life of work on the farm for himself, Hernandez sought service to his country at an early age. Having watched the WWII generation fight in that brutal war, as soon as he was able he insisted on doing his part. In 1948 at the age of 17 and with the consent of his parents, he joined the United States Army. Unsure what the post war era would bring, Hernandez wanted to put himself in the middle of the action, whatever may come.

Volunteering for the airborne, Hernandez joined the ranks of the famed paratroopers and was stationed in Germany until fate intervened. In 1950, hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers poured across their border into South Korea and Hernandez, along with the rest of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, headed for Korea.

By 1951, Hernandez was with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 167th Airborne Regimental Combat Team standing their ground on Hill 420. The enemy had previously occupied Hill 420 and on May 31, they decided they wanted it back. Launching an attack in overwhelmingly superior numbers, they were on the verge of breaking through and Company G were receiving heavy casualties and quickly running out of ammunition. Unfortunately for the North Koreans, Hernandez had no plans to give ground easily.

Hernández in uniform

Fight Until the End

As the enemy began to surge up the hill and with American casualties mounting, the order for the men of Company G to withdraw was given. At that point, the fighting was close quarters and in many cases, hand to hand. Choosing to hold his ground as his fellow soldiers attempted to withdraw, Hernandez engaged in an exchange of grenades with the enemy resulting in devastation to the foe but also injuries to himself. He then took to the enemy with his rifle. Firing at such a rapid pace, a cartridge in his rifle erupted giving Hernandez a choice. He could withdraw with his men or continue to take the fight to the enemy.

Hernandez chose the latter and with his rifle out of commission, he emerged with his bayonet and charged the assaulting enemy. Slicing and dicing as best he could, his aggression disrupted the enemy attack causing a halt in their momentum. It gave the Americans an opportunity to plan and reorganize an attack to take back the hill.

Hernandez had taken out six additional enemy soldiers with his gallant last stand, but a combination of grenade, bullet and bayonet wounds caused him to collapse. Yet, his stand had proved vital to the American effort to retake the hill. Soon, the Americans were collecting the bodies of their gallant few who had refused to withdraw. Upon initial observation, Hernandez was dead. With a gaping wound to his head and covered in blood there was certainly no chance he had survived. However, Rodolfo Hernandez had one last fight still in him.

U.S. Army paratroopers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team jump out of U.S. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars of the 403rd Troop Carrier Wing during a maneuver near Taegu, Korea, on 1 November 1952.

From Death to Life

As soldiers were loading Hernandez into a body bag, one of them noticed finger movements in their fallen hero. Immediately calling for medical aid, against all odds it turned out Hernandez had survived. He had just made a gallant stand on Hill 420 worthy of the nation’s highest military honor but his award would have to wait. Hernandez spent the next month unconscious only to wake up in a military hospital unaware of the honor he had earned.

Hernandez had to relearn how to walk, write and even talk in the years ahead. However, it did not stop him from receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in 1952. After a long recovery, he eventually regained the ability to speak, use of his right arm and the respect of every soldier who witnessed his actions on Hill 420 that day.

He married, had three children and served with the Veteran’s Administration in North Carolina. Despite the waves of North Koreans who had tried to end his life early, it was illness that he eventually succumbed to. At the age of 82, some 60 years after Hill 420, Rodolfo Hernandez died – a father, grandfather and gallant legend in the halls of military history.

Vietnam: Ignored Heavy Damage To His Aircraft & Repeatedly Attacked Enemy FLAK With Bombs & Cannon Fire

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Colonel Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen June 29, 1934 – December 14, 1987.

Colonel Dethlefsen personifies the word hero.

In 1967, the US Air Force attacked an industrial facility in North Vietnam. One of the American planes was severely damaged by intense flak, both from the ground, as well as by fire from enemy aircraft.

However, instead of heading back to base as the pilot should have, he continued his assault. In doing so, he destroyed two missile sites, for which he received the Medal of Honor – America’s highest military award for acts of valor.

During the Vietnam War, the Americans could not stop North Vietnam from supporting communist insurgency movements in South Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson decided to play hardball by launching Operation Rolling Thunder on March 2, 1965.

He aimed to bomb North Vietnam back to the Stone Age without sending ground troops into the North. The idea was to demoralize the North Vietnamese people and undermine their communist government. Not since the bombing raids on Germany and Japan during WWII had the US engaged in such intense and sustained mass destruction.

Thái Nguyên is a province in the Northeast region of Vietnam. It has long been a producer of tea. In 1917, Thái Nguyên City became a major center in the revolt against French occupation. By 1956, it was one of the main headquarters of the Viet Minh, and by 1959, it was the center of North Vietnam’s developing steel industry.

Still reeling from the damage caused by the war of independence against France, North Vietnam pinned much of its hope on the city and its factory. As such, it was a major political, trade, transportation, railway, and communication hub.

With the onset of the Cold War, it received aid, funding, and technical expertise from the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Little wonder, then, that it was one of the most well-defended cities in North Vietnam: armed with a surface-to-air missile (SAM) complex, anti-aircraft guns, and a ring of automatic weapons. For the Americans, it was the perfect target.

A B-66 Destroyer and F-105 Thunderchiefs release their payload of bombs over North Vietnam as part of Operation Rolling Thunder on 14 June 1966

A B-66 Destroyer and F-105 Thunderchiefs release their payload of bombs over North Vietnam as part of Operation Rolling Thunder on 14 June 14, 1966;

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand were not fans of communism. Only two small countries, Laos to their north and Cambodia to their south separated them from Vietnam. Feeling threatened, they asked the Americans for help.

Much of Rolling Thunder’s aerial assaults were launched from Thailand air bases at Korat, Takhli, Ubon, and Udon Thani. The Thakhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in the Nakhon Sawan Province was relatively close to Thái Nguyên.

Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen joined the US Air Force in 1953 at the age of 19. In 1965, he earned a major in business from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the following year, he was deployed to Southeast Asia. In 1967 he achieved the rank of Captain. Dethlefsen flew F-105 Thunderchief fighters with the 333rd and the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron of 335th Tactical Fighter Wing.

On March 1, 1967, his strike force was assigned to attack the Thái Nguyên steel factory, but it was the rainy season. Heavy clouds lay low over the cluster of tea-growing hills of the region, making visibility zilch.

 

A McDonnell F-4B Phantom II
A McDonnell F-4B Phantom II;

On March 8, the clouds lifted, so Dethlefsen and his team took to the skies – only to turn back again due to heavy rain. On the way, they made secondary strikes in Laos to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong supply routes.

The skies finally cleared on March 10, and a strike force of 72 fighter-bombers made up of F-105 Thunderchiefs, and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs took off from different airbases.

Flying well ahead of them were four other F-105s. Dethlefsen piloted the number three plane. They were on a fire-suppression mission to destroy the enemy’s anti-aircraft defenses and protect the 72 aircraft that were to bomb the steel factory and its supporting facilities.

A Republic F-105D-30-RE Thunderchief armed with M117 750 lb bombs
A Republic F-105D-30-RE Thunderchief armed with M117 750 lb bombs;

The lead plane was manned by Major David Everson and Captain Jose Luna. As they approached the factory complex, their aircraft was shot down by 85mm AAA fire. Everson and Luna survived but were captured. Their wingman (the plane that flies behind and to one side) was also severely damaged and returned to base.

That left Dethlefsen and his wingman piloted by Major Kenneth Holmes Bell. Dethlefsen took charge. He ordered a second strike during which he received several hits from the anti-aircraft guns below. He veered off – straight into an incoming Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, a supersonic jet fighter plane. At such close range, the enemy pilot quickly hit both him and his wingman Bell.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21;

Rather than retreat, the American pilots destroyed several anti-aircraft guns before veering off – only to find themselves up against a second MiG. They were again hit from both the air and the ground.

Assessing the damage, Dethlefsen decided he could still go a few more rounds. Bell thought so too and went after the first MiG as it swooped back for a second shootout. The second MiG was still maneuvering out of its first strike, giving Dethlefsen a chance to dive lower.

Although the American planes had taken severe damage, Dethlefsen destroyed as many SAMS as he could by repeatedly flying through the smoke and incoming anti-aircraft fire.

Major Kenneth Holmes Bell
Major Kenneth Holmes Bell;

Diving kamikaze-like, he fired his 20 mm cannons, taking out two missile sites. Despite the damage to his plane, Bell was also able to dive and destroy another missile site.

By then their planes were too heavily damaged for any more heroics, so they flew back to Takhli. The other 72 bombers completed their strike on the steel factory complex and surrounding city without the loss of a single aircraft.

Operation Rolling Thunder finally ended on November 2, 1968, leaving an estimated 180,000 North Vietnamese civilians dead. The steel factory at Thái Nguyên opened again on August 29, 2013.

For his heroic actions, Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson on February 1, 1968. He became the third of 12 airmen so honored during the Vietnam War.

Dethlefsen died at the age of 53 of natural causes on December 14, 1987. He is buried in Section 65 of Arlington National Cemetery.

MoH: 8 German soldiers moved in to try to capture one wounded Edward Carter – It Didn’t End Too Well

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sergeant Edward Allen Carter May 26, 1916 – January 30, 1963.

One look at the life of Medal of Honor recipient Edward Allen Carter and it doesn’t take you long to realize that this was a man who just wanted to get into the fight wherever he could find it.

His parents service as missionaries in Asia would mean the first fight he could find at age 15 was the Chinese National Army battling the Japanese in Shanghai. When that fight was no longer available to him, he decided to jump into the fighting taking place during the Spanish Civil War and fought with the Loyalist.

Then with the rest the world decided to get in on the fighting as well, this veteran of two wars would finally enlist in the United States Army to serve the country in which he was originally born. And while his race as an African-American would initially hinder his ability to fight in Europe, the man with the nose for it found his way to the action and picked himself up a Medal of Honor along the way.

An Early Start to the Fight

Edward Carter was born in California in 1916 to an African-American father and East Indian mother who served as missionaries. Their service would take them to India where he would spend many of his early years growing up and then eventually settling Shanghai China.

Fortunately, if you’re a 15-year-old young man looking for a fight in 1932, China Shanghai was the place. The Shanghai incident which would be a prelude to the greater Sino-Japanese war erupted and Edward Carter decided to fight on behalf of the Chinese.

Unfortunately, while he did see action, it was short-lived when the Army found out he was only 15 years old and forced him out.

Chinese military police fight during the Shanghai incident in 1932 via commons.wikimedia.org
Chinese military police fight during the Shanghai incident in 1932

Taking his combat experience with him, Carter would come of age and find his next opportunity for a fight in Spain. The Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, and Carter jumped at the opportunity to serve as a Corporal in the socialist Abraham Lincoln Brigade which was an American volunteer unit opposing the fascist.

He was quickly able to distinguish himself, perhaps due to fighting his first war at age 15, and became a hardened veteran before most Americans had even contemplated the idea of war. However, when his side of the Civil War took a turn for the worse, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was forced to flee in 1938.

He subsequently made his way back to America where he met his wife and heading into his mid-20s contemplated settling down. But the world was not done with war yet and war was not done with Edward Carter. Just before the US entry into the war, Carter enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1941 once again quickly established himself as a man who knew what he was doing.

Standing out above the average recruit, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant in less than a year, but his race and suspicions about his involvement with the socialist in Spain would hamper his military career.

From Suspicion to Gallantry

The Army quickly opened a counterintelligence file on Carter and monitored his activities due to his exposure to the socialist in Asia and Spain. His mail was read, his whereabouts reported, and the fact that he had a speaking knowledge of Chinese only seemed to add to the paranoia.

Finally, in 1944, he would eventually get his chance to at least get close to the fight, but was assigned to supply duties due to his race. One might think that a veteran of two wars could be of some use in combat, but it was a different era for the United States military at that time.

However, when replacements in the combat arms began to run short in December 1944, Eisenhower created a volunteer force called replacement command that allowed rear echelon soldiers of any race to jump into the fight.

African American troops serving in an anti-aircraft battery in Europe via commons.wikimedia.org
African American troops serving in an anti-aircraft battery in Europe

Carter enthusiastically volunteered despite the fact that he would have to accept a reduction in rank to private so as not to find himself in a position to command white soldiers. Wanting nothing more than to fight, Carter happily accepted and just as one might expect his experience showed up in a big way when it mattered most.

On March 23, 1945, Carter was riding on a tank when it was hit by a bazooka and caught fire. Without hesitation, Carter dismounted and led three of his fellow soldiers to engage the Germans forces.

Under heavy fire, two of the men were initially killed and the third wounded. Undeterred Carter pursued the enemy in a lone charge that resulted in him being wounded up to five times before he eventually had to take cover.

At that time, eight German soldiers moved in to try to capture one wounded Edward Carter. But little did the Germans know, those odds were not in their favor. At close range, Carter killed six of the German soldiers who attempted his capture and then captured the final two.

Being the wily veteran that he was, he used the two prisoners as cover from the enemy fire as he crossed back over the field.

A Medal of Honor Never Seen

The captured German soldiers provided valuable intelligence and those who witnessed Carter’s actions couldn’t deny his inexplicable capacity for combat. Due to his race, he was initially awarded the Distinguished service cross rather the Medal of Honor many believed he duly warranted.

Carter would recover from his severe wounds that day and return home hoping to pursue a future career in the military. However, post-World War II fears of socialism were at an all-time high and he was denied reenlistment in 1949 because of his prior affiliations from the Spanish Civil War.

Edward Carter died of lung cancer in 1963 and took with him a remarkable story that belongs in the halls of history. When subsequent investigations decades later examined whether soldiers had been denied the medal of honor due to race, Carter’s name was quickly evaluated.

In 1997, Pres. Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Edward Carter the Medal of Honor. And while Carter may never have gotten to see that medal or live to see the day when his exploits were truly appreciated, his undeniable gallantry and commitment to the fight are an inspiration for all who would have the courage to pick arms and enter into the fray of combat.

He’s Called The Ghost, Has The Same Medal Count As Audie Murphy, And Is Virtually Unknown

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Lieutenant Colonel Matt Louis Urban (born Matthew Louis Urbanowicz) August 25, 1919 – March 4, 1995.

By the time a man earns seven Purple Hearts and lives to talk about it, he could either be described as one of the luckiest men alive or perhaps just one of the bravest.  At the very least this is a person who has proven he won’t quit even under the direst circumstances – even when those circumstances include being shot in the neck.

Such is the case of Matt Louis Urban, or as he was more appropriately known: “The Ghost.” By the time World War 2 ended, the Ghost would be awarded the Medal of Honor along with seven purple hearts, two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars with a V, and a number of other honors making him one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the war.

For Urban, it seemed he did his best fighting when wounded and with each Purple Heart, one could always expect to find an act of inexplicable gallantry to follow.

Destined for Gallantry

Matt Urban was born August 25, 1919, in Buffalo, New York to an immigrant Polish Catholic family. After High School, he would go on to attend University at Cornell where he ran track and proved an accomplished boxer along with joining the ROTC. He joined the regular Army in 1941 and went on to receive a 2nd Lieutenant Commission before serving in seven Campaigns in the coming war and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

While his story before the war it not unlike most men of that era, it was his ability to take a hit and then keep on fighting that would distinguish him.

US Army soldiers and jeeps on their way to the front lines, Saint-Lô, France, July 1944.

Throughout the war, Urban would find himself wounded time and time again and yet would often have to be wrestled and dragged away from the fight by his own men – even after being severely wounded. Once he even left a hospital without permission and hitchhike back to France to join his men at the front.

By the time Normandy rolled around, Urban would already find himself wounded by shrapnel from his time in Africa and the subject of several gallant actions worthy of accommodation.  In Tunisia, he sparked a counterattack against all the odds when the Germans attacked, and his unit began to retreat. He continued to press the attack and rushed a German with only his trench knife, stabbing him to death.

After that, he grabbed the German’s gun and sent their own ammo back at the charging Germans with a devastating effect. As the Germans mounted a counterattack, Urban was wounded and would reluctantly earn the first of his many Purple Hearts.

But Urban wasn’t sent home and was ordered to aid in the effort to invade Normandy. Between the 14th of June, 1944 to the first week of September, Urban would prove his North Africa heroics were just the opening act.

Refusing to Leave the Fight

Assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division on June 14th he and his company were near Renouf, France when the company came under an intense barrage of tank and small arms fire. They immediately began taking heavy casualties from the relentless and withering tank fire, and Urban knew he had to take action if his men were to survive.

He grabbed a nearby bazooka and a man to carry the bazooka rounds, and together they charged through the hedgerows to find the enemy tanks raining destruction down upon their friends. Urban and his ammo carrier managed to avoid taking any hits from the small-arms fire and eventually found the two tanks firing on the other men.

Urban took careful aim at the first tank, then blasted it. He then reloaded and carefully aligned the sights before sending the round toward the enemy. This knocked the second tank out. The company then surged forward and drove off the remaining enemy soldiers.

Heavy fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy via commons.wikimedia.org
Heavy fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy

The day’s heroics weren’t over for Urban and his men. Near Orglandes, France a few miles away, Urban was leading his men forward when they came under fire from a 37 mm tank gun. Urban was hit, but as the men moved to evacuate him, he physically fought them off and went on to lead his men to set up defenses to secure their position for the night.

It became clear through the night that he was badly wounded and in need of evacuation but still Urban refused to relent.   Despite the obvious wounds, the next day he led his Company in an attack where he was again hit. Seriously wounded his men got help, and he was evacuated to England for the time being.

A month later Urban was still recovering from his wounds when word arrived that the unit was being devastated in the hedgerow fighting in Normandy. Urban was not the type of man to lie on a cot while his men took fire and checked himself out of the hospital.

He hitched rides all the way back to the front at St. Lo, France and there he found that his men had just departed for the opening stages of Operation Cobra. Despite a serious limp which slowed him down, Urban raced ahead to reclaim command of his company.

Back in the Fight

Once he made it, he found the attack was stalled and in serious danger of faltering. Two of his support tanks had been destroyed, and the third was operational but with no gunner, and no tank commander, it was useless and going nowhere. So Urban rounded up a lieutenant and sergeant and ordered them to take over the tank and use it to take out the enemy defense. Both men ran to the tank and scaled it, but the Nazis were waiting and opened up, killing the two before they could get in the tank.

Urban once again took immediate action. Though crippled by his leg wound he charged toward the tank, totally disregarding his own safety. Injured, and fully aware of the enemy accuracy, he threw himself into the fire, climbed the tank and took over the machine gun turret. There he sent scathing fire back at the enemy position with such a devastating effect that his men counterattacked and destroyed the Nazi positions.

60th Infantry soldiers alongside of a Sherman “Rhino” tank in Belgium

Later in August, Urban was wounded twice more and once in the chest by shrapnel. Still suffering from all his prior wounds, that didn’t stop him from taking over command of 2ndBattalion. Even though he was in a command position and in no expectation to be on the front lines, Urban was not willing to sit out a fight.

In early September, at the Meuse River close to Heer, Belgium, Urban personally led a charge against Nazi small-arm positions, mortars and artillery. In open terrain, he was struck in the neck by enemy fire. After the shock had subsided, he realized he couldn’t speak above a whisper and must have finally known he was dangerously close to death.

Once more he would not let his men take him out of the battle until he was sure the US forces had beaten back the Germans and took the Meuse River Crossing.  With success ensured and bleeding heavily from the neck, Urban finally relented to leave the fight.

Matt Urban receiving the Medal of Honor in 1979 via http://www.toledoblade.com/Michigan/2005/05/30/Monroe-hero-may-have-most-WW-II-medals.html
Matt Urban receiving the Medal of Honor in 1979

In 1944, Major Max Wolf filed a report recommending Urban for the Medal of Honor.  However, when Major Wolf was killed in action, the report was misfiled lost to time until 1979.  When an inquiry was made why his actions didn’t warrant the Medal of Honor, the missing report was found, and the Army finally finished the paperwork.

In 1979 he received the Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter and the long overdue thanks of a grateful nation.  The man who likely should not have survived the war continued to press on until he passed away in 1995 from a collapsed lung.

MoH: Private Towle of the 82nd Airborne Stopped a German Armored Counter Attack in Holland with a Bazooka

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Private John Roderick Towle October 19, 1924 – September 21, 1944.

Many might hold the common assumption that in the battle of man versus tank, heavy armor is sure to win.  However, students of the history of war know full well that aggressive infantry can wreak havoc on armor, and one would be hard pressed to find an infantryman as aggressive or tough as Private John R. Towle of the US 82nd Airborne.

Army Pvt. John R. Towle, 19, of Cleveland, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II for breaking up a German attack of troops and tanks in Holland.

Near Oosterhout, Holland during Operation Market Garden, Private Towle would take on not one, but two tanks along with a half-track and a good number of German infantry.  And while he wasn’t exactly fighting alone, he rushed forward through intense enemy fire to position his rocket launcher so that infantry could score a few more wins in the historic battle of man versus tank.

He would fall in combat that day, but not before he carried on the gallant legacy of the mighty 82nd Airborne.

A Big Impact in a Short War

For the young 19-year-old Towle, it would be a short war as he enlisted in 1943 before subsequently falling in combat a little over a year later.  However, that was the case for many young men who reached fighting age in the last years of the war and unfortunately, these last years would see the heaviest casualties as an increasingly desperate enemy fought for every inch.

A son of Cleveland Ohio, Private Towle’s enlistment in 1943 would take him to Company C, 504th Parachute Regiment 82nd Airborne Division.

 

Members of the 504th manning a mortar position in Italy via commons.wikimedia.org
Members of the 504th manning a mortar position in Italy

The 504th would see action from North Africa to Italy.  In Italy, the unit would pick up the nickname “The Devils in Baggy Pants” after the following journal entry was taken from a German officer killed at Anzio: “American parachutists…devils in baggy pants…are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere, and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”

That same fighting spirit would carry with the 504th all the way to Germany.  After the Italian campaigns, including an extended stay at Anzio, the 504th was transferred to England in early 1944 in preparation for the invasion at D-Day.  However, the 504th would not take part in the massive invasion and would instead be held back waiting for replacements and subsequent missions to jump over Europe.

Instead of D-Day, fate would have the 504th participating in the largest paratrooper drop in history as they descended over the fields of the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden.

Operation Market Garden

In September of 1944, the Allies conducted Operation Market Garden, which was an attempt to gain a foothold across the Rhine river in hopes of then moving into Germany and ending the war as early as possible. However, the Germans were still capable of putting up quite a fight, and the success of this mission would require paratroopers securing key bridges in advance of rapidly advancing ground forces.

A few days after the jump, Private Towle would find himself holding a defensive position near the recently established Nijmegen bridgehead.

Members of the 82nd descending over Holland via commons.wikimedia.org
Members of the Polish Parachute Brigade descending in The Netherlands on the same dropzone as the 504th landed earlier.

On September 20th, the 3rd Battalion of the 504th gallantly crossed the Waal River in canvas boats in broad daylight. A small bridgehead was established, and both the Road and Rail bridges were finally captured, thereby allowing XXXCorps to cross the last water barrier before Arnhem. For the Germans, taking back the bridges across the Waal was of the utmost importance thus it launched sharp counterattacks on the 504th perimeter.

Defending the north-west side of the bridgehead, on September 21st, Private Towle was serving as a rocket launcher gunner when he observed a German force comprising of 100 plus infantry, two tanks and a half-track massing for a counterattack with the potential to threaten the entire American position.

Recognizing the danger and without orders, Private Towle left the cover of his foxhole and raced 200 yards towards the enemy in order to secure a firing position for his rocket launcher.  Finding a dike roadbed with very little cover, he took on the two tanks to his immediate front and scored direct hits on both.

While the enemy armor was not penetrated by the rocket attack, they were both damaged and forced to withdraw minimizing their ability to support the attack.  Still under heavy small-arms fire, Private Towle noticed 9 Germans head into a nearby house to serve as a firing position.  Without hesitation, Towle loaded up another rocket and gifted one to the enemy in that house killing all 9 German occupants.

After resupplying his ammunition, he continued to aggressively take on the counterattack head on.  He rushed over 100 yards forward in order to fire upon the half-track and just before pulling the trigger with the vehicle in his sights, a mortar shell landed nearby mortally wounding this heroic 19-year-old Private from Cleveland, Ohio.

A Medal of Honor

United States Medal of Honor

Although he didn’t get to take out that final half-track, his actions inspired the rest of the men in that position as he personally broke up the German counterattack.  For his actions that day, Private John R. Towle was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and action above and beyond the call of duty.

XXXCorps never made it to Arnhem and Operation Market Garden was considered an Allied operational failure. The Allies suffered heavy casualties during this campaign with estimates ranging from 15,000 to 17,000.

However, were it not for men such as Private Towle who carried on the legacy of the mighty 82nd Airborne the cost could have been much higher.  For when the bullets start flying in battle, war always becomes a battle for the man next to you and in that manner, Towle and the men of the 504th performed above expectation.

The people of the Netherlands saw much during this long struggle and in September of 1944, anyone who looked up into the sky would have witnessed the largest airborne assault in history and one Private Towle descending towards his future in the hallowed halls of military heroism.

With Every Other Senior Officer Dead, the Battle Control Officer of the USS San Francisco Waded through Waist Deep Water to Save the Ship

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Rear Admiral Herbert Emery Schonland September 7, 1900 – November 13, 1984.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Herbert E. Schonland and USS San Francisco  

It is a scenario we have seen play out in the movies time and time again. Amidst heavy combat, a naval vessel is taking on water fast as the crew scrambles around to contain the damage. Yet, for some men, Hollywood could only paint a vague shadow of what such an experience is really like. For Lieutenant Commander Herbert Schonland, this would be his reality off the coast of Guadalcanal in 1942.

During an intense nighttime naval battle with the Imperial Japanese Navy, Lieutenant Commander Schonland would find himself in command of the USS San Francisco after an Admiral, the Captain, and every other senior officer had been killed. In the pitch black of night with nothing but a hand lantern for illumination, he waded through waist-deep water and saved the ship.

For his actions, he would receive the Medal of Honor and the gratitude of every sailor on that ship who didn’t feel like going for a swim that night.

Fit for Duty at Sea

Born in 1900 Portland Maine, Herbert’s Schonland seemed destined for a life at sea. Appointed to attend the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, he graduated in 1925 as an ensign and reported to the USS Utah for sea duty.

During the years prior to World War II, he would serve on a variety of ships as was common for an up-and-coming officer. However, in June 1939 he would be assigned to the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco where he would remain until 1944.

The men of the USS San Francisco can count their blessings that such a skilled and able battle control officer was gifted to them. Otherwise, the San Francisco would find herself today making a beautiful coral reef for tropical fish off the coast of Guadalcanal.

USS San Francisco via commons.wikimedia.org
USS San Francisco

The USS San Francisco would play a pivotal role early on in the war. As fate would have it, the San Francisco was in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 awaiting maintenance and upgrades. With much of the ship broken down for an overhaul, her ammunition was in storage and many of the guns had been removed.

When the Japanese began the attack, only small arms and two .30 in (7.6mm) machine guns were available. With most of the officers and enlisted men absent from the ship, those who remained behind did their best to fight back with what they could and some crossed over onto other ships to help man their weapon systems.

It remains to be seen whether or not the San Francisco’s disheveled state played a role, but the San Francisco would escape the attack on Pearl Harbor without being bombed or damaged. As a result, with a quick workup and turnaround, she set out to sea in mid-December where she would play a vital role as one of the few unscathed ships of the Pacific Fleet.

Aboard, Lieutenant Commander Schonland would serve as the damage control officer and a late 1942 rendezvous with the Japanese off Guadalcanal would push his abilities to the limit.

Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

In August 1942, the US landed on Guadalcanal to seize a Japanese airfield under construction with the potential to threaten Australia. Later renamed Henderson Field, the Japanese would make multiple attempts to reclaim the airfield which required the presence of additional troops who were to be ferried in by sea.

As a result, a game of cat and mouse occurred around these islands as the Japanese and Americans attempted to locate and discern the other’s fleet movements.

Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal via commons.wikimedia.org
Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal

On the afternoon of November 12, 1942, a Japanese air group attacked the task force of which the USS San Francisco was a part. During this aerial attack, a damaged torpedo bomber crash into the San Francisco killing 15 men and wounding 30. After evacuating the wounded and deceased, the San Francisco joined the hunt for the Japanese fleet.

Sometime after midnight on the morning of November 13, one of the key early naval engagements of World War II would take place. When the time for action came, the San Francisco opened fire in the pitch dark night upon an enemy cruiser and destroyer. Fully engaged with the enemy, the San Francisco would soon find herself in the sights of a Japanese battleship, destroyer, and cruiser making her the unwelcome recipient of a trifecta of naval fire.

Japanese planes shot down near Guadalcanal on November 12, 1942

The San Francisco continued to fight back as the Japanese ships pounded her deck, but the heavy fire took out many of her guns and a direct hit on the navigation bridge killed or severely wounded all of the senior officers to include Admiral Callahan and the ship’s Captain Cassin Young.

Meanwhile below deck, Lieutenant Commander Schonland was working feverishly to contain the damage from the 40 plus hits they had taken just above the waterline. The USS San Francisco was taking on water fast and the situation looked grim were it not for Schonland’s ingenuity.

Saving the Ship Just in Time

After being informed he was the senior officer left alive, Schonland opted to remain below deck to save the ailing ship while leaving the capable Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless in charge to navigate.

It wasn’t that tough a call for Schonland to turn down the opportunity to command the ship as once the ship falls below the surface of the sea there is very little left to command. Sloshing through waist deep water in the pitch black, he fought to contain the damage and pump out the water.

Realizing that the second deck’s pumps were an inadequate, Schonland made the genius call to send the water down to the lower decks where the much higher capacity bilge pumps could get the job done. Instructing the engine room to have the bilge pumps going at full capacity and giving the crew below a heads up that wall of water was about to come their way, he opened the hatches to the lower decks.

Not only did this plan work, but sending the water to the bottom decks actually help lower the center of gravity giving the ship greater stability during the effort to save it.

On board the USS San Francisco Lt. Commander Schonland (left), Admiral Nimitz, and Lt. Commander Bruce McCandless (right) via history.navy.mil
On board the USS San Francisco Lt. Commander Schonland (left), Admiral Nimitz, and Lt. Commander Bruce McCandless (right) via history.navy.mil

Early that morning, the USS San Francisco was able to turn what seemed like an imminent sinking into an ability to head out for repairs under her own power. For his actions, Lieutenant Commander Schonland would be awarded the Medal of Honor and become the poster child for the type of man you wanted on board when your ship was going down.

He continued to serve at sea until 1944 when he was sent to the Naval training school in San Francisco California to become an instructor for his beloved damage control.

It was here that he would finish out the war as he passed on his knowledge to the next generation of sailors as only one with a Medal of Honor could do.

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