The “Bazooka”, and Its Evolution, in Photos

H/T War History OnLine.

In 1942, the use of tanks in World War II was a threat to infantry soldiers mostly because of the tanks’ impenetrable armor and lethal armaments. This required a weapon powerful enough to take out an armored tank, and subsequently led to the development of the shaped charge anti-tank hand grenade, effective against vehicle armor 2.4″ thick.

However, it weighed 3.5 pounds, which is quite heavy to throw by hand. So another idea arose: a device that could deliver such a grenade from a distance, at an adequate velocity to exceed the range of a hand-thrown grenade, also with high accuracy.

An early RPG-40 anti-tank hand grenade at Great Patriotic War museum in Smolensk. By Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0
An early RPG-40 anti-tank hand grenade at Great Patriotic War museum in Smolensk. By Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0

Lieutenant Edward Uhl of the U.S. Army was tasked with creating a delivery system for an M10 shaped charge grenade capable of stopping German tanks. To do this, the Lieutenant created a small rocket, but still needed to find a way to protect an operator from rocket exhaust while aiming the weapon. According to Lieutenant Uhl, he stumbled on a tube that happened to be the same size as the grenade, and that’s when he had the idea for a rocket grenade launcher.

During the testing of the rocket launcher, it performed well in aiming and firing effectively, so that all senior officers present were impressed. Major General Barnes, Chief of Research and Engineering in the U.S. Ordnance Department humorously commented, “It sure looks like Bob Burns’ Bazooka.”

Bazooka soon became the generic name for the grenade launcher. The variants were the M1 and M1A1 Bazookas which were 4.5 feet in length and could penetrate up to 3″ armor, the M9 and M9A1 which were 5 feet long and could penetrate up to 4″ armor, and the M20 and M65 which could penetrate up to 11″ armor.

The M1 Bazooka with M6A1 and M6A3 rocket. By Carl MalamudCC BY 2.0
The M1 Bazooka with M6A1 and M6A3 rocket. By Carl MalamudCC BY 2.0

The premier versions of the M1 launcher and the M6 rocket were first used in November 1942 in North Africa, but did not play a vital role in combat. This was partly because military personnel were not provided with information on how to use the weapon, and mostly because the M6 rocket was highly unreliable.

By May 1943, no report of the weapon actually stopping a tank had been received, so further use was suspended. The M1A1 launcher with the M6A1 rocket was then introduced and used in combat by U.S. forces.

A U.S. soldier fires an M9 bazooka at a German machine gun nest, Lucca 1944.
A U.S. soldier fires an M9 bazooka at a German machine gun nest, Lucca 1944.

The M1A1 stopped four medium German tanks and a Tiger I heavy tank–however, it had a huge backblast which exposed the shooter’s position.

In late 1943, the M9 Bazooka was introduced with an improved M6A3 rocket, but its effect didn’t last long as the Germans improved the armor of their tanks, making penetration a Herculean task.

A German StuG III with “Schürzen” armor skirts By Bundesarchiv Bild CC-BY-SA 3.0
A German StuG III with “Schürzen” armor skirts By Bundesarchiv Bild CC-BY-SA 3.0

The end of World War II saw the Bazooka design changing to be like the German-designed Bazooka, and led to the development of the M20 Super-Bazooka. This Bazooka had a higher range and penetration capability.

It was also operated by two people, and could fire as many as six shots per minute. Budget cuts made the mass production of the M20 impossible, so soldiers in the Korean War were armed only with the M9 and M9A1 Bazookas, which proved to be very effective against Soviet tanks.

German Anti-tank guns; High Fortress, Salzburg, Austria. By Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 2.5
German Anti-tank guns; High Fortress, Salzburg, Austria. By Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 2.5

The Vietnam War marked the gradual replacement of the M20 with the more effective M67 Recoilless rifle and M72 LAW rocket.

M67 recoilless rifle
M67 recoilless rifle
M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s
M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s
US soldiers during the Korean War
US soldiers during the Korean War
101st Engineers near Wiltz, Luxembourg during Battle of the Bulge
101st Engineers near Wiltz, Luxembourg during Battle of the Bulge
A soldier preparing to fire the FGR-17 Viper, an American one-man disposable antitank rocket.
A soldier preparing to fire the FGR-17 Viper, an American one-man disposable antitank rocket.
Person holding a M6 rocket for a bazooka
Person holding a M6 rocket for a bazooka
Indonesian Navy bazooka
Indonesian Navy bazooka
A US soldier holding a Bazooka. Overloon War Museum. By Johan Fredriksson CC BY-SA 3.0
A US soldier holding a Bazooka. Overloon War Museum. By Johan Fredriksson CC BY-SA 3.0
Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon a modern day bazooka
Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon a modern day bazooka
American soldier with Bazooka of 80th Infantry Division near Wiltz
American soldier with Bazooka of 80th Infantry Division near Wiltz
Special Security Forces Bazooka. By Qrmoo3 CC BY-SA 4.0
Special Security Forces Bazooka. By Qrmoo3 CC BY-SA 4.0
Marines with a bazooka and machine gun set up a security post against possible tank counter-attack
Marines with a bazooka and machine gun set up a security post against possible tank counter-attack
Displaying the bazooka which knocked out four Japanese light tanks are bazooka men PFC Lauren N. Kahn, left, and PFC Lewis M.
Displaying the bazooka which knocked out four Japanese light tanks are bazooka men PFC Lauren N. Kahn, left, and PFC Lewis M.
M20 super bazooka. By Tomás Del Coro CC BY-SA 2.0
M20 super bazooka. By Tomás Del Coro CC BY-SA 2.0
“Marine riflemen in background stand by while their 3.5 bazooka man puts a round into a Communist position down the hill. This action took place in mopping-up operations in Korea.
“Marine riflemen in background stand by while their 3.5 bazooka man puts a round into a Communist position down the hill. This action took place in mopping-up operations in Korea.

5 Prisoners Of War Who Bravely Defied Their Captors

H/T War History OnLine.

 Amazing stories of escape from P.O.W. camps.

An unfortunate consequence of war is that those involved in the fighting will sometimes get captured by enemy forces. Known as prisoners of war (POWs), they’re often held captive until the conflict ends or something bad happens to them. However, there are many who would rather take their chances and attempt a daring escape.

 

Escape from Libby Prison

On February 9, 1864, 109 members of the Union Army staged an escape from Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Led by Colonel Thomas E. Rose and Major Andrew G. Hamilton, the group spent months digging a tunnel with only chisels and a wooden spittoon. They had to contend with the rats that had made a home in the prison’s basement and frequently risked being caught.

After 17 consecutive days of digging, they managed to break through the wall. They made their escape after lights out, following the tunnel to the vacant Kerr’s Warehouse on Canal Street. Libby was considered practically inescapable, so they were able to walk down the streets of Richmond without arousing suspicion.

Artist's rendering of Libby Prison and a portrait of Colonel Thomas E. Rose
Libby Prison and Colonel Thomas E. Rose. (Photo Credit: 1. Popular Graphic Arts / Wikimedia Commons 2. Civil War Glass Negatives / Wikimedia Commons)

By the time the guards noticed they were gone, approximately 12 hours had passed. Despite knowing the local terrain, only 59 soldiers managed to reach safety. Forty-eight were recaptured and subjected to poor treatment and inadequate rations, and another two drowned while crossing the James River.

E.H. Jones and C.W. Hill

Elias Henry Jones and Cedric Waters Hill were soldiers during WWI. Jones was a Welsh officer with the Indian Army and Hill an Australian officer with the Royal Flying Corps. The pair met while incarcerated at Yozgad POW camp in Turkey.

The pair wanted to escape their conditions, so they turned to society’s growing interest in the paranormal. Fashioning a Ouija board out of a polished iron sword and an upside-down jar, they managed to convince the camp’s commanders they were mediums. According to Hill and Jones, the camp’s resident ghost was named “Spook.”

Yozgad's British P.O.W.s in civilian clothes
Photo Credit: Anonymous / ScholarWorks@MSU (Digital Commons)

The con went on for over a year, between February 1917 and the summer of 1918. They eventually convinced the guards they were insane and had themselves transferred to a hospital for the mentally ill. While there, they continued to play up their symptoms until they were able to convince the doctors to repatriate them back home.

Jones and Hill were set free just a few months before the Armistice put an end to the war.

Charles Upham

Charles Upham was a member of New Zealand’s Officer Cadet Training Unit (O.C.T.U.) during WWII. He fought in numerous skirmishes against the Axis powers. During an assault against the Germans at Ruweisat Ridge in the Egyptian desert, he was injured twice: taking a bullet to the left arm and shrapnel to the leg.

Charles Upham eating with other members of the New Zealand Division
Charles Upham and the men of the New Zealand Division, 1942. (Photo Credit: Photo 12 / Getty Images)

His leg injury resulted in his capture. He was first transported to a hospital, where it was recommended his leg be amputated. However, not wanting to risk an agonizing death and with a desire to escape his captors, Upham declined.

He attempted numerous escapes during his time as a POW. While on a transport through Italy, he jumped off the truck and managed to make it 400 yards before being recaptured, despite having a broken ankle. Another incident, in 1943, involved him getting tied up in a barbed-wire fence in broad daylight. Despite having a guard point a gun at his head, he played it cool and lit a cigarette.

Military portrait of Charles Upham
Charles Upham, 1941. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Getty Images)

From this point on, he was considered “dangerous” and was forced into solitary confinement. He attempted to escape this predicament once by simply running out the front gates, but was eventually caught. Fed up with his antics, the Germans decided to transport him to Oflag IV-C in Saxony.

Upham waited out his sentence at Colditz, but did try one more escape. During transport in October 1944, he jumped out of a train window while the locomotive was at full speed. He landed on the track and fell unconscious, before waking up and hiding in a nearby orchard. Due to the lack of cover, the Germans eventually found him.

The Davao Escape

Following the battles of Bataan and Corregidor during WWII, thousands of Allied troops were taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army. Many were forced to endure the April 1942 Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell and transferred between camps. The poor conditions and the desire to continue fighting led to the Davao Escape. It would be the only large-scale Allied escape from the Japanese during the course of the war.

Portraits of Willam E. Dyess and Samuel Grashio
William E. Dyess and Samuel Grashio. (Photo Credit: 1. Unknown Author / Wikimedia Commons 2. Schmidty99206 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Whilst stuck in a labor camp in Mindanao, 11 American servicemen — Melvyn H. McCoy, William Edwin Dyess, Luis Morgan, Stephen M. Mellnik, Samuel C. Grashio, Austin C. Shofner, Jack Hawkins, Leo A. Boelens, Paul Marshall, Michiel Dobervich, and Robert Spielman — and two Filipino men made their escape into the jungle.

They traveled through swamp and thick jungle and eventually came into contact with a band of guerrillas whom they joined for several months. They led raid parties with the directive of attacking Japanese soldiers.

Military portraits of Hawkins and Shofner
Jack Hawkins and Austin C. Shofner. (Photo Credit: 1. U.S. Government / Wikimedia Commons 2. Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons)

In the fall of 1943, they were rescued by an American submarine and transported to Australia. Two of the American officers stayed behind to fight with the guerrillas and were later reunited with their countrymen.

Cho Chang-ho

Cho Chang-ho was a military officer serving with the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) Army during the Korean War. After the Battle of Hanseok Mountain in May 1951, he was captured by the Chinese Army and became a POW in North Korea. By the end of the conflict in 1953, he was one of an estimated 60,000 South Korean soldiers to be captured.

Military action at night during the Korean War
155mm Howitzer fire during night action in the Korean War. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Getty Images)

Chang-ho spent the next 43 years of his life in North Korea, the first 13 as a prisoner of war. In October 1994, he successfully escaped the heavily guarded nation. After crossing the Yalu River border into China, he was helped by fellow Koreans and given passage to South Korea’s western coast aboard a Chinese boat used to smuggle goods.

Both the government and Chang-ho’s family were surprised at his return, as they thought him dead. After acclimatizing back to civilian life, he spent his time advocating for the repatriation rights of POWs. In 2006, he traveled to America, where he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard, And The Original Special Forces

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. George “Speedy” Gaspard to say you had an extraordinary life would be an understatement.

Born in the summer of 1926 George Gaspard was to become a pioneering career soldier, breaking new ground in battlefield tactics and earning many decorations for service to his country. He first signed up with the Marine Corps in 1944 and soon found himself in the WWII Pacific Theatre fighting the enemy in Okinawa, as part of the 6th Marine Division.

 

He later joined the Army in 1951 and volunteered for the 10th Special Forces Group, a new unit born of the need for innovative ways of conducting warfare. Gaspard was part of the first group to graduate from the fledgling Special Forces training program.

George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard served in WWII, the Korean War, and in Vietnam.
George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard served in WWII, the Korean War, and in Vietnam.

From then on Gaspard built upon a reputation for fearlessness, running cross-border secret operations throughout the Korean war, which was really just the proving ground for techniques he deployed to great effect during his tours of duty in Vietnam. In Korea Gaspard ran a team of four enlisted American soldiers and up to eighty anti-communist South Korean agents, supported by Chinese intelligence operatives, gathering information on North Korean troop movements and other enemy activities.

US forces in the icy conditions of Korea witness a large detonation.
US forces in the icy conditions of Korea witness a large detonation.

Gaspard was awarded the Silver and Bronze stars for combat actions in 1953 and late in 1954 he arrived at the 77th Special Forces group as a guerrilla warfare instructor for the Psychological Warfare School’s Special Forces Department before he was discharged three years later.

After a stint at the Pentagon in the Special Warfare Department Gaspard he was recalled to active duty. In 1962 he was sent to Fort Bragg attached to the 5th Special Forces group. From here he was dispatched to Vietnam, to a Special Forces camp at Dak Pek in Kontum Province, the first of his seven tours in the country.

In 1985 he was instrumental in successful negotiations to allow the mountain dwelling Montagnard people safe passage to join the South Vietnamese Army. The Montagnard name came from the time of French colonial rule in the region.

In 1966 Gaspard was promoted to the rank of Major and in 1967 returned to Vietnam to direct the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) in the Strata program until 1968.

Strata was developed to streamline and clean up intelligence gathering activities that had previously been dogged by poor quality information and the activities of double agents. Gaspard’s new focus was on short-term gathering of intelligence from close cross-border sources. He had an all-Vietnamese team, a Road-Watch and Target-Acquisition group, who would be deployed and recovered for re-use time and again.

Gaspard went in to extract two wounded agents in an emergency when they had been surrounded by the enemy, saving lives and earning an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism and a Purple Heart.

Gaspard served with distinction in the Vietnam War (Not Gaspard in the image).
Gaspard served with distinction in the Vietnam War (Not Gaspard in the image).

But it did not all go Gaspard’s way. A colleague he knew as Francois was unmasked as a spy some twenty-five years after the war ended, receiving top military honours from Hanoi’s government. ‘There’s no question that he hurt SOG operations,’ Gaspard said later in an interview, but it did not diminish his pride in the overall success rate of the Strata teams.

Having served in three major US wars George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1973. His list of decorations is impressive and numbers more than fifty including medals from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

In his retirement Gaspard continued to serve his country as part of the South Carolina State Guard where he attained the rank of Brigadier General and was appointed Chief of Staff. He was a member of multiple military groups including the American Legion and Sons of Confederacy.

At Fort Benning, Georgia, Gaspard was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in 1991, in recognition of his service in three wars and his continual development of the understanding of innovative and disruptive forms of war in inhospitable and difficult terrain. In 2010 he was further honoured as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment.

Gaspard died on January 30th, 2018 and laid to rest in Jacksonville, Florida.

 

He is Now Home, 70 Years After Being Listed as MIA in the Korean War

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Corporal Billie Joe Hash.

It has been a long trip to your final resting place.

Former Army Corporal Billie Joe Hash came home, more than 70 years after he went missing during the Korean War and presumed dead.

 

Cpl. Hash was enlisted as a member of the US Armed Forces during the Korean War. He was assigned to Army Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. He went missing during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. It took place between November and December of 1950. In this 17-day battle, an estimated 30,000 troops belonging to the US, Britain, and the Republic of Korea (South Korean), were attacked by over 100,000 Chinese soldiers.

The battle took place amid a brutal winter where temperatures regularly dipped to 25 degrees below zero, accompanied by biting wind and snow.

Over 100,000 Allied troops died in this battle, and a further 5,000 were listed as missing in action. At the time of the war, Corporal Hash was 18 years old. On the 6th December 1950, he was reported missing in action and was presumed dead on the 31st December 1953.

Ms. Suzie Razmus, the mayor of Corbin, Kentucky, said that she could not imagine the pain the family experienced by not having closure as to what happened to their son.

She went on to say that the story broke her heart and that she was so pleased that his remains would, at long last be returned, Mayor Razmus has sons of her own, so the story really uniquely impacted her.

Aerial view of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Aerial view of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Corporal Hash will be honored with a flag, raised in his honor, in Nibroc Park. Each flag marks a local fallen service person.

The story of this serviceman touched the hearts of many people in the area. One such couple was Ronald and Melissa Gray.

This couple lives in the Tri-County but found themselves in Lexington when they saw the procession for Corporal Hash. Melissa Gray said that she had read the story of Corporal Hash earlier in the day. They decided to follow the funeral procession back to Corbin to pay their respects to this veteran of the Korean War.

The Department of Defense continues to investigate missing service people, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has the responsibility of locating, identifying, and returning the remains of US service people lost overseas.

The DPAA investigates the cases of soldiers reported missing during the Korean War, with assistance from the US Military in South Korea and Korea’s Government.

In 1990-1994, the North Korean authorities exhumed 208 boxes of remains, returning them to the US Military in South Korea.

On investigating the remains in the boxes, the Department of Defense said they estimated that the boxes could contain around 400 individuals. Sorting through the remains and identifying the various individuals is a time consuming and complicated task.

The DPAA said that Corporal Billie Joe Hash’s remains were identified on the 27th May 2020. The Department of Defense says that at this time, over 7,800 US service personnel are unaccounted for from the Korean War.

US Service Members Repatriated from South Korea

H/T War History OnLine.

Once the remains are properly identified they can be finally laid to rest and it will give the families some closure.

United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018 (Photo by US Air Force Technical Sergeant Ashley Tyler.)
United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018 (Photo by US Air Force Technical Sergeant Ashley Tyler.)

The remains of six US service members are on their way back to the United States after a repatriation ceremony at the Osan Air Base in South Korea.

The remains were contained in a single casket which was placed in a Boeing 747 that was chartered for the flight to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

An honor guard consisting of service members from the US, the Philippines and Thailand carried the casket which was draped with a UN flag.

Howitzer position near the Kum River
Howitzer position near the Kum River

On the way to Hawaii, the flight made a stop in Japan where the UN flag was replaced with a US flag.

In Hawaii, the remains will be examined by the Defense POW\MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to be identified. Authorities are certain that the remains are of US service members due to the location where they were discovered being the sites of battles during the war and also due to artifacts found in the same location.

At the repatriation ceremony, UN Command Chief Chaplain (Col.) David Bowlus prayed that those who had waited for the day their loved ones would be found would find peace in their return to US soil.

The remains were found by the South Korean Ministry of Defense Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification (MAKRI).

G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman
G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman

According to the DPAA, there are over 7,500 US personnel unaccounted for from the Korean War. Approximately 3,500 of those are believed to be in North Korea.

There is another repatriation ceremony planned for when the remains reach Hawaii. The ceremony will conclude a series of events which commemorate the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950.

Korea was divided into two separate countries following World War II. Prior to the war, the Korean peninsula had been part of the Japanese empire.

After the war, the Soviets and the Americans had to come to terms with how to handle Japanese possessions. In August 1945, to aides at the State Department divided the peninsula at the 38th parallel. The Soviets occupied the northern portion and the Americans occupied the southern part.

The Korean War began with 75,000 North Korean soldiers crossing the border between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south.

Within a month, US soldiers were deployed to defend South Korea. To the Americans, the war was a fight to prevent the spread of communism. President Harry Truman said that letting Korea down would encourage the Soviets to “keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another.”

The two sides fought back and forth with no real gains for either side but a mounting loss of life on both sides.

In July 1953, the war ‘ended’ after the Americans aggressively sought an armistice to avoid what they saw as a bigger threat of the war spreading to Russia or China, or possibly turning into World War III.

Some refer to the war as the “Forgotten War” because it did not receive the same coverage in the US as the World Wars or the war in Vietnam. Approximately five million soldiers and civilians were killed in the conflict.

10 U.S Memorial Day Facts you might not know

This is from War History OnLine.

For Gold Star families every day is Memorial Day.

I am a Gold Star family member.

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The Memorial Day in United States commemorates all those men and women who lost their lives while protecting the nation. Following are some important facts about the American Memorial Day.

  1. Since its very humble beginning on May 5, 1866, the Memorial Day was celebrated on 30th May every year. However in 1971 US congress established a new date for the day, and announced the last Monday of May as official Memorial Day.
  2. Initially the memorial day only commemorated U.S. personnel died during a deadly civil war from 1861 to 1865, but later it took under its wing all those who died for the country.
  3. A total of 620,000 Americans perished in the civil war, while 644,000 Americans lost their lives in all the other conflicts since then. American Civil War is still the single most deadly conflict of the American history.
  4. The ‘national moment of remembrance’ was set at 3 pm on Memorial Day. This was made possible by ‘the national moment of remembrance act’ in 2000 signed by President Clinton on Dec. 28.
  5. The Memorial Day had varying standings in past, one of which was a different name for the day. It used to be called the Democratic day. It was believed that soldiers died upholding the democratic values of the young nation.
  6. Red poppies have always been associated with the remembrance of the dead soldiers. People wear poppies to pay respect and tribute to those who made sacrifices for the nation.
  7. The most interesting fact about the memorial day is that although Federation celebrates the memorial day along with most of states remembering the union soldiers, however many states still celebrate the memorial days for confederate dead soldiers.
  8. About 5,000 people attended the first ever Memorial Day ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery, the Democrat and Chronicle reports.
  9. Most of the deaths that took place during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 were as a result of a small pox outbreak. The total number of deaths is estimated to be around 620,000 – 365,000 Union while 260,000 confederate soldiers.
  10. Following is the estimate of the total number of American causalities since the Civil War.
  • In the Civil War 620,000 Americans died
  • WWI, 116,516 U.S soldiers died
  • In the Second World War 405,399 Americans died
  • Korean War killed 36,574 Americans.
  • 58,220 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam War
  • In Operation Desert Storm a total of 148 Americans died in the battlefield while another 145 died elsewhere during the operation.
  • 4,422 Americans died in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • In Operation New Dawn 66 U.S Army personnel were killed
  • 2,318 Americans perished in the Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

The Korean War MOH Recipient Who Didn’t Want His Medal But Eisenhower Gave it to Him

H/T War History OnLine.

You can call Private 1st Class Ernest E. West a reluctant hero.

United States Army Medal of Honor recipient Ernest West at a Veterans’ Day ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky
Once more, he was able to take out three of them with his rifle, but a grenade exploded in front of him which sent shrapnel flying into his left eye and arms.

 

A hero of the Korean War, Private 1st Class Ernest E. West, was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely risking his own life to save an American officer and two American troopers who had been injured as well as single-handedly fighting off multiple attackers and losing an eye in the process.

Despite being awarded America’s highest honor for his valor, the modest West initially didn’t want the medal, saying that he wasn’t special and was only doing his duty.

Ernest West knew what brotherhood meant long before he joined the military. As an orphan, he was raised alongside 125 other orphan boys at the Methodist Children’s Home in Versailles, Kentucky. While these boys weren’t his blood relatives, West developed a strong bond with them and referred to them as his brothers.

In 1952, he had turned 20 and was drafted into the United States Army. After six weeks of intense basic training, he was shipped off to Korea to fight.

Fighting with the 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Private 1st Class West saw action almost as soon as he arrived on the peninsula at the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

U.S. Army infantrymen of the 27th Infantry Regiment, near Heartbreak Ridge, take advantage of cover and concealment in tunnel positions, 40 yards from the KPA PVA on 10 August 1952

The constant attacks from enemy troops at Heartbreak Ridge weren’t the only thing West and the other American infantrymen had to worry about while stationed in the trenches and bunkers there. The Korean winter was beginning to settle in, and with it came bitter cold. The temperature sometimes dropped as low as -4°F (-20°C).

West accompanied night patrols and raids on enemy trenches, and it was after one of these that he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Heartbreak Ridge in Korea as seen from the north.

On October 12, 1952, his commanding officer asked for volunteers to accompany him on a mission to locate and destroy an enemy outpost on a hill near Sataeri. West volunteered for the mission along with eight other men.

West was on point for the mission. When they neared the objective, he noticed a group of North Korean soldiers waiting on the top of the hill to attack them. He signaled to his commanding officer that they were walking into an ambush, but by then it was too late; hand grenades were already tumbling down the hillside toward them.

Map of the Punchbowl, Heartbreak Ridge and Bloody Ridge

A grenade rolled through the gap between West’s feet, only to explode a few yards behind him, severely injuring the lieutenant in charge of the patrol. The element of surprise was gone, and the North Korean troops opened fire at them.

Since the lieutenant had been knocked unconscious by the grenade, West took control of the group. Realizing that they were outnumbered and outgunned, he ordered the men to fall back.

A 4.2-inch mortar crew, 45th U.S. Infantry Division, fires on Communist positions, Korea.

When they got back to a position of safety, West realized that a few men hadn’t made it back. He told the others to wait where they were and headed straight back out to find the missing troops. First, he reached the lieutenant who was unable to walk, so West picked him up and carried him over his shoulder.

As he transported the officer back to safety, they were ambushed by three North Korean troops. West didn’t hesitate and shot all three in quick succession with his rifle as they charged at him. He then continued his rescue mission back to the other men, despite being under heavy fire.

 

After reaching the safe zone he realized that more men were still missing, so without any thought for his own safety, he headed straight back out again to rescue them.

He retrieved another two injured soldiers and was again ambushed by three North Korean soldiers with rifles and grenades. Once more, he was able to take out three of them with his rifle, but a grenade exploded in front of him which sent shrapnel flying into his left eye and arms.

Even with such grievous injuries, West fought off the attackers and got his comrades back to safety. In fact, it was only after he left the battle zone that he noticed how badly injured he was.

Ernest E. West, US Army, Korean War MOH recipient.

He was evacuated to Japan where a doctor examined him and sent him back to the US. The eye was then removed on discovering that it was too badly damaged to save. After his wounds healed, he continued serving in the US Army.

He was discharged in 1953 and returned to Kentucky to work for the C & O Railroad–despite them initially refusing to re-employ him on the basis of his missing eye. The Veteran’s Association managed to convince the railroad company to rehire West.

At that point, nobody (least of all West) knew that he would be awarded the highest medal the US had to offer.

United States Army Medal of Honor recipient Ernest West at a Veterans’ Day ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky

In 1954, it was announced that he would receive the Medal of Honor. West initially couldn’t believe it, saying that he didn’t want the medal and had only done his duty. He believed that every man who had served alongside him deserved a medal since he regarded them all as his brothers and thought they would have done the same for him.

US President Eisenhower awarded the Medal of Honor to West in 1954. Afterward, the veteran continued to pursue a simple life and never felt he was disabled by the loss of his left eye.

He also felt no bitterness toward the North Koreans and Chinese troops that he had fought against during the Korean War, believing that every soldier simply did their duty.

Ernest E. West now lives in Russell, Kentucky and enjoys attending veterans’ parades. He is one of five living Medal of Honor recipients of the Korean War.

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Irish Troops & The Medal of Honor

H/T War History OnLine.

 An estimated 2,021 of those Medals of Honor have gone to Irish American recipients.           

McCloughan was awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished actions as a combat medic assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, during the Vietnam War near Don Que, Vietnam, from May 13 to 15, 1969. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia Brand)

19 men have so far been awarded the medal twice, and of these, five were born in Ireland.

On July 31, 2017, during a concise but poignant White House ceremony, President Donald Trump hosted the first Medal of Honor presentation of his administration. It was in this event that the most recent Irish American to receive America’s most prestigious military decoration emerged.

“I know I speak for everyone here when I say we are in awe of your actions and your bravery,” the President said, referring to the recipient, who stood stoically just a few feet from him

James C. McCloughan, aged 73 and a retired high school teacher, received the Medal of Honor for “acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” as an Army medic 48 years earlier near Tam Ky and Nui Yon Hill during the Vietnam War.

During the 48 hour period of close combat, then-23 year old McCloughan repeatedly jumped into the rain of gunfire to save his comrades, getting injured on numerous occasions, and ignoring direct orders to stop going into the Kill Zone.

McCloughan in front of the 22nd Replacement Bn Snack Bar in 1969

With his recognition and award, McCloughan did not become simply the latest Irish American to receive the Medal. His award also drew attention to one of the fascinating facts about the Medal of Honor: a disproportionate number of its recipients have Irish roots.

The most distinguished military honor of the United States of America, created during the Civil War and first awarded in 1863, the Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,525 times to date. Indeed, this is a rather minute percentage of the millions of people that have served the US in combat, and it illustrates how sparingly the Medal of Honor gets awarded.

Acting Secretary of the U.S. Army Robert M. Speer presents a citation to former Spc. 5 James C. McCloughan during the Medal of Honor Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 1, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia Brand)

Out of this pint-sized percentage, an estimated 2,021 of those Medals of Honor have gone to Irish American recipients.

That’s a staggering 57 percent.

Although the award is only meant for personnel of the US Armed Forces, US citizenship is not always a prerequisite to serving in the US military. As a result, thirty-three countries are represented in over 500 foreign-born recipients of the Medal of Honor. This may not come so much as a surprise, but out of these foreign-born recipients, 257 are Irish-born, representing about half of the people in this category.

Even better, 19 men have so far won the medal twice, and of these, five were born in Ireland: Henry Hogan, John Laverty, John Cooper, John King, and Patrick Mullen. Also among these 19 double medal recipients are three Irish Americans: Daniel Daly, John McCloy, and John Joseph Kelly.

McCloughan receiving the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump on 31 July 2017

The first Irish American to receive the Medal of Honor was Private Michael Madden for his heroism during the Civil War. He swam with a wounded comrade, while under heavy enemy fire, to successfully take the injured soldier across to a branch of the Potomac to the safety of the Union lines.

Undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable Irish recipients of the Medal of Honor is Michael Dougherty of Falcarragh in County Donegal, Ireland, who fought in the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry of the Union Army during the Civil War. 

He received the Medal of Honor for leading a charge against a hidden Confederate detachment at Jefferson, Virginia, foiling what would have led to the flanking of the Union forces, and preventing a potential loss of about 2,500 lives.

President Donald J. Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Specialist Five James C. McCloughan.July 31, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Dougherty was captured along with 126 others from his unit. He spent 23 months in prison, ultimately arriving at the dreaded Andersonville POW camp in Georgia. Dougherty was the sole survivor from his unit, but he was reduced to a mere skeleton, “more dead than alive.”

He managed to get aboard the steamship Sultana which had over 2,000 people aboard, six times its acceptable capacity. As the ship dragged on across the Mississippi, its boilers exploded and the ship was ripped apart, with its passengers getting flung into the river. Only 900 managed to survive the incident, and among these was Dougherty, who somehow managed to swim to a small island before help came.

James C. McCloughan, the recipient of the Medal of Honor, poses for a portrait with the medal in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Aug. 1, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

Amazed by his impeccable story of bravery and survival, John J. Concannon referred to him as “Super Survivor” Michael Dougherty in his article for the website The Wild Geese.

Whether it is inherently Irish traits or just coincidence that explains why the Medal of Honor list is dominated by Irish blood, this fact has become something in which the Irish can’t help but revel. In a bid to explain why the Irish have dominated the Medal of Honor list, James McCloughan made reference to Irish history and culture.

A plaque bears former U.S. Army Spc. 5 James C. McCloughan’s name during his Medal of Honor Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 1, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia Brand)

“If you go back to the culture of the Irish you know we’ve been fighting each other and fighting the Scottish and so on and so forth for years and years and years,” he said.

According to him, his own family has a military history that dates all the way back to the Picts, who lived in Scotland in the early medieval period.

“You learn to stick up for your rights and the rights of others,” said the Vietnam War veteran. “When you go into the service, maybe you are thinking about serving your country but I’m going to tell you what once you get there you [are] just worried about surviving and then helping as many of your brothers survive as possible.”

12 Sweet-and-Chewy Facts About Tootsie Rolls

H/T Mental Floss.

Some Tootsie Rolls Trivia.

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LYNN FRIEDMAN VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

No Halloween candy haul is complete without them. Invented in 1896 by a Brooklyn food tinkerer, Tootsie Rolls have become one of the most ubiquitous sweet treats in the world, with tens of millions produced every day. Here, we unwrap a few choice facts about the storied brand.

1. THEY’RE NAMED AFTER THE INVENTOR’S DAUGHTER.

The official story goes that the inventor of Tootsie Rolls, Leo Hirschfield, sold them out of his Brooklyn candy shop before signing over his creation to (and taking a job with) candy manufacturer Stern & Saalberg Co. There’s evidencethat shows the candy store story may have been just that—a story—and that Hirschfield was actually an employee of Stern & Saalberg all along. In any case, Hirschfield named his individually wrapped treats in honor of his 5-year-old daughter Clara, whose nickname was “Tootsie.”

2. HIRSCHFIELD ALSO INVENTED AN EARLY FORM OF JELL-O.

Hirschfield is also credited with inventing Bromangelon, the first commercially successful gelatin dessert. Boxes of the powder sold for around 10 cents, and came in flavors like raspberry, cherry and orange.

3. TOOTSIE ROLLS WERE IN EVERY WORLD WAR II SOLDIER’S RATIONS.

The U.S. military valued them a source of “quick energy,” and because they wouldn’t melt in hot weather or go bad over time. In at least one instance they proved to be life-saving: A pilot whose plane was shot down over the Sahara sustained himself on Tootsie Rolls for three days.

4. THE POPULAR TOOTSIE POP ‘SHOOTING STAR’ GIVEAWAY IS A MYTH.

Shortly after the invention of the Tootsie Pop in 1931, a rumor began to spread that wrappers featuring a drawing of an Indian shooting an arrow at a star could be redeemed for a free Tootsie Pop. Apparently some stores honored the giveaway, allowing the notion to persist for decades despite the fact Tootsie Roll Industries never sanctioned it. The company, which says that roughly one out of every five wrappers has the drawing, has refuted the rumor, and even came up with a “Legend of the Indian Wrapper” story to entertain customers. And yet the company still receives letters every week from people demanding free Tootsie Pops.

5. THEY FUELED A GREAT ESCAPE DURING THE KOREAN WAR.

Surrounded by Chinese and North Korean forces at the Chosin Reservoirin 1950, the 15,000-man First Marine Division radioed for an airdrop of “Tootsie Rolls”—the Marine codename for mortar shells. What they got instead were boxes of the real thing. Turns out, though, that the candy boosted morale and kept the Marines going through the subzero temperatures. It also provided one other critical function: Soldiers discovered that chewed-up Tootsie Rolls could patch the holes in their vehicles’ fuel lines, allowing the division to leave their vulnerable position.

6. THEY WERE FRANK SINATRA’S FAVORITE CANDY.

According to dead-celebrity expert Alan Petrucelli, Ol’ Blue Eyes is buried with them along with a few other choice effects, including cigarettes, a lighter, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

7. THE COMPANY’S CURRENT PRESIDENT WAS IN AN AD FROM 1950.

Ellen Gordon, 83, who now runs the company after her husband, Melvin, passed away earlier this year, was featured inLife magazine ad when she was 18. Her father, William Rubin, was CEO of the company at the time.

8. THERE WAS A CAPTAIN TOOTSIE COMIC STRIP.

Truly one of the more cringe-worthy superheroes of American comics, Captain Tootsie was a buff blonde lad who undertook odd adventures with kids (like killing bears and punching out bank-robbing cavemen), all while toting around a yellow man-bag full of Tootsie Rolls. First published in 1943, the comics ran as standalone issues and in newspapers for nearly a decade.

9. HOW MANY LICKS? SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE THE ANSWER.

Tootsie Roll Industry’s iconic ad, which first ran in 1970, asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” For years, fans have responded with their own assessments, typically in the high hundreds. Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Michigan, meanwhile, took a more scientific approach. Using special licking machines modeled after the human tongue, both teams entered into a Big 10 showdown. The Purdue bunch came up with 364, while Michigan put up 411. So is the true answer somewhere between those numbers? The world may never know.

10. 64 MILLION TOOTSIE ROLLS GET MADE EVERY DAY.

That’s more than 44,440 per minute, or roughly 740 per second.

11. THE COMPANY OWNS A VERITABLE CANDY STORE OF BRANDS.

Under Melvin Gordon’s leadership beginning in 1962, Tootsie Roll Industries gobbled up a slew of competitors like Dots, Crows, Charms, Sugar Daddy, Junior Mints and Charleston Chew. In 2000, they bought Andes Mints, and in 2004 Tootsie bought Concord Confections, makers of Dubble Bubble.

12. SALES ARE ANYTHING BUT SWEET THESE DAYS.

Tootsie Roll Industries saw tremendous growth throughout most of Gordon’s tenure. But sales have slid in recent years as the candy industry has evolved, and lately the company has been acting a bit too old fashioned for investors’ liking. This has prompted many investors and analysts to wonder how many more licks it can take before selling.