Saturday, March 31, 2012

TFH 3/31: First Lieutenant Brian Miles Thacker, USA

Artillerymen fill a vital role on the battlefield. Their cannons, howitzers, and rockets project fires both in close-support of front-line combat forces and deep-strikes against an enemy's rear. Artillerymen, however, rarely find themselves engaged directly with the enemy. While their capabilities are essential to victory in war, they are not usually called upon to directly engage the enemy as foot soldiers - unless an enemy manages to infiltrate the rear areas of a fighting unit.

In the history of the Medal of Honor from World War I through the present day, 969 Medals have been awarded to our gallant warriors whose valor truly rose above and beyond the call of duty. Of those 969 awards, just 16 (1.6%) have gone to artillerymen. Today, we recognize one of those sixteen.

Brian Miles Thacker was born on April 25, 1945 in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Weber State College in Utah and received his Army officer's commission through ROTC. His first posting was to an artillery unit in Germany, from there he was sent to Vietnam.

On March 31, 1971, First Lieutenant Thacker was manning an observation post in support of the South Vietnamese Army. He was sleeping when the isolated hilltop post came under attack by an overwhelming North Vietnamese assault. When it was clear the position couldn't be held, he ordered the survivors to make  their escape - and then stayed behind to cover their withdrawal.

Friday, March 30, 2012

TFH 3/30: Second Lieutenant John P. Bobo, USMCR

John Paul Bobo was born on Valentine's Day, 1943 in Niagara Falls, NY. He graduated from Niagara University in 1965 and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 17 of that year. In 1966, he was sent to fight in Vietnam with the active Marines, joining Company I, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment - then part of the 3rd Marine Division.

On March 30, 1967, Bobo's unit was establishing night positions when they came under heavy attack. He was placing his men in a hasty defense when an enemy mortar round impacted his position. His right leg was severed below the knee. With a web belt wrapped around his leg acting as a tourniquet, he kept fighting.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

TFH 3/29: Sergeant First Class Billy D. Evans, USA

US Army Special Forces filled a crucial role during the Vietnam War, that of training and advising our South Vietnamese allies and the indigenous forces standing up against the Viet Cong guerillas. As advisors, they often went into combat along side the native troops, and just as often, led and fought with distinction.

Forty-five years ago, one such Green Beret advisor with the 5th Special Forces Group accompanying a Vietnamese Army unit found themselves cut-off and unable to be reinforced deep in enemy territory. Across three days from March 29-31, 1967 Sergeant First Class Billy D. Evans' courage, leadership, and devotion to duty changed the course of a battle and insured that many would live to fight another day. For his gallantry, he received our Nation's second-highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

TFH 3/28: HM3 Robert R. Ingram, USN

Robert Roland Ingram was born on January 20, 1945 in Clearwater, FL. At age 18 in November 1963, he enlisted in the United States Navy and attended the Navy Hospital Corps School and the Field Medical Service School at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, both in California. He was then assigned as a Hospital Corpsman with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

The United States Marine Corps relies on its Navy brethren for medical personnel, including the men and women who venture into combat with front-line units. To quote from the website of Field Medical Training Battalion - West, Sailors looking to serve with the Marines will:
During the eight week course, you will have a mix of classroom and field training. Emphasis is placed on learning field medicine by using the principles of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). This includes familiarization with USMC organization and procedures, competency in Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), logistics, and administrative support in a field environment. Additionally, training will include general military subjects, individual and small unit tactics, military drill, physical training/ conditioning, and weapons familiarization with the opportunity to qualify on the rifle range. Completion of FMST results in the Sailor receiving the Navy Enlisted Classification HM-8404.
On March 28, 1966, Ingram was with Company C of 1/7 Marines when they launched an attack against an enemy that, unbeknownst to the Marines, were heavily dug in and were in superior numbers. The entire lead squad was killed or wounded by enemy automatic weapons fire. Into this battlefield hell ran Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Ingram.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Reclaiming the Narrative - the Importance of Language

Thus we may know that there are five essentials to victory:
  • He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  • He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  • He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
  • He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  • He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy or yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Section III: Attack by Strategem

I'm going to be writing a series on "Reclaiming the Narrative"; how we as conservatives, libertarians, and patriots can not just take back but dominate the social and political discourse. Recent events, and how they've been carried forth in the media, reinforce that conservo-libertarian views will not be accurately portrayed by the opposition and the narrative of the body politic will be entirely governed by the views of the liberal-statist totalitarian who seeks to squelch speech, not promote it.

I'm starting this series with the quote from Sun Tzu because it states very well what we must be prepared for to combat our opposition daily. To get our principles of individual sovereignty and liberty, limited Constitutional government, and fiscal sanity in the hearts and minds of more of our friends and neighbors, we must not retreat from any debate. We must not continue to allow the opposition to define the arguments. We must not accept their premises. We have to have command of the issues and our own narrative, and that begins with the importance of language, our use of it, and deconstructing how the opposition bastardizes it.

TFH 3/27: Two Sailors Ashore, Two Heroes

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal was established in 1942 to recognize non-combat valor by Sailors and Marines. The criteria for award is "Distinguishing oneself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. For acts of lifesaving, or attempted lifesaving, it is required that the action be performed at the risk of one's own life."

On March 27, 1981 two sailors who served aboard the USS Implicit (MSO-455) were ashore at the ship's home port of Tacoma, WA when they came upon a head-on automobile collision. The vehicles involved had caught fire. Several victims were trapped in the burning wreckage. The two sailors, Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Greg A. Ball and Fireman Apprentice Billy Ray Beddingfield, immediately and without regard for their own safety extricated the victims from the inferno and rendered aid to the injured until emergency services arrived on the scene.

Monday, March 26, 2012

TFH 3/26: Private First Class Douglas E. Dickey, USMC

Douglas Eugene Dickey was born on Christmas Eve, 1946. He graduated from high school in his home town of Greenville, OH and first enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in December, 1965 and switched to the active Marine Corps in April, 1966.

After recruit and infantry training in California, he was assigned to combat in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and part of the 3rd Marine Division. In combat with Company C of that battalion on March 26, 1967 - forty-five years ago today - he gallantly sacrificed himself to save his fellow Marines from an enemy grenade, and was awarded our Nation's highest honor.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

TFH 3/25: Staff Sergeant Gernot Bender, USA

When people think of the Vietnam War, airmobile warfare using helicopters and the intensity of jungle infantry combat are perhaps the most common images we consider and associate with the conflict. Many do not know of the significant contributions of the United States Army's armored and mechanized units to the war effort.

One of the armored units was the 3rd Squadron/4th Cavalry Regiment - "Makenzie's Raiders" which served as part of the 25th Infantry Division.

Staff Sergeant Gernot Bender, the platoon sergeant of 3/4 Troop A's 2nd Platoon, commanded track "A25" - an M48A3 Patton tank. As his unit responded to rescue an ambushed convoy, he repeatedly came to the aid of his fellow soldiers with great courage. He ignored multiple wounds that ultimately claimed his life, and the Army recognized him with the second-highest award for valor: the Distinguished Service Cross.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

TFH 3/24: Sergeant Walter K. Singleton, USMC

Walter Keith Singleton was born on the third anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1944 - in Memphis, TN. After high school in August 1963, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and switched to the active Marines the following year.

Singleton served as an infantryman with the 2nd Marine Division (2nd Battalion/6th Marines) and as a marksmanship instructor at both Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the United States Naval Academy before being sent to war in Vietnam.

He arrived in Vietnam on November 13, 1966 and joined 1st Battalion/9th Marines, then part of the 3rd Marine Division. Forty-five years ago today - March 24, 1967 - Sergeant Singleton's company ran up against a deeply entrenched enemy force. They took heavy fire and heavy casualties. Walter Singleton took it upon himself to rescue his comrades and change the course of the battle. He gave his Corps and Country his life, and a grateful Nation gave him our highest honor.

Friday, March 23, 2012

TFH 3/23: Second Lieutenant John L. Fuller, Jr., USMCR

The Citadel in Charleston, SC has prepared leaders for our armed forces since 1842. John Luther Fuller, Jr. graduated with the Citadel's class of 1966 and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He was sent to Vietnam to fight with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

On this day in 1967, exactly forty-five years ago, Lieutenant Fuller's platoon was moving into the attack against a fortified village when they were taken under fire by the defenders. He was wounded in the first enemy volley, but ignored that and subsequent wounds as he led his Marines. For his courage, selfless devotion to duty, and leadership of his Marines under attack, he was given our Nation's second highest award for valor: the Navy Cross.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TFH 3/22: First Sergeant David H. McNerney, USA

David McNerney was born in Lowell, MA on June 2, 1931. He first served our Nation during the Korean War as a member of the United States Navy, serving from 1949-1952. In 1953, he joined the United States Army.

While fighting in Vietnam forty-five years ago today as a member of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment - part of the 4th Infantry Division - an attack by an enemy battalion killed the company commander and many others in the command group. It fell to First Sergeant McNerney to assume command under heavy attack and rally his beleaguered unit. His courage and leadership carried the day, and earned for him the highest recognition our Nation can give.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TFH 3/21: Master Sergeant Charles Ernest Hosking, Jr., USA

Charles E. Hosking, Jr. was born on May 12, 1924 in Ramsey, NJ. He joined the Army in 1944 and served in World War II. In 1967, then as a Sergeant First Class, he was serving in Vietnam as a civilian defense adviser with the 5th Special Forces Group.

Forty-five years ago today, a Viet Cong prisoner grabbed a grenade from Hosking, armed it, and began to run towards Hosking's company command group. He knew there was only one thing he could do to save his comrades, and his heroism and ultimate self-sacrifice were found worthy of our Nation's highest honor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Without ObamaCare, whatever will we do? - A Patriot's Resource

We have been told that without government intervention in health care, the needy will be denied treatment and access to health care. This is a lie. The needy are provided for daily by hundreds of private programs and charities that have nothing to do with the government. These charities will be casualties of government intervention in health care.

In the run-up to the passage of ObamaCare, I engaged several liberal Statist friends/acquaintances of mine on Facebook by challenging the premise that only government can solve questions of health coverage; that without government the poor and disadvantaged would be locked out of quality health care.

As a challenge to their flawed premises, I compiled a list of top health care, pharmaceutical, and health care delivery companies and organizations and the charity programs they offer. That is, the private sector at work, without government to hold people's hands and tell them what to do and seize other people's wealth to pay the bills, or worse borrow against our Nation's future.

The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on the constitutionality of ObamaCare next week, with a ruling expected by the end of the Court's term in June. Regardless of how the Court rules, health care and our government's role in it, will continue to be a concern and a debate among citizens and politicians.

The information I found is available to anybody with a web browser who can use Google and Wikipedia. None of it is secret, but all of it is ignored by those who say only government can save us.

So then, as a resource to all Patriots, here is a compilation we can use to bombard the Statists among us with the truth about access to health care - no government required:

USS Langley Commissioned 3/20/1922 - 90 Years of Carrier Aviation

On March 20, 1922 the United States Navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1). The ship had been converted from a collier, the USS Jupiter and bore the name of aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. While the first takeoff wouldn't occur from the Langley until October 17, 1922 - and the first landing aboard on October 26th - the course of naval warfare was changed forever.

From Langley to the gigantic warships serving today, under construction, or planned, here in sequence are the valiant fighting platforms (WW2 escort carriers not listed) who have carried our Navy and Marine aviators into battle, and have guarded the skies above the seas for the last nine decades.

TFH 3/20: Sp5c. Charles Chris Hagemeister, USA

Charles Chris Hagemeister was born on August 21, 1946 in Lincoln, NE. He spent a year in college after high school, but found himself bored with academics and dropped out to joint the workforce. Hagemeister was drafted into the Army in 1966, and received training as a combat medic.

Forty-five years ago today, Hagemeister showed the heights of valor to which a medic can rise in battle with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment - part of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). He repeatedly placed himself at risk to care for wounded comrades and also took weapons and ammo from the fallen when there was no one else to engage the enemy. He was decorated later with the Medal of Honor.

Monday, March 19, 2012

TFH 3/19: Captain Paul Bucha, USA

Paul William Bucha was born on August 1, 1943 in our Nation's capital. He was a star swimmer in high school, and turned down several scholarship offers to attend the United States Military Academy, West Point. March 1968 saw him serving in Vietnam as a company commander with the 3d Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The regiment's motto is Ne Desit Virtus - Let Valor Not Fail. On March 16-19, 1968 Captain Bucha's valor did not fail, and he was awarded our Nation's highest honor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

TFH 3/18: Captain John Edgar Lackey, USAF

CSAR - Combat Search And Rescue. One of the more dangerous jobs in combat, as if any job is safe. CSAR forces have the role of rescuing shot-down airmen before they can be captured by the enemy. Think about it. An aircraft is shot down and the crew bails out. It reasons to believe that the helicopters that will do the extraction and the fighters and/or attack planes that will fly cover are going to encounter the same anti-aircraft batteries that shot our plane down in the first place - only the rescue forces are at even greater risk because they've got to get down close to the ground. These brave men and women don't care; the lives of their comrades on the deck and running are worth it.

March 18-19, 1972 - 40 years ago - one brave United States Air Force A-1E Skyraider pilot with the 1st Special Operations Squadron, flying from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, led the rescue of two downed comrades. He remained over the rescue area for more than four hours, at all times exposed to hostile fire. He repeatedly used his own plane to induce enemy guns to fire, thus revealing their position so others could attack and destroy them. The rescue was successful. For his courage, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross.

His name was John Edgar Lackey.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TFH 3/17: TM1 Frank LeRoy Knight, USN

The USS Stack (DD-406) was one of 10 Benham-class destroyers built for the United States Navy between 1936 and 1939. Her namesake, Edward Stack, was a United States Marine Corps officer during the American Revolution. Stack received his commission in 1799 from the great John Paul Jones, who credited his courage with winning the famous battle of the Bonhomme Richard against the HMS Serapis.

In the early days of World War II, the Stack was serving with the Atlantic Fleet on convoy duty as one of the escorts for the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7). While en route back to Norfolk, VA on March 17, 1942 - 70 years ago today - the Wasp and her escorts encountered near-zero visibility conditions. At 0650 hours, Wasp collided with the Stack in her starboard side, ripping a gash in the smaller ship's starboard side, and flooding the No. 1 fireroom.

The Stack was in serious trouble. In addition to the severe flooding, the water and potential of an additional collision threatened to detonate the depth charges in the Stack's magazines. One brave 34 year-old Torpedoman First Class took it upon himself to save his ship. For his courage, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

His name was Frank LeRoy Knight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

TFH 3/16: Sp4c. Alfred V. Rascon, USA

Alfred V. Rascon was born in Chihuahua, Mexico on September 10, 1945. His parents Alfredo and Andrea emigrated to the United States in search of a better life for themselves and their young son, settling in Oxnard, California. After Alfred graduated from high school in 1963, he enlisted in the United States Army. After basic training in California and medical training at Fort Sam Houston, TX he volunteered for airborne training and qualified as a parachutist.

His first assignment was to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) - the core of the 173d Airborne Brigade - then stationed on Okinawa. In May 1965, the brigade became the first major ground combat unit committed to the war in Vietnam.

On March 16, 1966, Rascon was assigned as a medic to the 173d's reconnaissance platoon. The platoon was en route to reinforce one of the brigade's line battalions when itself came under heavy attack. He repeatedly put himself at extreme risk to render aid, pass ammunition, and retrieve vital equipment - all the while ignoring his own wounds from bullets and shrapnel. On multiple occasions, he shielded wounded comrades from grenade blasts with his own body. When the enemy withdrew, he refused aid until the others had been cared for. When he was finally evacuated, he wasn't expected to survive his numerous wounds to the point that a chaplain administered Catholic last rites, but did.

He spent six months in an Army hospital in Japan recuperating from his wounds. His chain of command nominated him for the Medal of Honor. Inexplicably, the award did not go through, and instead he was awarded the Silver Star - two levels below the Medal of Honor as a valor award.

The tale of Rascon's incredible valor and gallantry doesn't end there.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

TFH 3/15: 1LT Ruppert L. Sargent, USA

Ruppert Leon Sargent was born on January 6, 1938 in Hampton, VA. He entered the United States Army in 1958 or 1959, and received an officer's commission through Army Officer Candidates' School in 1966.

By early 1967, Sargent had been promoted to First Lieutenant and was serving as a rifle platoon leader with 4th Battalion/9th Infantry Regiment, then part of the 25th Infantry Division and was fighting the Communist enemy in Vietnam. Forty-five years ago today, his platoon uncovered a Viet Cong weapons cache and tunnel complex. While they were trying to clear the area, an enemy tossed two grenades into the midst of Sargent's command group. He returned fire, and then sacrificed himself to save the lives of his soldiers. His courage was posthumously recognized with our Nation's highest honor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

TFH 3/14: Chief Master Sergeant Dennis M. Richardson, USAF

In 1998, Dennis M. Richardson had been serving for twenty-three years as a citizen-airman with the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing when the wing historian read that Richardson was listed as an Air Force Cross recipient during the Vietnam War. Richardson replied that he hadn't, and hadn't received any valor decorations besides two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

His fellow airmen were not deterred though. They queried the Air Force through channels, assembled contemporaneous records and witness statements, and petitioned the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records in October 2007 to obtain the missing Air Force Cross. The board eventually determined that Richardson was unjustly denied proper recognition for his role in attempting to rescue two USMC aviators on March 14, 1968. All four crew members of the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter had been nominated for the Air Force Cross. The awards for three were downgraded to the Silver Star; Richardson's award slipped through the cracks.

On November 13, 2007 - about 39 years, 8 months after the mission - the now retired Richardson was informed that his valor would no longer be unrecognized. His Air Force Cross, long delayed, would be granted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

EOD: "Explosive Ordnance Disposal", the military's "bomb squad".

IED: "Improvised Explosive Device", could be simple or sophisticated.

UXO: "Unexploded Ordnance", anything that goes "boom" that didn't when it should have or hasn't yet, and threatens our military or civilians.
The continuing development of foreign and US high-technology munitions that disperse numerous submunitions and area denial ordnance has led to the proliferation of UXO. These munitions are available for a range of weapons systems, including artillery, ballistic and cruise missiles, rockets, and bombs. On the battlefield, UXO can be conventional HE [high explosive]; chemical, biological, or nuclear ordnance; or IEDs. UXO limits battlefield mobility, denies the use of critical assets, and threatens to injure or kill soldiers at levels unprecedented in past wars.
--US Army Field Manual 9-15, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Service and Unit Operations, dated May 8, 1996
After lighting a fuse to detonate an explosive charge, you walk swiftly away. You do not run. If you have to run, it's too late.
--A USMC EOD Staff Sergeant, spoken (as close as I can remember after 21 years) at an EOD demonstration I witnessed aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, 1991

Kathryn Bigelow's 2008 film The Hurt Locker (IMDB), winner of the Best Picture Oscar at the 82nd Academy Awards and five others, tells the tale of the last six weeks of deployment of a US Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal company in Iraq during 2004, specifically a three-man team comprised of Sergeant First Class (SFC) William James (Jeremy Renner), the team leader, Sergeant (SGT) J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Specialist (SPC) Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). The screenplay was written by Mark Boal, who was an embedded journalist during 2004 in Iraq with an Army EOD unit. The script is largely based on his observations, interviews, and time spent in Iraq, and he was also awarded the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

I sat down to watch the DVD of the film having read just a basic plot overview and knowing that it had been awarded Best Picture. I purposefully did not read any published or viewer reviews before watching to maintain as an open mind as I could to the film, although I will readily admit to a pre-viewing skepticism of its worth based solely on the simple fact that it was recognized by Hollywood as the Best Picture of that year. Given Hollywood's general disdain for things military and patriotic, a movie that both accurately portrays the brave men and women of our military and puts their actions in a positive light is a dubious proposition in my opinion.

That said, a well-made movie about the military and combat is possible, despite present-day Hollywood proclivities. For The Hurt Locker, I was hoping for a little more We Were Soldiers and less Platoon, to use two polar-opposite perspective Vietnam War movies as examples. What did I find?

TFH 3/13: ICCS(SEAL) Robert T. Gallagher, USN

On this day in 1968, Robert Gallagher, a Senior Chief Petty Officer with SEAL Team Two, Detatchment A was on a night patrol that infiltrated a Viet Cong base camp. When they were discovered, they came under heavy fire. Wounded in both legs, Senior Chief Gallagher took command of the patrol in place of his more seriously wounded patrol leader, rallied his fellow SEALs, and got his team to the extraction point. For his courage and indomitable fighting spirit, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

Monday, March 12, 2012

United States Military Decorations - A Primer

As both regular and new readers I'm sure know, one of my main goals behind Their Finest Hour is to make people aware of the amazing accomplishments of our men and women in uniform. Today's 70th Anniversary post regarding General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's Medal of Honor spoke also to the myriad of other decorations he received over the duration of a long and storied career as MacArthur's heroism and contributions should, in my opinion, be viewed as a whole. It occurs to me though that not everybody has the context I do under which to view decorations below the Medal of Honor, and where and how they are used to recognize the efforts, exploits, and sacrifices of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen.

What follows is a run-down of the current order of precedence for all US Military decorations from the Medal of Honor to the Purple Heart.

TFH 3/12: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, USA

Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock, AR on January 26, 1880. His father, Arthur MacArthur, Jr. rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Army, and was decorated at age 18 during the American Civil War with the Medal of Honor.

When the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, General MacArthur was both Field Marshal of the Philippine Army (federalized into US service by President Roosevelt on July 26, 1941 as Pacific tensions increased) and commander of US Army Forces in the Far East. The Japanese invasion of the Philippines began on December 8, 1941. By January 8, 1942, American and Philippine forces were forced to withdraw to the tiny Bataan Peninsula and the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. MacArthur had been commanding his soldiers from Corregidor's Malinta Tunnel since Christmas Day, 1941. By early March 1942, it was clear that the situation in the Philippines was beyond rescue and the Japanese conquest was assured. MacArthur was ordered by President Roosevelt to turn over local command in the Philippines to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright and withdraw to Australia. MacArthur, along with his family, left Corregidor on the night of March 12, 1942 - 70 years ago today. For his steadfast leadership in the ultimately futile defense of the Philippines, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):


Rank and organization: General, U.S. Army, commanding U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. Place and date: Bataan Peninsula, Philippine Islands. Entered service at: Ashland, Wis. Birth: Little Rock, Ark. G.O. No.: 16, 1 April 1942. Citation: For conspicuous leadership in preparing the Philippine Islands to resist conquest, for gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against invading Japanese forces, and for the heroic conduct of defensive and offensive operations on the Bataan Peninsula. He mobilized, trained, and led an army which has received world acclaim for its gallant defense against a tremendous superiority of enemy forces in men and arms. His utter disregard of personal danger under heavy fire and aerial bombardment, his calm judgment in each crisis, inspired his troops, galvanized the spirit of resistance of the Filipino people, and confirmed the faith of the American people in their Armed Forces. 

General MacArthur, even though he had not personally performed actions typically associated with award of the Medal of Honor, chose to accept the Medal because "this award was intended not so much for me personally as it is a recognition of the indomitable courage of the gallant army which it was my honor to command."

Recent readers of Their Finest Hour will notice that this is an unusual post in that the Medal of Honor Citation appears "above the fold". That's because Douglas MacArthur - twice nominated for the Medal of Honor in 1914-1918 before he received it in 1942 - was a soldier and hero of epic proportions. His was a household name before World War II. If there was ever a justifiable case to award the Medal of Honor for lifetime achievement, it would have been for General MacArthur. From 1899 to 1951, he was the soldier's soldier, and the hero's hero.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

TFH 3/11: One-Hundred and Twenty-Four Lithuanian Patriots

Most American Patriots know that on July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Lee Resolution, establishing the American colonies as the United States. All Americans know July 4, 1776 as the day the Declaration of Independence was agreed to, then being signed likely on August 2, 1776. Fifty-six brave, principled men affixed their name to the Declaration, stating "with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" that it was "their Right,...their Duty to throw off such [tyrannical] Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." They faced an enormous task. They had stood up against a worldwide empire; the largest political, military, and economic force in the world. Eventually, they were successful. Why do I lead with that summary of our genesis as the United States?

Lithuania first declared independence from other European states on February 16, 1918. Their sovereignty lasted but two decades. Per the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Lithuania was "allocated" to the Soviet Union who occupied Lithuania (along with Estonia and Latvia) beginning June 15, 1940. Their country was ravaged, their governments removed, their rights abolished, their property seized; those who resisted were arrested and deported to Stalin's gulags. Lithuanians then saw Soviet tyranny replaced by Nazi tyranny during World War II. 1944 saw Soviet rule and control reimposed on the Lithuanians. For the next 46 years, they lived as Communist slaves under the Soviet Union.

On November 9, 1989 a wave of freedom began sweeping over Eastern Europe with the opening and eventual demolition of the Berlin Wall. On February 24, 1990 the first free, multi-party elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet were held. A parliamentary majority by non-Soviet aligned candidates was won. Of the 141 members, 91 were endorsed by Sąjūdis, the anti-Soviet Lithuanian Reform Movement.

These freely-elected Lithuanians knew that from 1944-1952 their countrymen had fought a guerrilla campaign against the Soviet occupiers that saw thousands killed and thousands imprisoned as they tried to regain their freedom.

They knew that the Hungarians had attempted a revolt against their Soviet occupiers in 1956 and were violently put down.

They knew that the Czechoslovakians had tried to regain liberties in 1968, and were also put down by the Soviet Union and its proxies.

They didn't care. Their cause, their purpose, was liberty. They acted.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

TFH 3/10: The Raid on Salamaua-Lae - 28 Navy Crosses

March 1942 was a dark period for the United States in the Pacific theater of World War II. Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, our forces were completely on the defensive and suffered defeat after defeat. The Philippines were also soon to fall in the not too distant future.

Reconnaissance showed that a Japanese invasion force was preparing to land on New Guinea. In the early morning of March 10, 1942 two United States Navy carrier task forces - Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, Jr.'s Task Force 11 centered around the USS Lexington (CV-2) and Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17 centered around the USS Yorktown (CV-5) - launched their aircraft from the Gulf of Papua to the south of the target areas of Salamaua and Lae.

The carriers' F4F Wildcat fighters, SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and TBD Devastator torpedo bombers launched 120 miles away from their targets and had to cross the Owen Stanley Range mountains - higher than 13,000 feet in places - to reach the enemy. They achieved complete surprise on the Japanese.

The daring raid sank three transports and a mine sweeper, and several other ships including a light cruiser and two destroyers were damaged. For his leadership during the attack and days prior, Vice Admiral Brown received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The courage and skill of the Naval Aviators who flew the mission resulted in twenty-eight of them receiving the second-highest possible award for valor: the Navy Cross.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the Navy Cross citations for the 28 valiant fliers. The main links are all to Military Times' Hall of Valor. Most of these men received other decorations for valorous service, and I encourage you to follow the links and read it all.

Friday, March 09, 2012

TFH 3/9: Captain Raymond Harvey, USA

Raymond Harvey was born on March 1, 1920 in Ford City, PA. Harvey was one-half Chicksaw Indian, and his childhood years were spent in Oklahoma. Harvey enlisted with the United States Army on August 16, 1939, prior to the beginning of World War II.

His service in World War II was exemplary. Harvey landed at Normandy a week after D-Day with the 79th Infantry Division. For his leadership, courage, and wounds suffered he received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Star medals, and two Purple Hearts. At the end of World War II, Harvey was demobilized to reserve status.

He returned to active duty in 1948, and was thrust back into war in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division in 1950. Captain Harvey, commanding Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, showed beyond any shadow of a doubt that a leader of men in combat can only do so from the front and by example on this day in 1951. For his heroism, he was awarded our Nation's highest honor.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

TFH 3/8: The Evil Empire Speech

I grew up thinking Ronald Reagan was wrong for America; that his conservatism was the antithesis of America. I know now how wrong that view, obtained via my parents, was. Ronald Reagan was a man of deep conviction and principle. He was both indomitable in his belief that his principles were correct, and indefatigable in defending them against assaults from all fronts.

Ronald Reagan called things like he saw them. He did not bend principle to fit the whim of the day. Was he always correct? No, but he drew lines in the sand and stuck by them. That is the essence of leadership. That is what inspired our Nation and made his presidency an awesome success.

On this day in 1983, he gave an address to the National Association of Evangelicals that is today known as the "Evil Empire" speech from the language he used to refer to the Soviet Union. I hope you take the time to watch and listen to the entirety of Reagan's speech.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

TFH 3/7: SFC Nelson V. Brittin, USA

Nelson Vogel Brittin was born on October 31, 1920 in Audubon, New Jersey. I was able to determine that he served in the United States Army during World War II, although I couldn't find out with what unit or in what capacity. Regardless, during the Korean War he was posted with the 3rd Battalion/19th Infantry Regiment, then part of the 24th Infantry Division.

On this day in 1951, he led his unit on a charge up a heavily defended hilltop. His courage, leadership, and example from the front in the face of tenacious opposition inspired his company to take its objective. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

TFH 3/6: Seaman David G. Ouellet, USN

David George Ouellet was born June 13, 1944 in Newton, MA at the height of World War II. Just seven days before, the Allied Expeditionary Force stormed Hitler's Fortress Europe on D-Day. On his birthday, American soldiers found themselves under heavy counter-attack by German Panzergrenadiers around Carentan.

At age 20 in 1964, he felt our Nation's call and enlisted in the United States Navy. Not long after completing his initial training, he was sent to Vietnam with an assault craft unit. His first tour there lasted five months. Ouellet was then sent back to San Diego for training in riverine patrol boats, known as PBRs. After retraining, he returned to war in Vietnam.

On March 6, 1967 while a crewman of PBR-124, Ouellet observed a grenade flung by a concealed enemy along shore about to land on the boat. He knew that the only way to save his crew mates from death and perhaps the boat from destruction was to place their lives and value above his own. He acted, and his incredible heroism was later recognized with our Nation's highest honor.

Monday, March 05, 2012

TFH 3/5: Second Lieutenant Robert J. Hibbs, USA

Robert John Hibbs was born in Omaha, NE during World War II on April 21, 1943. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant through ROTC at the University of Northern Iowa in 1965 and was soon sent off to war in Vietnam with 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment - then part of the 1st Infantry Division.

On this day in 1966, Lieutenant Hibbs was commanding a 15-man ambush patrol when they came upon a much larger enemy force advancing towards the 2nd Battalion's main position. He led his men on an effective ambush of that enemy force, then launched a surprise attack on another. Always leading from the front and by example he eventually was cut down, but not before rescuing a stricken trooper, charging two machine gun positions, and preventing materiel from falling into the hands of the enemy. Hibbs' courageous charge and gallant acts were ultimately found worthy of our Nation's highest honor.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

TFH 3/4: Two Gallant Airmen - Chapman & Cunningham - 10 Years

Ten years ago today, United States special operations forces commenced the Battle of Takur Ghar, also known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge, so named for a US Navy SEAL (Neil Roberts) who became the first casualty of the engagement.

Three members of the United States Air Force accompanied traditional ground forces on the helicopters that brought them to the battle area. Two of the three gave their lives for our country, and in their sacrifices exhibited courage and fighting spirit worthy of the second-highest award they could have received: the Air Force Cross.

The first was a Combat Air Controller responsible for coordinating air support who took it upon himself to lead a rescue of his Navy colleagues. The second was a Pararescue Medic who first stayed aboard a burning helicopter to care for the wounded and then repeatedly ventured into danger multiple times to care for his comrades. Their names were John A. Chapman and Jason D. Cunningham.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

TFH 3/3: Sergeant Lester R. Stone, Jr., USA

Lester Raymond Stone, Jr. was born on June 4, 1947 in Binghamton, NY. He was drafted into the United States Army and sent to fight in Vietnam on December 4, 1968. He was a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, part of the 11th Infantry Brigade and the 23rd Infantry "Americal" Division.

On this day in 1969, Stone was a rifle squad leader. His platoon was conducting a patrol when they came under heavy attack. The platoon's vital machine gun and its gunner fell silent. Without the M-60's firepower, the platoon was likely doomed. Lester Stone knew exactly what had to be done.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Movie Review: Act of Valor

I went into seeing Act of Valor having read two reviews by people whose opinions I respect, one positive (by Ed Morrissey) and one not (by Cranky TRex). The two differing opinions, plus other things I've read and heard about the film, really left me apprehensive about what to expect. I'll admit a complete predisposition to like the film, based on its subject matter.

Act of Valor, of course, is hyped on it featuring real active-duty United States Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare operators in starring roles, basically playing themselves and using actual weapons and tactics employed in the real world. On that alone, I think it's important for a perspective viewer to look at the film as more of a docu-drama than a standard feature motion picture. Plot development isn't the film's strong point.

For all the film's shortcomings though, it is an important product and I enthusiastically encourage people to see it. However, some of you may need to prepare for a little disappointment.

TFH 3/2: 1LT John Birmingham, USA

The Vietnam War was the dawn of airmobile warfare using helicopters on a large scale. The brave aviators who flew their lightly armed and usually unarmored ships into the teeth of the enemy day after day, hour after hour, were a special breed. They put themselves at extreme risk to insert the infantry into combat, keep them supplied, provide air support from treetop level, evacuate the wounded, and extract the combat forces at the end of battle.

On this day in 1969, one helicopter commander did everything within his power to provide fire support to soldiers on the ground despite heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. When his craft was forced down, he established a defense on the ground, cared for the wounded among his crew, and made sure that all his men were evacuated before he left the field of battle.

His name was John Birmingham. His heroism resulted in his decoration with the Distinguished Service Cross, our Nation's second-highest honor.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Switching off the lights

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contains an article about the planned closure of three power generation plants in western Pennsylvania, and eight overall, over the next several years. The three coal-fired plants in my area represent 1,387 megawatts of capacity. They are owned by GenOn Energy.

Yes, these are old facilities. Some of the generating units are as old as 60 years. According to GenOn's own press release the closures of the eight generating stations is "because forecasted returns on investments needed to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient." These regulations are ones enacted since the beginning of the Obama presidency.

Naturally, environmentalists are cheering. These "dirty" coal plants are going the way of the dodo. Their thick black belching smoke won't be poisoning us anymore. As coincidence would have it, I had to drive past GenOn's New Castle Generating Station today; it's a 330MW capacity plant, and is on the closure list. What did I see?

Andrew Breitbart 1969-2012

To his family, friends, colleagues, and to all for whom his work has been so inspiring, I offer my deepest sympathies. The fight will go on. We will never yield. We will win.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. - Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Rest in peace, Andrew.

TFH 3/1: PFC Daniel D. Bruce, USMC

Daniel Dean Bruce was born on May 18, 1950 in Michigan City, Indiana. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on May 20, 1968 and transitioned to the active duty Marines in July that year.

He began a combat tour in Vietnam on January 24, 1969 with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment - part of the storied 1st Marine Division. Just five weeks later while in his nighttime defensive position, he sacrificed his own life to save those of his fellow Marines in a single, selfless act of incredible courage. His heroism was obviously worthy of our Nation's highest honor.