Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Beirut Bombing - 30 Years

The Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon was created in August 1982 following a request from the Lebanese government to the United Nations for "peacekeepers" to intervene in the Lebanese Civil War, which had heated up after the Israelis invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982 with the aim of destroying forces belonging to the Palestine Liberation Organization in the south of the country bordering Israel.

The United States' main contribution to to the Multinational Force was a United States Marine Corps "Marine Amphibious Unit" or "MAU", known today as a "Marine Expeditionary Unit" or "MEU". A MAU/MEU is formed around a reinforced infantry battalion known as a "Battalion Landing Team" or "BLT". Both France and Italy also committed large forces to the peacekeeping effort. The MNF was located solely in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

The Marines' headquarters was at, and their positions surrounded, the Beirut International Airport.

The "peacekeeping" situation in Lebanon took a definite turn for the worse on April 18, 1983 when terrorists used a suicide truck bomb to attack the US Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 including 17 Americans. When the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, including a BLT formed from the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, relieved their sister formation the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit in May 1983, they faced an almost untenable tactical situation and the undesirable role of interposing themselves between warring factions who really didn't care who was in the way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TFH 10/17: Private Junior Van Noy, USA

Nathan K. Van Noy, Jr. - known by the nickname "Junior" - was born in Grace, Idaho on August 9, 1924. According to his enlistment record, he completed just three years of high school and was drafted into the United States Army for World War II service on February 17, 1943 at age 18.

Seven months later, he was wounded in action on New Guinea during September 1943 as a member of the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, and refused to be evacuated and continued on duty. Then, on October 17, 1943, when his unit's position was faced with a Japanese counter-attack from the sea, he remained at his machine gun despite calls from his fellow soldiers to withdraw and the wounds he had already suffered. The gallant Private continued fighting until he had run out of ammunition and taken his final breath.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

TFH 10/13-28: Captain Arlo L. Olson, USA

Arlo L. Olson was born on April 20, 1918 in Greenville, Iowa. When he was ten years old, he and his family relocated to Toronto, South Dakota. Olson attended the University of South Dakota from 1936 to 1940. After graduation, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army via Reserve Officers' Training Corps and became an infantry officer, with his service beginning on June 28, 1941.

He was promoted to First Lieutenant on February 1, 1942 and then Captain on December 1, 1942. On Christmas 1942, he married Miss Myra Bordeaux in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He left his new wife just a few months later to go to war with the 3rd Infantry Division's 15th Infantry Regiment.

On October 12, 1943, Allied forces on mainland Italy began their attack across the Volturno River, a natural barrier at which the Nazi Germans opted to make their first defensive stand against the Americans and British. The next day, the 15th Infantry was thrown into the fight and for the next fifteen days slammed the enemy back through thirty miles of rough terrain. During each of those fifteen days, Arlo Olson stayed at the front of his soldiers' advance and repeatedly placed himself at extreme risk and time and time again, showed initiative and courage above and beyond the normal call of duty.

His Medal of Honor was assured on October 28, 1943 when, after he was gravely wounded by the enemy, he chose to insure his unit was in proper defensive positions and refused care for himself until all others had been treated. He perished as his soldiers tried to carry their valiant leader to safety.

Friday, October 11, 2013

TFH 10/11: Lieutenant Colonel Neel E. Kearby, USAAF

Neel Earnest Kearby was born on June 5, 1911 in Wichita Falls, Texas. His family later settled in Arlington, Texas. Kearby completed his studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1936 and then joined the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. By the time he officially graduated from UT Austin in 1937, he was well on his way to earning his pilot's wings.

Kearby was one of the first combat aviators to fly and develop tactics for the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. As a Lieutenant Colonel in 1943, he took command of the United States Army Air Forces' 348th Fighter Group and flew in combat against the Japanese from a forward base on New Guinea.

Seventy years ago today, Lieutenant Colonel Kearby led a flight of four Thunderbolts on a mission to Wewak, New Guinea where the Japanese had a large airbase and other installations. After performing their primary reconnaissance mission, he shot down one enemy aircraft, and then even though his flight was low on fuel, pressed the attack against an enemy aircraft formation twelve times larger. He shot down five more planes, and joined the ranks of our Nation's greatest heroes.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

In Memoriam: Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko, USA

Hat tip to Mary Chastain for alerting me to this sad news.

On Friday, October 4, 2013 Nicholas Oresko, at the time the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, passed away during surgery to repair a broken femur suffered in a fall at his assisted living facility. Mr. Oresko served in the United States Army's 94th Infantry Division during World War II, and received the Medal for his heroism on January 23, 1945. Born on January 18, 1917, he was 96 years old at his passing.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

TFH 10/3-4: Mogadishu+20

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. 
-- President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

The United States entered Somalia in December 1992 to stop the imminent starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Although it succeeded in this mission, the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. In a country where the United States, perhaps naively, expected some measure of gratitude for its help, its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. 
-- From The United States Army in Somalia, 1992-1994
Somalia descended into civil war in January 1991 with the collapse of the military dictatorship that had ruled the African nation and at least four armed groups jockied for power. In addition to fighting with each other, the armed militia groups used another weapon against each other and the Somali people: food, or rather, the lack of it.

Starving people are easily subjugated, and they certainly are in no condition to take up arms and resist. Until the United Nations decided to act and intervene in Somalia to alleviate the humanitarian crisis a year later in January 1992, the first year of civil war saw tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Somali civilians starved to death as the militias choked off and controlled food supplies.