A D-Day Veteran Recalls the Weight of Responsibility

A D-Day Veteran Recalls the Weight of Responsibility

Medic at D-Day: The Humble Heroism of Charles Norman Shay

The sound of bullets popping through air and piercing the water haunts Charles Norman Shay to this day. He doesn’t recall how many wounded men he pulled from the water while machine gun rounds streamed past. He doesn’t really want to remember that day when he repeatedly plunged into the treacherous sea to carry men up onto Omaha Beach.

The 19-year-old Penobscot from Indian Island, Me., was an Army medic in the 16th Infantry Regiment, part of the unit known as the Big Red One. Shay had the distinction of being in one of the three combat regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that spearheaded the D-Day assault in Normandy, France.

Charles Shay performs his sage ceremony on Omaha Beach, where he landed during D-Day. “I touch my forehead with the sage mixture, say a prayer and drop the mixture into the fire. I repeat the process to all four directions of the compass, twice. The first time I remember my family and ancestors, the second time my fellow brothers-in-arms that never made it home. Each year I think I’ll be joining them soon and I’m consoled knowing they will greet me.” Shay has traveled to Normandy nearly every year since 2007 to conduct the ceremony. He’s now 93. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Charles Shay performs his sage ceremony on Omaha Beach, where he landed during D-Day. “I touch my forehead with the sage mixture, say a prayer and drop the mixture into the fire. I repeat the process to all four directions of the compass, twice. The first time I remember my family and ancestors, the second time my fellow brothers-in-arms that never made it home. Each year I think I’ll be joining them soon and I’m consoled knowing they will greet me.” Shay has traveled to Normandy nearly every year since 2007 to conduct the ceremony. He’s now 93. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Shay gives tribute to all Native Americans who fought on the shores of Normandy on D-Day, during the opening of the park dedicated to them, aptly named the Charles Norman Shay Memorial Park. Tribal representatives from across America flew in for the occasion. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Shay gives tribute to all Native Americans who fought on the shores of Normandy on D-Day, during the opening of the park dedicated to them, aptly named the Charles Norman Shay Memorial Park. Tribal representatives from across America flew in for the occasion. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Charles Shay and Marie Pascale Legrand look towards the wooden box on a ceremonial blanket containing eagle feathers and the sage mixture that he uses to, “connect with my brothers lost on D-Day.” Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Charles Shay and Marie Pascale Legrand look towards the wooden box on a ceremonial blanket containing eagle feathers and the sage mixture that he uses to, “connect with my brothers lost on D-Day.” Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Major General Timothy McGuire, U.S. Army Europe, honors and congratulates Shay. Legrand was instrumental in the creation of the park, working with local officials and the military to make it happen. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Major General Timothy McGuire, U.S. Army Europe, honors and congratulates Shay. Legrand was instrumental in the creation of the park, working with local officials and the military to make it happen. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Medic Shay with his brothers-in-arms outside of Aachen, Germany, 1944. “Aachen was one of the bloody battles the 16th Infantry Regiment participated in. We were there for many of them.” Left from the back row: the first sergeant, Lieutenant Otsby, and Lieutenant Jan Kowski. Kneeling: Medic Private Shay and the radioman. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Medic Shay with his brothers-in-arms outside of Aachen, Germany, 1944. “Aachen was one of the bloody battles the 16th Infantry Regiment participated in. We were there for many of them.” Left from the back row: the first sergeant, Lieutenant Otsby, and Lieutenant Jan Kowski. Kneeling: Medic Private Shay and the radioman. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

When he was a boy, Shay’s family and other Penobscots dressed in ceremonial regalia for pageants. During the Depression, his parents set up tents in Lincolnville Beach, Maine, where they lived over the summer selling baskets and other crafted Indian items while Shay danced for the tourists. “We’d also travel across the state performing at hotels.” Back row L-R: Leo Shay, Howard Ranco, Roland Nelson. Front row: Bruce Poolaw, Lucy Poolaw, Florence Nicolar Shay and Charles Shay (who was known as Little Muskrat when he danced). Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

When he was a boy, Shay’s family and other Penobscots dressed in ceremonial regalia for pageants. During the Depression, his parents set up tents in Lincolnville Beach, Maine, where they lived over the summer selling baskets and other crafted Indian items while Shay danced for the tourists. “We’d also travel across the state performing at hotels.” Back row L-R: Leo Shay, Howard Ranco, Roland Nelson. Front row: Bruce Poolaw, Lucy Poolaw, Florence Nicolar Shay and Charles Shay (who was known as Little Muskrat when he danced). Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Shay's book, Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military Service of a Penobscot Indian Elder, published by Polar Bear & Company, an imprint of the nonprofit Solon Center for Research and Publishing. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Shay's book, Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military Service of a Penobscot Indian Elder, published by Polar Bear & Company, an imprint of the nonprofit Solon Center for Research and Publishing. Photo courtesy Charles Normal Shay.

Shay stands outside his museum on Indian Island, Maine. Shay’s family owned a business where tourists could watch them weave traditional baskets, before Charles turned it into Princess Watahwaso’s Teepee, a museum dedicated to the accomplishment of his ancestors and the Penobscot nation. The “princess” was his actress aunt with whom he toured, dancing as a boy. Photo by Ramona Du Houx.

Shay stands outside his museum on Indian Island, Maine. Shay’s family owned a business where tourists could watch them weave traditional baskets, before Charles turned it into Princess Watahwaso’s Teepee, a museum dedicated to the accomplishment of his ancestors and the Penobscot nation. The “princess” was his actress aunt with whom he toured, dancing as a boy. Photo by Ramona Du Houx.

Shay shares his stories with his publisher, Polar Bear and Company in Solon, Maine while finalizing his book. Until 2007 he never spoke of his experiences in WWII, even to his beloved wife Lilly. “It was best left unspoken. But now new generations need to recognize what we fought for and why. We need to tell our stories. I could not vote but was proud to serve my country. Democracy should never be taken for granted.” Photo by Ramona Du Houx.

Shay shares his stories with his publisher, Polar Bear and Company in Solon, Maine while finalizing his book. Until 2007 he never spoke of his experiences in WWII, even to his beloved wife Lilly. “It was best left unspoken. But now new generations need to recognize what we fought for and why. We need to tell our stories. I could not vote but was proud to serve my country. Democracy should never be taken for granted.” Photo by Ramona Du Houx.

On the evening before the invasion landing, Shay had a surprise visit from a fellow Penobscot, Melvin Neptune. It seemed like destiny to meet someone he knew well from his small home reservation aboard an attack transport ship. “He didn’t trouble me with his combat experience, nor did he offer me advice. Instead, we talked about home, because he knew I had never been in combat . . . all hell was about to break loose on me,” Shay recalls.

The Big Red One sustained about 2,000 casualties, most during the first hour of the landings under heavy German fire.

With his eyes stinging from the thick smoke that engulfed the battle, Shay looked seaward at injured men struggling to get ashore, loaded down with equipment. Some were drowning in the rising tide. Without hesitation he ran into danger.

Armed with only his two satchels of medical supplies, he maneuvered around the fallen to pull the living up on the beach. He’ll never forget the smell of burning flesh, vehicles and oil carried on the ocean breezes.

“The seas were red with the blood. At the very beginning, it was difficult for me to witness so much carnage. I had to push what I was experiencing out of my mind, so I could function the way I was trained to function. Then I was able to operate effectively and even saved a few lives. I have always been proud to be a medic. It’s a special privilege.”

By noon, almost half of the soldiers and most of the officers in his company were wounded or dead. Up to 3,000 Allied troops died, and some 9,000 were injured or classified as missing the day of the largest seaborne invasion in recorded history.

Shay remembers cradling the critically wounded to give them some comfort. He stayed with Private Edward Morozewicz, easing his passing. In 2017 Shay visited Morozewicz’s family, making sure they knew of Edward’s bravery, and he participated in a special ceremony honoring his fellow medic. He still questions why he lived when Morozewicz perished. “I knew he was slowly dying. I bandaged his wounds and gave him morphine. But I knew there was no help for him,” says a somber Shay.

Seven medics from his regiment were killed on D-Day and 24 others wounded. “I am a great believer in a spiritual way of life. My mother’s prayers must have guided me.”

For his gallantry that day, Private Shay was awarded the Silver Star. In 2007 French President Nicolas Sarkozy honored him with the Légion d’Honneur. He is one of two American Indian combat medics to survive the war, both without any injuries.

On the 2017 anniversary of D-Day, he listened intently to the waves lapping the shore, remembering his brothers-in-arms who died there 73 years ago, as he performed a sage-smudging ceremony at dawn. “The ceremonies are my way of trying to take up contact with the spirits of the brave men that remain there.”

Since 2007 Shay has made the pilgrimage to Normandy nearly every year. Wearing a deer-hide vest with the beaded design of a turtle on the back, he fans the smoke, created from burning tobacco, sage and sweetgrass, gently with an eagle feather, sanctifying the area.

“I bathe myself in this smoke to cleanse my mind and my body of all evil, concentrating very earnestly on the spirits of my fellow comradesin- arms who are still there. I let them know they’re not forgotten.”

Speaking openly about his wartime experiences during his first visits to Normandy was a challenge, after being silent about them for more than 62 years. But the people of France eased his worries. “I was surprised to witness the sincerity of the citizens expressing their joy and gratitude at the liberation, after so many years. The gratitude was especially awe-inspiring and almost unbelievable.”

His 2017 trip back to the war zone was different in a special way. His nephew Timothy Shay assisted him in the ceremony, and the people of France honored him by dedicating a park on a bluff that overlooks Omaha Beach – to him and all American Indians who fought for the Allies during the war.

The Charles Shay Memorial immortalizes the 175 Native Americans who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Only 55 of them have been identified.

“Now, there is a plaque commemorating Indian soldiers who left Turtle Island to help liberate our ancient French allies. An estimated 500 tribesmen participated in Operation Neptune (D-Day), as paratroopers or as ground troops landing on the beaches…these brave men have passed into the spirit world. We will not forget,” said Shay at the park’s commemorative ceremony, citing the Indian name for North America.

The turtle is a sacred animal representing wisdom and longevity. It also is the animal Shay chose as a little boy to be his personal Penobscot animal. Sculpted by his nephew Tim, the park’s turtle looks out over the Atlantic, with its head turned west towards Indian Island, Maine, home of the Penobscot Nation, where Shay lives.

Charles Shay went on to see action during the Battle of Aachen, the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. After crossing the Rhine on the bridge at Remagen in 1945, he was captured.

“My heart breaks for those women who prayed for their brave sons but never welcomed their sons home again,” says Shay wiping away a tear. “I can never forget the men who never had the chance to experience life as it was meant to be, a wife and a family, but instead were destined to depart this life in some far-off land.”

Shay and his three brothers served in World War II two in the U.S. Navy and one in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 gunner. All survived. But for nearly two agonizing months, Shay’s mother, Florence, thought Charles had perished, unaware he’d been taken prisoner.

Shay said he would never forget her expression when she opened the door and saw him standing there. Tears of joy streamed down her face. “It was the only time I enjoyed making my mother cry.”

But jobs were scarce, and being a decorated Penobscot veteran held little weight. “While a good number of us were decorated with purple hearts, bronze and silver stars, when we came back to our reservations, we didn’t talk about our experiences. We weren’t asked.”

He reenlisted and served in Austria. He returned to combat as a medic in Korea and was awarded the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf clusters, again for valor in saving lives. After serving a short time in the southern Pacific, where atomic bombs were being tested, he joined the Air Force, before retiring in 1954 as a master sergeant. Then he worked in Vienna for the International Atomic Energy Commission and later for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, before finally returning home to Indian Island.

As a child, Charles had to walk across the Penobscot River in the depths of winter to attend school off the reservation. His mother wanted her son to be more integrated with the larger community, so he dutifully made the trek in all weather, despite Maine’s frigid conditions. Years later, in Korea, those experiences had hardened him enough to face a Siberian cold front that descended over the Chosin Reservoir, plunging temperatures to as low as −35°F.

“It was bitter cold. Medical supplies froze – plasma became useless. To defrost morphine syrettes, we put them in our mouths before they could be injected. Frostbite was a major problem, killing too many men. But our mission extricating a Marine division was successful, and we were evacuated on Christmas Eve.”

In 2003, shortly after he returned to Indian Island to retire, his beloved wife, Lilly, passed.

“After 40 years living in Vienna, when I returned home it was like night and day. I had left a city with a population of well over one million and returned to a small reservation with about 500 souls. I’m proud of my heritage. It was always my desire to return home.”

But he couldn’t stay in retirement, as he felt it was his responsibility to step forward into the public light to make sure the sacrifices Natives had made during the wars would be remembered. In doing so he has become a tireless promoter of the Penobscot Nation, passing on his cultural heritage.

“We are very fortunate as a people to live in this great democratic land, where we enjoy freedom of speech and religion. Many other countries enjoy these privileges too, but some people are forced to exist under suppression and live under the will-power of a minority, which creates much unrest in the world,” says Shay.

“Our youth should always be proud of and never forget their heritage. They should always be prepared to step forward, should always protect our way of life and the land we live in, should another threaten us.”

Shay went on to write Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military Service of a Penobscot Indian Elder, published by Polar Bear & Company, an imprint of the nonprofit Solon Center for Research and Publishing. “My book is a journey into the past, a past that I would prefer to wipe out of my memory, but this is not possible.”

He also facilitated the publication of a new edition of his grandfather Joseph Nicolar’s book, The Life and Traditions of the Red Man.

“I’m trying to do whatever I can to promote my Native American culture, to promote what my ancestors have done. For a small community, we have many artists – people that do very fine beadwork, basket makers, painters, woodcarvers, sculptors, not to forget authors. I’m proud of our young people, many of whom have attained degrees. It is my hope that our tribe will continue to prosper and that we will eventually be treated on an equal basis, on the state/tribal administration level.”

A white-shingled teepee stands beside his house, erected by his aunt Lucy Nicolar Poolaw, known on the stage as the singer Princess Watahwaso. Shay has transformed the teepee into a museum he runs, preserving family and Penobscot history.

He remembers performing Native dances for tourists and giving them tours of Indian Island, while he was growing up. “I liked it, we earned money for the family.”

In 2009, Governor John Baldacci of Maine honored Shay and other American Indians by proclaiming June 21 Native American Veterans Day in the state. The date was specifically chosen because it’s the anniversary of the day the Wabanaki joined the American Revolution in 1775. The Penobscot Indian Nation is one of four tribes in Maine that make up the Wabanaki Confederacy. Shay is a direct descendent of Penobscot Chief Joseph Orono, who fought with General Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War.

“We were second-class citizens in our own country but served this country faithfully. In effect, we were fighting to protect our own land,” says Shay.

“I know that bullets and shrapnel do not distinguish between soldiers of different racial, national, ethnic or religious heritage. But, I know that not all those who served and sacrificed have been, or are, treated equally. This day will provide us with the opportunity to remind…and to honor those who have served or are now serving our country,” said Shay at the bill signing. Looking out over the Penobscot River that runs adjacent to his home, Shay points in the direction of Normandy, France. “On June 21st, Native American Veterans Day, we will unveil a twin turtle statue to the one on Omaha Beach. The turtles will be looking at each other across the ocean, to bring our peoples together.”

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On 6 June 1944, the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) participated in the largest combined operation in the history of warfare. They, along with their British and American brethren, were to land, seize a beachhead, and from there advance to secure intermediate and final objectives some 15km inland by nightfall. In preparation, Canadian minesweepers joined their British counterparts clearing the way for the invasion fleet, while destroyers and corvettes fired at German targets on the Normandy coast. The naval guns opened fire around 5.30am. As the operation began, Lieutenant-Commander DW Piers, commander of the destroyer HMCS Algonquin, ordered his men to stay at their guns no matter what happened: “If our ship gets hit near the shore, we will run the ship right up on the shore and keep firing our guns, until the last shell is gone.” Desperate times called for desperate measures.

The first Canadian troops on French soil were men of the First Canadian Parachute Battalion. The paratroopers landed between 1am and 1.30am on 6 June, one hour ahead of the rest of the brigade, although many were scattered around the French countryside. “We were in the process of hooking up when the plane took violent evasive action,” Major Dick Hilborn explained. “Five of us ended up in the back of the plane.

“We got out okay and after wandering about for a bit I picked up three others of my stick [drop group]. It took us three hours and the assistance of a local French farmer to find out where we were… one and a half miles north of the drop zone.”

Despite these challenges, by midday the paratroopers secured the drop zone, captured an enemy HQ, and destroyed river crossings, which denied the enemy access to the beaches in their sector. They also helped capture a battery at Merville, whose guns might otherwise have jeopardised Canadian landings at Juno Beach and British landings at Sword Beach.

Meanwhile, in one of its heaviest assaults of the war (in terms of the weight of bombs), RAF Bomber Command dropped over five thousand tons of bombs on the Atlantic Wall’s coastal defence batteries from 11.30pm on the night of 5/6 June until 5.15am. Among the squadrons was No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group, which made 230 sorties and dropped 859 tons.

While the paratroopers and bombers were engaged, the infantry began their voyage into the beach. As the assault craft advanced, the artillery regiments fired over the infantrymen’s heads from seaborne landing craft, themselves also closing in on the shore. (Once the troops landed, most complained that this drenching of enemy defences had been largely ineffective – but the artillery, navy, and air force continued to attack infantry-identified targets of opportunity throughout the day.)

Yet as they made their one-and-a-half-hour run into shore, an eerie silence greeted infantrymen who had expected the cacophony of battle. The fire brought down upon the leading craft was less than had been feared. The big inland guns offered little resistance and neither did any enemy aircraft attack the landing craft. Likewise, German artillery in the beach defences was situated to fire along the beaches and could not come to bear upon craft any distance offshore. Therefore, the enemy fired mainly small arms and mortars at the approaching infantry. One senior commander reported that opposition began to manifest itself only when the leading craft were about 3,000 yards from the beach and even then the fire was “only desultory and inaccurate”. It was after the soldiers landed that really fierce opposition began.

Still, the run-in was nerve-wracking in the extreme. The little boats pitched heavily up and down, tossed by the seas. Charlie Martin of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada remembered as he approached Bernières-sur-Mer that he saw no sign of any friendly bombardment: “As we moved further from the mother ship and closer to the shore, it came as a shock to realise that the assault fleet just behind us had disappeared from view. Suddenly there was just us and an awful lot of ocean… ten boats stretched out over 1,500 yards is not really a whole lot of assault force. The boats began to look even tinier as the gaps widened, with more than the length of a football field between each.”

Another QOR of C rifleman recalled: “You’re a phoney if you’re not afraid.”

The invasion of Juno beach

Juno beach itself was 9.7 kilometres wide. It encompassed three beachfront villages: the small port of Courseulles-sur-Mer, as well as Bernières and St Aubin-sur-Mer. A fortified defence network of guns, concrete emplacements, pillboxes, barbed wire entanglements and mines awaited the infantry. Combat engineers and armoured regiments supported the advancing riflemen and field artillery. Some tanks came in on tank landing craft others, famously, were fitted with the Duplex Drive, which permitted them to float and “swim” to shore. Some of these foundered, while others were launched late due to rough seas.

The first Canadian infantry set foot into this defence network between 7.45am and 8.15am. As the boat ramp came down, many men raced to the sea wall. In some sectors, such as the Canadian Scottish, the preparatory bombardment had been quite effective. In others, including the Royal Winnipeg Rifles’ left flank, men landed in front of bristling concrete strongpoints. Most rushed these defences and cleared them, at heavy cost, using Sten machine guns, hand grenades, rifles, and side arms. This work was not easy. In some sectors, men were shot before exiting landing craft, while others barely made it ashore. But for most, their training kicked in and they proceeded up the beach.

Kenneth Byron, who landed with the Canadian Scottish Regiment on the Canadians’ extreme right flank, remembered mortar bombs exploding as soon as he touched down. Immediately, he suffered a wound to his face.

“I put my hand up and I got a handful of blood,” he recounted. “The first aid man came along and he said ‘hold the pressure point’, which I did, and Captain Young came along and he said ‘I’ll fix that’ – and he sutured it. My company commander… said: ‘Are you ready to go?’ And I said ‘yes’. And he said: ‘Well, get your platoon organised and get off the beach… you’re now the platoon commander because your officer’s been knocked out, he’s badly wounded.’”

Byron continued: “We knew where the objective was and the aim of the game was not to fight. If you ran into enemy pockets, you contain it by fire and bypassed it. I eventually got up to my company that night about 9pm, just after they had arrived at the objective. My company commander took a look at me. I said: ‘Now I can stay, I’m not in all that much pain.’ But I looked bad, I was covered with blood that had dried on my uniform and face, and caked with blood and dust. I looked bad and he said: ‘No Sergeant, you’d better go back because your appearance is bad for morale. Better to go back and get patched up and come back again.’ I went back and I spent a night on the beach… the gunboats were shelling inland with big heavy 12 and 16 inch guns, the battleships out in the bay – and then there were dogfights and everything else, and small arms fire and the whole thing. And it was a rough night.”

Meanwhile HMCS Algonquin had opened fire, destroying a pair of 75mm guns near St Aubin-sur-Mer. As troops of New Brunswick’s North Shore Regiment began landing at the other end of Juno beach from Ken Byron, they met fierce resistance. Forward Observation Officers called on Algonquin. The destroyer turned its guns against houses harbouring German snipers lining the beach. Along with Algonquin, HMCS Sioux, nine British destroyers, and two British cruisers fired on the beach defences that day.

In some sectors the tanks landed around the same time as the infantry, while in others they were delayed. Some tanks touched down first, as the Regina Rifles reported tanks on the ground at 7.58am. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles touched down at 7.49am but found the tanks were delayed. The practice for most tanks after touching down was to stop in the water on the seaward side of the beach obstacles, deflate their floatation devices, and open fire on the nearest pillbox.

After the brutal initial assault, the regiments began exiting the beaches by about 10.30am. The reserves that had landed on the heels of the first waves joined the push inland to further objectives. After securing the beachhead objective, the Canadians were to cut the road between the Norman cities Caen and Bayeux and seize the Carpiquet airfield, on the western outskirts of Caen. They were also to link up with British forces on both flanks that had landed at Gold and Sword beaches. By nightfall, although short of their final objectives, Canadian units were firmly dug in on their intermediate objectives, and had penetrated further inland than any other assaulting force that day.

The Canadian contribution to D-Day

Some 14,000 Canadian troops assaulted the beach that morning, 3,000 of whom were in the first wave. By all standards, D-Day was an outstanding achievement for the assaulting Canadian and Allied armies. In most sectors along the assault front, the formidable Atlantic Wall had been shattered. From then on, a constant stream of personnel, armoured equipment, and supplies streamed ashore. The way had been opened for a sustained and merciless assault on the main body of the German army. From that day forward, the result of the war was in little doubt, although Canada would still suffer the bulk of its 42,042 killed over the next 11 months. The army specifically lost 22,917 killed during the war.

CP Stacey, the official historian of the Canadian Army, noted that the men who stormed the Atlantic Wall “surmounted, not only a terrible physical hazard, but a most formidable moral hazard as well”.

Today, when we think of this harrowing and terrifying operation, imagine that these men too had wondered how terrible it might be. But they lacked the knowledge that the operation would be successful, and they too worried and wondered whether they might ever return to their civilian lives in Canada. For months prior, the operation had been the constant topic of discussion and speculation. Every man who took part had wrestled with his own private fears.

As Stacey noted: “These private terrors were, perhaps, even more formidable antagonists than Hitler’s infantrymen. The soldiers who defeated both made the liberation of Europe possible. Free [people] everywhere should remember them.”

Dr John Maker formerly worked at the Canadian War Museum as Second World War Historian. He is now Museum Administrator at the City of Ottawa.

Note: Some quotations and certain details were drawn from: Tim Cook, Fight to the Finish – Canadians in the Second World War, 1944–1945 (Toronto: Penguin Random House, 2016) Terry Copp, Fields of Fire – The Canadians in Normandy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003) and CP Stacey, The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-West Europe 1944–1945 – Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume 3 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1960). The author has edited Kenneth Byron’s quote, adding punctuation to make it more readable. The original can be found here.

Queen joins world leaders to mark 'courage' of D-Day veterans in Portsmouth

Events at Portsmouth will tell the story of the build-up to D-Day through music performance and readings.

Defence and security correspondent @AliBunkallSKY

Wednesday 5 June 2019 07:20, UK

The Queen will lead a host of world leaders to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at a special event on the south coast of England later today.

In a message to mark the occasion, she has praised the "immense bravery, ingenuity and determination" of troops who set sail to defeat Nazi forces.

The Queen added: "At this time of reflection for veterans of the conflict and their families, I am sure that these commemorations will provide an opportunity to honour those who made extraordinary sacrifices to secure freedom in Europe. They must never be forgotten."

She will be joined by the leaders of 15 nations, including Theresa May, Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau. Senior members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance.

They will be joined by D-Day veterans and serving personnel to marking the turning point in the history of Europe thousands of soldiers set sail to invade occupied France.

"It is thanks to their courage and that of other allies that today Europe is free and at peace," the Prime Minister has said.

"We will never forget all that they gave - or the sacrifices of the fallen."

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More than 4,400 allied servicemen were killed on D-Day, more than half of them American.

The events in Portsmouth will tell the story of the build-up to D-Day through a programme of live music, performance and readings. A Royal Naval frigate will fire a gun salute before a flypast of historic aircraft including the Red Arrows and Spitfire.

Commenting on the two days of commemorations, the Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "D-Day 75 is an unprecedented tribute to our Second World War generation. These commemorations will give young and old the opportunity to learn why we should never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy."

At the same time, an extraordinary display of 35 World War Two Dakota aircraft will take off from Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire, escorted by Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs.

They will cross the channel in formation and drop paratroopers into Normandy, re-enacting events of 1944 when thousands landed under the cover of darkness behind enemy lines to prepare the ground for the amphibious invasion.

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The Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 was the largest amphibious assault ever launched. More than 75,000 British, Canadian and other Commonwealth troops landed on the beaches alongside the United States and the Free French, in an Allied invasion force of more than 130,000. Another 7,900 British troops were landed by air. Supporting the invasion were more than 7,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft.

"It is fitting that we take huge pride in the parts played by our forebears in the greatest amphibious operation in history," said the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

"D-Day was the last big operation of the war to be dominated by British commanders, British planning and British genius. Rightly this week we will focus on the sacrifice of those who gave their lives assaulting the beaches on D-Day."

A proclamation promising to ensure the "unimaginable horror" of the Second World War doesn't happen again has been signed by the 16 countries attending the D-Day commemorations.

It reads: "We stand together today to honour the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day, and those many millions of men and women who lost their lives during the Second World War, the largest conflict in human history.

"We affirm that it is our shared responsibility to ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated.

"Over the last 75 years, our nations have stood up for peace in Europe and globally, for democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.

"We re-commit today to those shared values because they support the stability and prosperity of our nations and our people. We will work together as allies and friends to defend these freedoms whenever they are threatened."

It ends: "We will ensure that the sacrifices of the past are never in vain and never forgotten."

The ceremony in Portsmouth will bring to an end President Trump's three day State Visit to the UK. He will then travel to Ireland where he will stay overnight and then onto Normandy for further events on Thursday, the anniversary of the invasion.

On the Road to Victory: The Red Ball Express

I t was dusk, somewhere in France in the autumn of 1944. A jeep carrying a first lieutenant in charge of a platoon of trucks crested a hill. Instinctively, the young officer scanned the horizon for enemy aircraft that sometimes swooped in low for strafing runs. The skies were empty. But as far as the eye could see, ahead and to the rear, the descending night was pierced by specks of white and red light–cat eyes, the blackout running lights of hundreds of trucks that snaked along the highway.

The huge convoy stretching from horizon to horizon was part of the Red Ball Express, the famed trucking operation in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) in the late summer and fall of 1944 that supplied the rapidly advancing American armies as they streamed toward the German frontier. Chances are that most Americans have never heard of the Red Ball Express. In the hundreds of films about World War II and in all the books about the conflict, it gets little mention. Yet the Red Ball may have contributed as much to the defeat of Germany as any other land operation. Certainly without the Red Ball, and its sister express lines that went into operation later in the war, World War II in Europe might have dragged on even longer, and the extraordinary mobility of the U.S. Army would have been drastically limited.

The Red Ball was created to supply the American combat units that were pushing the Germans back to their homeland. In the first few weeks after the Normandy invasion, the Allies made little progress against the disciplined and stubborn enemy. Some in the military even feared a return of trench warfare as the Germans continued to blunt each thrust the Allies launched while attempting to break out of their Normandy beachhead.

Then, in late July, the German front cracked. American forces rushed toward the Seine River in pursuit of the German Seventh Army. But the Allied high command had not anticipated the rapid German retreat. They had expected the battle for France to be a slow, steady roll-up of the enemy’s divisions.

The original plans called for Lt. Gen. George Patton, Jr.’s newly formed Third Army to turn westward to clear the Brittany ports while Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery pushed the Germans eastward across the Seine. Because of the precipitous German retreat, however, Bradley gave Patton permission to wheel some of his forces eastward toward Paris.

If Patton and Bradley could outrun the Germans, the American Twelfth Army Group could trap the enemy between Normandy and the Seine. The reduction of the Falaise pocket northwest of Paris, in which some 100,000 German soldiers were surrounded, 10,000 killed and 50,000 captured, demonstrated how vulnerable the Germans were.

The key to the pursuit, however, was supplies. Modern armies guzzle gas and expend ammunition in vast amounts. As the charging Americans pummeled the Germans, U.S. forces began to run out of needed materiel.

"On both fronts an acute shortage of supplies–that dull subject again!–governed all our operations," General Bradley wrote in his autobiography, A General’s Life. "Some twenty-eight divisions were advancing across France and Belgium. Each division ordinarily required 700-750 tons a day–a total daily consumption of about 20,000 tons."

Ironically, the Allies were victims of their own military successes and strategy. For months before the D-Day assault on June 6, Allied air forces had roamed the skies across northern France destroying the French rail system to prevent Field Marshal Erwin Rommel from supplying his forces on the coast after the Allied invasion came. But if the railroads were made useless for the Germans, they would be equally useless for the Allies. To add to the problem, the Germans still held the Channel ports of northern France and Belgium, notably Le Havre and Antwerp, so most of the supplies to the advancing American armies came over the invasion beaches on the Normandy coast.

Soon, Patton’s tanks were grinding to a halt, not from enemy action, but because there was no gasoline. On an average day, Patton’s Third Army and Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges’ First Army consumed a total of 800,000 gallons of gas. But there was no logistical system in place to deliver sufficient quantities.

It was in these desperate days of late August 1944 that the Red Ball Express was conceived during a 36-hour brainstorming session among American commanders. Its name came from a railroad phrase–to "red ball" something was to ship it express–and from an earlier Red Ball Express in Britain that rushed supplies to the English ports during the early days of the invasion. The second Red Ball operation lasted barely three months, from August 25 through November 16, 1944, but by the end of those critical months the express line had established itself firmly in the mythology of World War II. More than 6,000 trucks and their trailers transported 412,193 tons of supplies to the advancing American armies from Normandy to the German border.

What is most often overlooked about the Red Ball Express is that three-quarters of all Red Ball soldiers were African American. The U.S. Army was segregated during World War II, and black troops were most often relegated to service units–many served in the Quartermaster Corps. They served in port battalions, drove trucks, worked as mechanics, and served as "humpers" who loaded and unloaded ammunition and supplies. When the Red Ball was formed, it was the African-American troops in large measure who performed admirably and kept the express line rolling.

The need for supplies was so great that the Red Ball reached its peak performance within the first five days of operation. On August 29, some 132 truck companies, operating 5,958 vehicles, carried 12,342 tons of supplies to forward depots–a record that went unmatched during the next 14 weeks of the operation’s existence. The Red Ball Express was a classic American "can-do" response to a problem that might have proved insurmountable in another army.

There were not enough trucks or drivers in the established Quartermaster truck companies to supply the advancing armies. Before the invasion, the Army’s Transportation Corps estimated a need for 240 truck companies to sustain an advance across France. It also requested that the bulk of these units be equipped with
10-ton flatbed semitrailers. But there weren’t enough of the flatbeds. When the Normandy assault was made, the Army had authorized only 160 truck companies for the operation, and most of those would be supplied with trusty 6-by-6s, GMC 21/2-ton trucks.

The Army had to find more trucks and drivers. Infantry units, artillery units, anti-aircraft units–any units that had trucks–were raided, and many of their vehicles were formed into provisional truck units for the Red Ball.

Any soldier whose duties were not critical to the immediate war effort was asked to become a driver. Normandy was a staging area where arriving infantry divisions bivouacked for several weeks before being sent to the front. Their ranks were combed for drivers, and many infantrymen signed up for temporary duty (normally about two weeks) on the Red Ball, rather than endure the mud and boredom of their encampments. Most of those temporary troops were white.

One of the volunteers, Phillip A. Dick, a scout corporal with Battery A, 380th Field Artillery, 102nd Division, had never driven a truck before. But that did not present a problem for the Army. Dick, like so many others, was given a few hours of instruction and told he had qualified.

"Everybody was stripping gears, but by the time we got back to the company area we could make the trucks go," Dick recalls. The motto of the Red Ball, "tout de suite" (immediately), could have come from a French phrase adopted by the Americans as they rushed to defeat the Germans. "Patton wanted us to eat, sleep and drive, but mostly drive," remembers John O’Leary of the 3628th Truck Company.

The first Red Ball convoys, however, quickly bogged down in the congestion of civilian and military traffic. In response, the Army established a priority route that consisted of two parallel highways between the beachhead and the city of Chartres, just outside Paris. The northern route was designated one-way for traffic outbound from the beaches. The southern route was for return traffic. As the war moved past the Seine and Paris, the two-way loop route was extended to Soissons, northeast of Paris, and to Sommesous and Arcis-sur-Aube, east of Paris toward Verdun.

Staff Sergeant Chester Jones with the 3418th Trucking Company remembers the story of one soldier who was missing for several days with a jeep. His excuse for being AWOL was that he had gotten on the Red Ball priority route, had been sandwiched between two 6-by-6 trucks, and could not get off the highway for 100 miles.

The story is undoubtedly apocryphal, but it contains elements of reality. All civilian and unrelated military traffic was forbidden on the Red Ball route, and the military police (MPs) and the drivers rigidly enforced that rule. The Red Ball convoys often gunned down the middle of the highway to avoid mines on the shoulders, and would stop for nothing. One Red Ball veteran recalls a small French car sneaking onto the Red Ball highway and getting trapped between two barreling trucks. The lead truck suddenly braked for a rest area, and the car was smashed when the following truck failed to stop in time.

The Army went to great lengths to establish control over the newly formed Red Ball highway. The mimeographed sheets of rules of the road are some of the most enduring artifacts of the operation. David Cassels, a warrant officer junior grade with the 103rd Quartermaster Battalion, recalls, for example, that trucks were to travel in convoys each truck was to carry a number to mark its position in the convoy each convoy was to have a lead jeep carrying a blue flag a "cleanup" jeep at the end bore a green one the speed limit was 25 mph and trucks were to maintain 60-yard intervals.

Nevertheless, the exigencies of a fast-moving war turned everything upside down. The real story of the Red Ball Express was often more like a free-for-all at a stock car race.

"Oh boy, do I remember that Red Ball gang!" laughs Fred Reese, a former mechanic in an ETO ambulance unit. "They were a helluva crew. They used to carry ammunition boxes twice as high as the top of the truck and when they went down the highway they swayed back and forth. They had no fear. Those guys were crazy, like they were getting paid for every run."

Drivers quickly learned to strip the trucks of their governors, which sapped the overloaded vehicles of power on grades and prevented them from maintaining a steady and much higher speed. The governors were slapped back on for inspections.

The longest delays on the Red Ball usually occurred when trucks were loaded at the beachhead or at depots. If they waited for a convoy to assemble, they could be delayed for hours. Many trucks went out alone or in small groups without an attending officer to keep the vast supply line going. The men drove night and day, week after week. Exhaustion was a companion closer than the assistant driver, who most likely was asleep, awaiting his turn at the wheel. One Red Ball veteran recalls once being so exhausted he could not keep driving. But the convoy could not stop. He and his assistant driver switched seats as the truck rolled along.

Falling asleep was a major problem on the Red Ball. When trucks drifted out of the convoy, it usually meant a driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Robert Emerick with the 3580th Quartermaster Truck Company was barreling along in a convoy when suddenly he felt a bump and heard blaring horns. He had nodded off and was careening off the roadway aimed right at a concrete electrical pole. He swerved back onto the road just in time.

At night, trucks drove with their cat eyes–white in front, red in back–to avoid detection. "You’d be watching those damned little blackout lights. It drove you blind. It was like hypnosis," recalls Emerick.

When convoys were stalled for short periods, the drivers dozed, their heads slumped over the steering wheel. A jolt from the truck in front, backing up to tap the front bumper of the truck behind, was the signal that the convoy was once again on the move.

There were commanders who went by the book. A 21/2-ton truck would carry no more than a 5-ton load and that was that. Prior to the Normandy invasion, the Transportation Corps authorized trucks to carry twice their normal load. That helped compensate for the lack of trucking, but one layer of 105mm and 155mm artillery shells put the truck over the weight limit. "People would laugh when they saw us driving with so few shells," Emerick recalls. Most Quartermaster officers, however, ignored weight restrictions and sent the trucks out overloaded.

The armies were so desperate for gasoline and ammunition that they sometimes sent out raiding parties to commandeer Red Ball trucks and "liberate" their supplies before the trucks got to a depot. Charles Stevenson, a lieutenant in the 3858th Quartermaster Gas Supply Company, remembers being stopped by a colonel on the Third Army front who demanded he turn over his truckloads of jerrycans full of gas.

"You don’t move until we get those cans," the colonel barked.

"We fussed, jumped up and down and cussed that colonel and raised hell and damned everybody around," Stevenson says, but the colonel was unmoved. Ultimately, the convoy was left with only enough gas to get back to the company area.

Often the front was moving so fast that Red Ball drivers never found their destination. It was not uncommon for drivers to hawk their loads to anyone interested. They always found takers.

Most often, trucks carried supplies from one depot to the next, dropped them and returned. From the advanced depots more trucks picked up the supplies and carried them farther or to the front lines. Shortly after the breakout from Normandy, it was not uncommon for Red Ball trucks to drop ammunition at artillery positions within a few miles of the front line. One Red Ball veteran remembers driving right up to a stranded Sherman tank and passing jerrycans of gas to the crew while the Germans were within shouting distance.

If gasoline was gold, cigarettes, rations and sugar were jewels to the French. Black marketeering was rampant as some drivers delivered whole loads to anyone willing to buy. Convoys always posted guards around the trucks to prevent the war-weary French and profit-minded American troops from taking anything not tied down.

Even drivers not involved in theft took what they wanted from the loads. They sometimes took a jerrycan here and there to sell to the French. A 5-gallon jerrycan brought $100 on the French black market.

One Red Ball veteran recalls kicking ration boxes off the truck to feed demoralized MPs who had not been relieved for days and had no rations. But the MPs were always watching for pilferage. Usually they were stationed at intersections to ensure the convoys stayed on course, or they directed traffic at blown bridges or through the narrow streets of villages such as Houdan, where medieval timbered houses crowded the main, winding thoroughfare. Large, rectangular signs with huge red balls in the center kept the convoys rolling on the right roads when the MPs were not around. And convoy directors always carried maps to their destinations.

Engineers constantly patrolled the roads to repair damage. Ordnance troops manned wreckers such as the Diamond T Prime Mover, strong enough to wrestle even a disabled tank back to a repair depot. Red Ball drivers were instructed to pull over and wait for the wreckers when their trucks broke down. If the mechanics could not make repairs on the spot, they pushed or pulled the trucks to a maintenance depot.

The Red Ball trucks took tremendous beatings. Batteries dried up, engines overheated, motors burned out for lack of grease and oil, transmissions were overstressed, bolts came loose, and drive shafts fell off. In the first month of operation, Red Ball trucks wore out 40,000 tires. General wear and overloaded trucks were the biggest reasons for the heaps of truck tires awaiting rehabilitation at repair depots. Most of the tires were retreaded and recycled, and they often came back from the repair depots glued and taped together. Treads also came loose, and sometimes the inside dual tire in the rear blew out and caught fire from friction as the truck rolled on. One major cause of the damage done to tires was the hundreds of thousands of ration tins carelessly disposed of along the highways–the sharp metal edges tore into the rubber.

Red Ball trucks were often brought to a standstill by water in their gas. Proper maintenance required that the gas line filter on the fire wall between the engine and cab be purged of water at regular intervals, but few drivers paid attention to that regulation. Condensation was the principal cause of water in the gas, but sabotage was also a factor.

German prisoners of war were aware that the Achilles’ heel of the 6-by-6 was water in the gas, and POWs were frequently used to load supplies in the rear areas and to gas up the trucks. More than one veteran remembers watching POWs dragging jerrycans, with caps wide open, through snow and rain in a deliberate effort to contaminate the gas.

POWs often were loaded into the backs of the trucks on the return trip from forward area depots. So, too, were expended artillery casings, jerrycans, and sometimes the bodies of American soldiers killed in action. Transporting the dead was a particularly dreadful task. Red Ball drivers remember the pervasive odor of death that took days to dissipate. The truck beds had to be hosed down, but even a thorough cleansing often failed to wash away the blood and grime that oozed down through the cracks in the wooden truck beds.

Convoys made regular stops in rest areas where trucks could be serviced, Red Cross girls served coffee and doughnuts, and cots were sometimes available for a few hours’ rest, particularly if another team of drivers continued on with the trucks. The rest areas also served food, but the drivers became proficient at eating C rations on the road. Robert Emerick remembers the same bland diet of hash, stew or beans–always cold. He craved a good hot meal. Drivers sometimes wired C-ration tins to the exhaust manifolds of their trucks to heat the rations. Emerick tried this once and forgot to remove the tin–which eventually exploded. "What the hell have you been doing under this hood," roared the motor pool sergeant when Emerick returned the truck for maintenance.

Red Ball drivers seldom were involved in combat, but there was the ever-present danger of being strafed by Luftwaffe fighters that occasionally streaked overhead. First Lieutenant Charles Weko remembers being in a convoy caught by German fighters. Weko at first believed the brittle clatter of machine guns was someone flinging stones at corrugated metal. Suddenly realizing the danger, he bailed out of his vehicle and scattered with hundreds of other startled truckers. Many of the trucks had a cab emplacement for a .50-caliber machine gun, and some were equipped with the weapons. Merle Guthrie, an infantryman from the 102nd Division who drove for several weeks, was in a convoy that was strafed. The men jumped to the machine gun and brought down one German.

There were many tales of close encounters with the enemy–some rather far-fetched. One report told of 13 Red Ball gasoline tankers barging through a burning French village to get their loads to Patton’s tanks, ignoring the possibility that their cargoes might explode. Another was of a nocturnal convoy slowing for MPs ahead in the road only to discover they had gone too far–the MPs were German.

The drivers were expected to wear helmets and carry rifles, but the helmets generally wound up on the floor next to the rifles. Some drivers also sandbagged the floors of their cabs to absorb mine blasts. The Germans were said to be sneaking in at night, planting mines and stringing piano wire across the roadways. Many Red Ball jeeps were equipped with angle-iron hooks designed to snag the wire before it decapitated the occupants. These hooks were needed because the jeeps and trucks sometimes drove with their windshields down, particularly near combat areas, where a fleeting glint off windshield glass could bring down a hail of German artillery fire. Also, dust was often so thick it coated windshields.

The U.S. Army tried to keep troops segregated, but there were moments of friction. One veteran remembers an African-American unit barreling down the highway and trying to pass a convoy of white drivers. A game of chicken ensued, and the white drivers whiplashed their trucks and trailers into the center of the roadway to prevent the African Americans from getting by.

Whites and African Americans were urged not to mingle during off-duty hours. "You accepted discrimination," recalls Washington Rector of the 3916th Quartermaster Truck Company. "We were warned not to fraternize with whites for fear problems would arise." The races were sufficiently separated that even today some white veterans of the Express are unaware that most of the drivers on the Red Ball were African Americans. Emerick recalls informing a soldier that he was a Red Ball driver. The soldier looked at him incredulously and asked why he was not black.

The Red Ball Express was officially terminated on November 16, 1944, when it had completed its mission. New express lines with different designations were being formed, some for specific tasks. The White Ball Express, for example, was established in early October 1944, with routes extending from Le Havre and Rouen to the Paris area.

Other routes included the Little Red Ball, which carried priority supplies from Normandy to Paris the Green Diamond Express, which moved supplies from Normandy to railheads 100 miles inland the Red Lion Express, which supplied the 21st Army Group in Belgium the ABC Express Route (Antwerp­Brussels­Charleroi), which carried supplies from the port of Antwerp to depots 90 miles inland and the XYZ Route, the last long-haul trucking operation, which carried supplies across Germany in the final weeks of the war.

Although its days were few, the Red Ball never really died. Its name and mystique were so embedded in the history of World War II, even during the war, that most of the men who drove trucks, even well after the route’s demise, always believed they were on the Red Ball. The other express lines became mere footnotes in history. Welby Franz, a trucking company commander who later became president of the American Trucking Association, arrived in France from Iran in February 1945. He still believes his unit was on the Red Ball. "That’s what we were all told," he says. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the Transportation Corps issued a patch that included a red ball, to commemorate the Red Ball Express, centered on a yellow shield. Franz’s men were issued the patch in April 1945.

The Red Ball was successful in large part because Americans understood the strategic value of the motor vehicle that already was playing a critical role in the growth and development of their country. The U.S. Army had also learned the value of motor transport in warfare early in the century. During the 1916 punitive expedition against Pancho Villa, General John "Blackjack" Pershing’s force found that the truck was vastly superior to the horse in a war of maneuvers. With minimal maintenance, trucks could supply Pershing’s force 24 hours a day.

In 1919, the U.S. Army dispatched a cross-continental convoy to test the efficiency of the truck as the mainstay for supplying a fast-moving army. One junior officer on the expedition who was impressed by the potential of motor transport was Lieutenant Dwight D. Eisenhower. The tactical and strategic importance of the truck was not lost on the future supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe.

The Red Ball also was possible because of the awesome industrial might of America. During the war, the United States mass-produced millions of military vehicles. More than 800,000 21/2-ton trucks were manufactured in the United States during the war. No other army during World War II had as many trucks, and America supplied hundreds of thousands to Allied armies, including more than 395,000 to the Red Army alone.

It was the truck as much as the tank that enabled the U.S. Army to become the premier mechanized force in the world during World War II. Many believed that honor went to the Wehrmacht, but even as late as 1944 the Germans relied heavily on horse-drawn wagons. Incredibly, the Germans employed more than 2.8 million horses to supply their legions during the war. Without the truck, American tanks would have been immobilized and U.S. troops would have slogged across Europe barely ahead of their supplies.

A generation after World War II, Colonel John S.D. Eisenhower, a veteran of the European war and son of the supreme Allied commander in Europe, wrote: "The spectacular nature of the advance [through France] was due in as great a measure to the men who drove the Red Ball trucks as to those who drove the tanks." Colonel Eisenhower concluded, "Without it [the Red Ball] the advance across France could not have been made." As the saying of the day went, "Red Ball trucks broke, but didn’t brake." *

First-time contributor David P. Colley is a resident of Easton, Pa. Further reading: The United States Army in World War II, Logistical Support of the Armies, by Roland G. Ruppenthal and Overlord, by Thomas Alexander Hughes.[ TOP ] [ Cover ]

Cronauer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was a steelworker, and his mother a teacher. [6]

He began his broadcasting career at the age of 12 as a semi-regular guest for a Pittsburgh-area children's amateur hour. [10] Cronauer attended the University of Pittsburgh where he led a group that founded the school's first student radio station, now WPTS-FM. [11] [12] [13]

In the early 1960s, Cronauer chose to enlist instead of waiting on the draft. After deliberating about entering flight training (which entailed a longer service commitment), Cronauer chose broadcasting and media operations, ultimately becoming a U.S. Air Force Radio and Television Broadcasting Specialist. [4] His service spanned the years from 1963 to 1967. [4] He did his training in Texas, and eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant (E-4 at the time). [4] [5] [6] While Cronauer is most known for his service in Vietnam, he began by working on training films, and then was sent for a year and a half to the island of Crete in Greece, where he was stationed at Iraklion Air Station. [6] [14] [15]

In 1965 he volunteered for a transfer to Vietnam because he wanted to travel. Upon arriving there, his first job was as news director for Armed Forces Radio in Saigon, but when the morning host's slot became vacant shortly after his arrival, he took over the show, known as Dawn Buster because it started at 6 a.m. He opened it with the greeting "Goooooood morning Vietnam!", which was immortalized in the subsequent movie's title. Cronauer left Saigon in 1966, but subsequent DJ's continued to use his signature greeting. [14] [16] His military awards include the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with bronze service star, the Air Force Longevity Service Award, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Award and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. [4]

After the Vietnam war, Cronauer went on to work at various radio stations as a news anchor and in other capacities. He did voice-over work in New York and owned his own advertising agency, during which time he also earned a master's degree in Media Studies from the New School for Social Research. [14]

In the late 1970s, while working as the classical morning host at WVWR in Roanoke, Virginia (now Virginia Tech's WVTF), [17] Cronauer had an idea for a television sitcom that would be a blend of M*A*S*H and WKRP in Cincinnati, two popular TV series of the era. In 1979 he tried to sell a treatment of this idea, basing the story on his experiences in Vietnam, but without success. A few years later he pitched a made-for-TV movie on the same theme: this time, a friend's agent in Hollywood got the treatment into the hands of Robin Williams, who thought the idea was good enough to warrant a feature-length movie starring himself. However, according to Cronauer, little of the film reflects his real life. Among other things, Cronauer was not a subversive person but a "lifelong card-carrying Republican", and later took an "active role" in both Bob Dole's unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign and George W. Bush's successful 2004 presidential reelection campaign. [7] Cronauer did teach English when off-duty in Saigon, but he did not teach swear words or New York street slang. He was never in a Jeep that got hit by a land mine, but he did witness the bombing of a restaurant near the radio station. [6]

The movie, directed by Barry Levinson, told a heavily fictionalized story based on a screenplay by Mitch Markowitz, a screenwriter who had worked on M*A*S*H. [14] [15] [18] [19]

The money Cronauer made from the movie enabled him to earn a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. [14] He then founded the Cronauer Law Center, and engaged in law practice specialized in the areas of information and communications law.

In 1992 Cronauer earned awards for a special program on National Public Radio about the role of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN-military radio and television).

He was also active in veterans' causes, and during George W. Bush's presidency, became an adviser to the Defense Department's POW-MIA office, and a confidential advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. His title was Special Assistant to the Director of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, and he was responsible for outreach to veterans and their families. He traveled widely and gave frequent media interviews and public appearances. This led to him becoming a popular after-dinner speaker and lecturer. He appeared as a guest on radio and television talk shows such as NBC Radio's Jim Bohanan Show NBC TV's Today show Fox News's Hannity & Colmes, ABC's Bill Maher and the PBS series Freedom Speaks. He also appeared on the Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy radio programs. His commentaries were featured in many newspapers and on NPR radio. [20] [21] [22] He was also on the board of the national D-Day Memorial, and was a trustee of the Virginia War Memorial. [14]

Disbarment Edit

In October 2014 the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) filed complaints against Cronauer and the Cronauer Law Center with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The NCRC alleged that Cronauer had engaged in mortgage scams under the guise of offering assistance to property owners threatened with foreclosure. Cronauer consented to disbarment rather than contest the matter, which means that the facts and circumstances of the admitted misconduct remained confidential. [23] However, the president of the NCRC made this statement: "The rules apply to celebrities as well. We believe Mr. Cronauer and the Cronauer Law Center to be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Mortgage Assistance Relief Act rules, and other state and federal laws." [24]

Death Edit

Cronauer died on July 18, 2018, at a nursing home in Western Virginia at the age of 79. [1] [6]

Duties, Responsibilities and Authority explained

A duty is something you must do by virtue of your position and is a legal or moral obligation. For example, it is the supply sergeant’s duty to issue equipment and keep records of the unit’s supplies. It is the first sergeant’s duty to hold formations, instruct platoon sergeants and assist the commander in supervising unit operations. It is the duty of the squad/section/team leader to account for his soldiers and ensure that they receive necessary instructions and are properly trained to perform their jobs.

A noncommissioned officer’s duties are numerous and must be taken seriously. An NCO’s duty includes taking care of soldiers, which is your priority. Corporals and sergeants do this by developing a genuine concern for their soldiers’ well-being. Leaders must know and understand their soldiers well enough to train them as individuals and teams to operate proficiently. This will give them confidence in their ability to perform well under the difficult and demanding conditions of battle. Individual training is the principle duty and responsibility of NCOs. No one in the Army has more to do with training soldiers than NCOs. Well trained soldiers will likely succeed and survive on the battlefield. Well trained soldiers properly do the tasks their NCOs give them. A good leader executes the boss’s decisions with energy and enthusiasm looking at their leader, soldiers will believe the leader thinks it’s absolutely the best possible solution.

There may be situations you must think carefully about what you’re told to do. For example, duty requires that you refuse to obey illegal orders. This is not a privilege you can claim, but a duty you must perform. You have no choice but to do what’s ethically and legally correct. Making the right choice and acting on it when faced with an ethical question can be difficult. Sometimes, it means standing your ground and telling your supervisor you think their wrong. If you think an order is illegal, first be sure that you understand both the details of the order and its original intent. Seek clarification from the person who gave the order. This takes moral courage, but the question will be straightforward: Did you really mean for me to… steal the part… submit a false report… shoot the prisoners?

If the question is complex and time permits, seek advice from legal assistance. However, if you must decide immediately, as in the heat of combat, make the best judgment possible based on the Army values and attributes, your experience and your previous study and reflection. You take a risk when you disobey what you perceive to be an illegal order. Talk to your superiors, particularly those who have done what you aspire to do or what you think you’ll be called on to do providing counsel of this sort is an important part of leadership. Obviously, you need to make time to do this before you’re faced with a tough call. This could possibly be the most difficult decision you’ll ever make, but that’s what leaders do.

Noncommissioned officers have three types of duties: specified duties, directed duties and implied duties.

Specified duties are those related to jobs and positions. Directives such as Army regulations, Department of the Army (DA) general orders, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), soldier’s manuals, Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP) publications and MOS job descriptions specify the duties. For example, AR 600-20 says that NCOs must ensure that their soldiers get proper individual training and maintain personal appearance and cleanliness.

Directed duties are not specified as part of a job position or MOS or other directive. A superior gives them orally or in writing. Directed duties include being in charge of quarters (CQ) or serving as sergeant of the guard, staff duty officer, company training NCO and NBC NCO, where these duties are not found in the unit’s organization charts.

Implied duties often support specified duties, but in some cases they may not be related to the MOS job position. These duties may not be written but implied in the instructions. They’re duties that improve the quality of the job and help keep the unit functioning at an optimum level. In most cases, these duties depend on individual initiative. They improve the work environment and motivate soldiers to perform because they want to, not because they have to. For example, while not specifically directed to do so, you hold in-ranks inspections daily to ensure your soldiers’ appearance and equipment are up to standards.


Responsibility is being accountable for what you do or fail to do. NCOs are responsible to fulfill not only their individual duties, but also to ensuretheir teams and units are successful. Any duty, because of the position you hold in the unit, includes a responsibility to execute that duty. As an NCO, you are accountable for your personal conduct and that of your soldiers. Also, each soldier is individually responsible for his own personal conduct and that responsibility cannot be delegated. A soldier is accountable for his actions to fellow soldiers, leaders, unit and the US Army.

As a leader you must ensure that your soldiers clearly understand their responsibilities as members of the team and as representative of the Army. Commanders set overall policies and standards, but all leaders must provide the guidance, resources, assistance and supervision necessary for soldiers to perform their duties. Mission accomplishment demands that officers and NCOs work together to advise, assist and learn from each other. Responsibilities fall into two categories: command and individual.

Command responsibility refers to collective or organizational accountability and includes how well the unit performs their missions. For example, a company commander is responsible for all the tasks and missions assigned to the company his superiors hold him accountable for completing them. Commanders give military leaders the responsibility for what their sections, units, or organizations do or fail to do. NCOs are therefore responsible to fulfill not only their individual duties, but also to ensure that their team and unit are successful. The amount of responsibility delegated to you depends on your mission, the position you hold and your own willingness to accept responsibility.

One point you need to get straight is that although a list of duties can be drawn up describing what is expected of you, it will not tell you how to do your job. For example, one of an NCO’s duties is to enforce standards of military appearance. This means you are responsible for correcting soldiers who wear the uniform improperly and for teaching them the correct standards of appearance. It also means that you should inspect for proper and serviceability, clothing and equipment of your soldiers. Remember that you must set the example first and your soldiers will follow in your footsteps.

Individual responsibility as a noncommissioned officer means you are accountable for your personal conduct. Soldiers in the Army have their own responsibilities. For example, if you write a check at the commissary, it is your responsibility to have sufficient funds in the bank account to cover the check. Individual responsibility cannot be delegated it belongs to the soldier that wrote the check. Soldiers are accountable for their actions, to their fellow soldiers, to their leaders, to their unit and to the United States Army. As a leader you must ensure that your soldiers understand clearly their responsibilities as members of the team and as representatives of the Army.

As a noncommissioned officer, you must know what authority you have and where it comes from. You are also expected to use good judgment when exercising your authority.

Authority is defined as the right to direct soldiers to do certain things. Authority is the legitimate power of leaders to direct soldiers or to take action within the scope of their position. Military authority begins with the Constitution, which divides it between Congress and the President. The President, as commander in chief, commands the armed forces, including the Army. The authority from the Commander-in-Chief extends through the chain of command, with the assistance of the NCO support channel, to the squad, section or team leader who then directs and supervises the actions of individual soldiers. When you say, “PFC Lee, you and PFC Johnson start filling sandbags SPC Garcia and SPC Smith will provide security from that hill,” you are turning into action the orders of the entire chain of command.

In the Army there are two basic types of authority: command authority and general military authority.

Command authority is the authority leaders have over soldiers by virtue of rank or assignment. Command authority originates with the President and may be supplemented by law or regulation. Even though it is called “command” authority, it is not limited to officers – you have command authority inherent in your leadership position as a tank commander or team leader, for example. Noncommissioned officers’ command authority is inherent with the job by virtue of position to direct or control soldiers.

Leading soldiers includes the authority to organize, direct and control your assigned soldiers so that they accomplish assigned missions. It also includes authority to use assigned equipment and resources to accomplish your missions. Remember that this only applies to soldiers and facilities in your unit. For example, if the platoon sergeant of first platoon goes on leave and a squad leader is put in charge, that squad leader has command authority over only first platoon, until he is relieved from the responsibility. The soldiers in first platoon will obey the squad leader’s orders due to his position. However, the squad leader does not have command authority over another platoon.

General military authority is authority extended to all soldiers to take action and act in the absence of a unit leader or other designated authority. It originates in oaths of office, law, rank structure, traditions and regulations. This broad-based authority also allows leaders to take appropriate corrective actions whenever a member of any armed service, anywhere, commits an act involving a breach of good order or discipline. For example, if you see soldiers in a brawl, you have the general military authority (and the obligation) to stop the fight. This authority applies even if none of the soldiers are in your unit.

General military authority exists whether you are on duty or not, in uniform or in civilian attire and regardless of location. For example, you are off duty, in civilian clothes and in the PX and you see a soldier in uniform with his headgear raised up and trousers unbloused. You stop the soldier immediately, identify yourself and ensure the soldier understands and makes the necessary corrections. If he refuses, saying you don’t have the authority to tell him what to do because he’s not in your NCO support channel, the soldier is wrong.

You as an NCO have both general military authority and the duty to enforce standards as outlined in AR 670-1. Your authority to enforce those regulations is specified in AR 600-20 and if you neglect your duty, you can be held accountable. If the soldier refuses to obey you, what can you do? For starters, you can explain that you have authority regardless of your location, your unit, or whether you are in uniform or civilian attire. You may decide to settle for the soldier’s name and unit. If so, a phone call to his first sergeant should be more than enough to ensure that such an incident does not recur.

Delegation of authority. Just as Congress and the President cannot participate in every aspect of the armed forces operations, most leaders cannot handle every action directly. To meet the organization’s goals, officers delegate authority to NCOs in the NCO Support Channel who, in turn, may further delegate that authority. Unless restricted by law, regulation, or a superior, leaders may delegate any or all of their authority to their subordinate leaders. However, such delegation must fall within the leader’s scope of authority. Leaders cannot delegate authority they do not have and subordinate leaders may not assume authority that superiors do not have, cannot delegate, or have retained. The task or duty to be performed limits the authority of the leader to whom it is assigned.

Both command and general military authority originate in the Constitution and Congress has further defined them in law. More explicit sources are Army Regulations, the Manual for Courts Martial (MCM) and the chain of command/NCO support channel.

You don’t need to read or remember all Army Regulations (ARs) but study those that pertain to your job. If necessary, ask other NCOs to help you find out what regulations pertain to you, where they can be found and how to interpret them. Start with AR 600-20. It covers enlisted soldiers’ and noncommissioned officers’ authority and responsibilities.

The Manual for Courts Martial (MCM, 2002) describes legal aspects of the authority of the noncommissioned officer. It states in part that, “All commissioned officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers are authorized to stop quarrels, frays and disorders among persons subject to the code….” Severe penalties are imposed for violations such as disrespect, insubordination, or assault. No one expects you to be an expert on military law, but as a noncommissioned officer you should know the definition of these words and be able to explain them to your soldiers. Your legal clerk can be a good source of information.

Authority of the NCO is part of the equation in military discipline.

Your authority also stems from the combination of the chain of command and the NCO support channel. Orders and policies that pass through the chain of command or the NCO support channel automatically provide the authority necessary to get the job done. With such broad authority given to all commissioned officers and noncommissioned officers, the responsibility to use mature, sound judgment is critical. The chain of command backs up the NCO support channel by legally punishing those who challenge the NCO’s authority. But it does so only if the noncommissioned officer’s actions and orders are sound, intelligent and based on proper authority. To be a good leader, you should learn what types of authority you have and where it comes from. Whenever in doubt, ask. Once you’re confident that you know the extent of your authority, use sound judgment in applying it. Then you will be a leader respected by both your soldiers and superiors.

The Filthy Truth about America’s fake position on Afghanistan (Banned)

America’s policy toward Afghanistan and the promise of upcoming negotiations is total fakery. We begin with a simple truth. Under American rule, a unique form of corruption, crippling every region, every economic sector, invading every institution, has left that nation not just hopeless, but in total wreckage, just like the US has done to Syria, Yemen and Iraq and would do to Iran if allowed.

When the US entered Afghanistan in 2001, that nation no longer produced any opium at all. There were no addicts, no poppy growers, no heroin processing plants and no narcotics infrastructure.

Nearly two decades later, a two horned dilemma exists, weaning Afghanistan of its 5 million heroin addicts and the massive narcotics infrastructure that totally controls all American sponsored institutions there and, secondly weaning the CIA of its $60 billion in heroin distribution income worldwide that sponsors Deep State operations, everything from terrorism to regime change operations, around the world.

At the close of 2019, American President Donald Trump, has announced his intention to enter negotiations with what he believes, or may believe, not realistically of course, to be America’s adversaries in Afghanistan.

Of course, the reality is that more sham negotiations in Qatar will ensue with proxies of the Uzbek and Tajik drug lords that American turned to in 2001 who represent themselves as “Pashtun.”

You see, the majority population of Afghanistan is ethnically Pashtun as is much of the border region of Pakistan and even Pakistan’s new president, Imran Khan as well.

The US has tried to represent the Pashtun population of Afghanistan as a minority, claiming they represent 30 to 40 percent of Afghanistan and can be represented by “others” as Pashtuns are notoriously independent and “difficult,” as Alexander the Great might have testified to in 330 BC when he began his invasion from his base in what is modern day Jalalabad, now headquarters of the CIA’s drug empire in Afghanistan.

Here is some background from NPR, from 2013. Note that population figures available from Wikipedia or US State Department sources are unreliable and highly skewed or as Trump would call them, “fake.” The Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and many prominent government officials are Pashtun.

Ezedayar is a Tajik from the Panjshir Valley in the north of the country. That’s the home of the legendary mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massood, who was killed in 2001, and the heart of anti-Taliban resistance. Tajiks have battled Pashtuns militarily and politically for influence in Afghanistan over the years.

Bilqees Roshan, another Afghan senator, is a Pashtun from western Farah province. Sitting in her home amid crumbling and bullet-riddled houses that used to belong to Soviet diplomats in the 1980s, she says only a handful of senators from minority groups support putting ethnicity on the card.

Saifulzul Husseini (right) works in Dashti Barchi, a Hazara neighborhood of Kabul. He believes that ethnicity should be listed on the new identity card.

“I think it’s very harmful,” she says. “In the past 30 years, ethnicity has been misused by people trying to gain more power in the government.”

In the ’90s, Afghanistan’s civil war broke down largely along ethnic lines. To this day, each ethnic group has its chief power broker: Most are former warlords, who cut deals over the distribution of government posts.

Roshan says Afghanistan needs to move beyond ethnic divisions and quota-based thinking. She says keeping ethnicity off the e-taskera is an important step in that direction.”

The real numbers can only be guessed at. First of all, the “Northern Tribes” as some call them were, until the era of Soviet involvement, both migratory and pastoral. That ended as the country was divided into military districts and heavily mined. I spent some hours discussing this effort with former Soviet airborne commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Eugene Khrushchev, now an editor with Veterans Today.

He has led efforts to reach out to his former enemies, as many Americans have done with the Vietnamese over the years, seeking a commonality in purpose to end the spiraling cycle of conflicts that now engulf the world.

I spent much of yesterday with former Mujahedeen commander, Kadir Mohmand, also an editor at Veterans Today.

Let us first deal with issues of why understanding Pashtuns is important. Some years ago, while in Pakistan, I met with military governors of Swat and the then Federally Administered Tribal Regions. I also met with Imran Khan, currently President of Pakistan, and discussed these issues at some length.

Pashtuns in Pakistan number more than 30 million, perhaps up to 40 million but many of them, at least 10 million, are long term refugees from Afghanistan.

The result is incomprehensible were one to use the framework Trump’s briefers refer to. None know the history, not remotely. Let us look at the Durand Line, another piece of diplomatic fakery, where a European power engineered out of malice, careless or both, the mayhem we see today. From National Geographic:

“The Durand Line is the 2,640-kilometer (1,640-mile) border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s the result of an agreement between Sir Mortimer Durand, a secretary of the British Indian government, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the emir, or ruler, of Afghanistan. The agreement was signed on November 12, 1893, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Durand Line as served as the official border between the two nations for more than one hundred years, but it has caused controversy for the people who live there.

When the Durand Line was created in 1893, Pakistan was still a part of India. India was in turn controlled by the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom ruled India from 1858 until India’s independence in 1947. Pakistan also became a nation in 1947.

Punjabis and Pashtuns

There are two major ethnic groups near the Durand Line. Those two groups are the Punjabis and the Pashtuns. Most Punjabis and Pashtuns are Sunni Muslim. Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in Pakistan. Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

There are also a lot of Pashtuns in northwestern Pakistan, where they ruled over 103,600 square kilometers (40,000 square miles) of territory, before being defeated by the British in 1847. At the time, the Pashtuns were fighting to prevent the Punjabis from expanding farther into the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan.

The British established the Durand Line after conquering the Pashtuns. Eighty-five percent of the Durand Line follows rivers and other physical features, not ethnic boundaries. It split the Pashtuns into two separate countries.

Afghanistan governs all the Pashtuns on one side of the Durand Line, while Pakistan governs all the Pashtuns on the other. The Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border made up more than half of the Pashtun population, but were now under the control of the Punjabis, which made them angry.

The Pashtuns were also angry at the British colonial government.

Throughout history, colonial forces like the British have set boundaries that cause great tension for people who lived in the colony. Because the officials who drew the Durand Line didn’t consider the ethnic groups that lived in the region, today there are many battles along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. On one side is the Pakistani army, made up mostly of Punjabis, and on the other is the Taliban, made up mostly of Pashtuns.”

Now we see it, a 2011 source, clearly identifying Pashtuns as a majority in Afghanistan.

Having admitted that, it is only a short trip back to another reality, that the “Taliban,” isn’t your typical terror organization but rather the military arm of the majority population in Afghanistan, seeking to regain control of their nation from foreign occupation using minority populations as ruling surrogates.

We have, of course, just described the British occupation of India, one that lasted centuries.

We have also described, and no surprise to anyone, how America ended up in its most disastrous military conflict, one I had the misfortune to take part in, that being Vietnam. There, the US “engineered,” through sham and fakery, a “communist rebellion” out of what was the National Liberation Front, a generalized pro-democracy movement opposed to the government emplaced by the US made up of a single Catholic minority family from the North tied to international banking and oil interests aligned with the Eisenhower administration in Washington.

I had some occasion to discuss that failed American effort with Professor Wesley Fischel of Michigan State University, a longtime friend and advisor to onetime Vietnamese President Diem, we might add “ill fated.”

Fischel and a group from East Lansing, called MSUG, were tasked with setting up the South Vietnamese government on behalf of the US.

The reason we are looking at this deeply parallel effort is that it represents forgotten or rather “once forgotten” history that has led America to disaster. However, in 2018, Politico published the following:

“A little over 50 years ago, another national scandal overtook Michigan State University, an academic and political cause célèbre that seemed to leave the school indelibly associated with—even, in some quarters, blamed for—nothing less than America’s war in Vietnam. Today the fateful exercise in nation-building and government-and-gown cooperation known as the Michigan State University Advisory Group rates but a footnote in popular histories of the war, if that. Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s recent 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War does not mention it at all.

In 1966, when news of the MSU project broke widely, it became notorious thanks to the exposé-packaging skills of a San Francisco editor named Warren Hinckle and his muckraking magazine, Ramparts. The cover of Ramparts’ April 1966 issue was one of the era’s definitive magazine images: a buxom caricature of Madame Nhu, the sister-in-law of South Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm and the most visible and provocative voice of his regime, as a sweatshirt-clad MSU cheerleader.

The story inside, “The University on the Make,” was co-written by Hinckle and two other Ramparts editors, Robert Scheer and Sol Stern. It featured a confessional-but-accusatory introduction by an apostate ex-MSU political scientist named Stanley Sheinbaum. The main article recounted, in tones by turns gossipy and denunciatory, how an overambitious university had sold its soul, become a shameless CIA front, and helped launch a ruthless dictatorship and wasteful war by miring itself in a self-serving “Vietnam Adventure,” complete with the servants, spacious villas, free-flowing booze and other perks of the neocolonial elite.

This indictment has been taken up lately by Jeremy Kuzmarov, a history professor at the University of Tulsa, who denounced MSU’s role in “the making of a police state in South Vietnam” in his 2012 book Modernizing Repression and in a critique of the Burns/Novick documentary for HuffPost. It’s an appealing narrative, especially in light of the blunders and tragedies that ensued in Vietnam. But the full story is more complicated, interesting and, perhaps, instructive.

The differences are those of both the times and methodologies. In 2001, Afghanistan was invaded to find a dozen alleged al Qaeda operatives inside that nation and a series of imaginary underground military fortresses housing tens of thousands of trained terrorists, as reported by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. From the archives of the US Department of Defense, dated December 2, 2001, an interview between “journalist” Tim Russert and Rumsfeld, one where fantasy ran “hog wild:”

Russert: The search for Osama bin Laden. There is constant discussion about him hiding out in caves, and I think many times the American people have a perception that it’s a little hole dug out of a side of a mountain.

Rumsfeld: Oh, no.

Russert: The Times of London did a graphic, which I want to put on the screen for you and our viewers. This is it. This is a fortress. This is a very much a complex, multi-tiered, bedrooms and offices on the top, as you can see, secret exits on the side and on the bottom, cut deep to avoid thermal detection so when our planes fly to try to determine if any human beings are in there, it’s built so deeply down and embedded in the mountain and the rock it’s hard to detect. And over here, valleys guarded, as you can see, by some Taliban soldiers. A ventilation system to allow people to breathe and to carry on. An arms and ammunition depot. And you can see here the exits leading into it and the entrances large enough to drive trucks and cars and even tanks. And its own hydroelectric power to help keep lights on, even computer systems and telephone systems. It’s a very sophisticated operation.

Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet. This is serious business. And there’s not one of those. There are many of those. And they have been used very effectively. And I might add, Afghanistan is not the only country that has gone underground. Any number of countries have gone underground. The tunneling equipment that exists today is very powerful. It’s dual use. It’s available across the globe. And people have recognized the advantages of using underground protection for themselves.

Russert: It may take us going from cave to cave with a great group of men I know in the United States military, the tunnel rats, to try to flush out Osama bin Laden.”

Of course, two decades later none of this was ever found and the US now publicly backs al Qaeda in Yemen, Syria and across the Sahel as a Saudi financed “proxy force” for regime change, exactly what it was in 2001 and years before as well.

Returning to the Pashtun issue, the heart of the upcoming “soon to fail” negotiations, we recognize that we have a majority ethnic group, highly militarized, with an extremely strong identity, whose population numbers not 50 million in the region but closer to 70 million with a probable 10 million or more who would return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, or so Imran Khan, now President of Pakistan, has predicted, were American to finally withdraw.

The broader challenge, one resembling that Turkey and other nations face some hundreds of kilometers as well east, parallels the fate of the Kurds, who seek a nation as well but were denied due to European “line drawing” efforts, now clearly seen as malicious in nature.

Trump, most probably misled and woefully ignorant, may well have some knowledge that his proposed drawdown of troops in Afghanistan will run into problems.

He is assuming that the tens of thousands of private contractors under CIA, State Department, USAID and other, unnamed “black entities” will be capable of maintaining not just heroin production but domestic chaos as well, the real purpose of America’s occupation.

However, the Taliban has other ideas and the military might and will to weigh in, despite two decades of drone assassinations and a US occupation that is now largely a few thousand terrified troops huddled in makeshift “fortresses” of their own, albeit largely above ground.

  • America’s drug operations must end
  • All opium production must halt, and the US must take financial responsibility in transitioning Afghanistan from a narco-state to a non-criminal economy
  • Programs to provide hope for 5 million heroin addicts, “hooked” by a US backed narcotics industry, will require financing as well

America has created an economic environment in Afghanistan, which will, as intended, cripple Afghanistan for a century. Gems and rare earth elements, other undiscovered resources, are open for plunder and are likely to remain so.

Regional political discord, threats against Iran, CIA plots in the “stans” and America’s Cold War on Pakistan, are Trump’s additions to a failed policy left over from Bush (43).

Factually, there will be no “light at the end of the tunnel” as long as America denies culpability in war crimes, responsibility for engineered mayhem on a global scale and for a worldview steeped in delusion.

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Black WWII veteran who was denied the Purple Heart due to racism finally receives the honor at 99

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- For nearly eight decades, former Army Private Osceola "Ozzie" Fletcher's experience in the Battle of Normandy went unrecognized.

Shortly after D-Day in 1944, Fletcher was in the back of a vehicle delivering supplies to Allied troops who were off the coast of France when he and his fellow servicemembers were hit by a German missile. The driver was killed, and Fletcher was left with a large gash on his head.

Fletcher's wound from that incident and others should have earned him a Purple Heart. But as was the case for many other Black Americans in the military, he was denied the honor due to racism.

Last week, 77 years after the fact and at the age of 99, Fletcher finally received the Purple Heart.

"The problem was that the Black soldiers were considered injured and an injury wasn't considered an incidence of Purple Heart," Fletcher's daughter Jacqueline Streets told CNN. "The White soldiers were considered wounded."

Generally, for a wound to meet the criteria of the Purple Heart, it must have resulted from either an enemy or hostile act or friendly fire, it must require treatment by a medical officer, and it must be documented in the soldier's medical record. But Streets said her father knew there wouldn't be medical records of his wound because he was never hospitalized -- "It was always just a matter of patching up and sending back" Black soldiers.

At a ceremony on June 18 in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, Army officials and other leaders praised Fletcher for his service and acknowledged that what he endured was an injustice.

"Today, we pay long overdue tribute for the sacrifices he made to our nation and for free people everywhere," US Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said at the June 18 event, according to the New York Daily News.

Fletcher, sitting in his wheelchair while decked out in military regalia, remarked, "It's about time."

The effort was years in the making

Getting Fletcher the recognition was a battle in itself, said Streets.

For decades, she said her father rarely ever spoke of his service in World War II. Upon his return to the US, he went on to work as a high school teacher, as a sergeant for the New York Police Department and as a community relations specialist in the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Fletcher began talking more about his time in the war about 20 years ago, Streets said. But it was a trip to Normandy several years ago that finally made him want to speak up.

"It really hit him that he wanted to be heard," Streets said. "He wanted the truth to be known. He wanted to be validated and acknowledged."

Fletcher told his family about the prejudice he and other Black soldiers faced at the hands of their White counterparts -- and about how he never got a Purple Heart. At the time, though, Streets said she and her family thought there was nothing they could do about it.

After conversations with other relatives, Streets started the process of trying to help her father obtain the Purple Heart he never received -- an effort she would be engaged in for about seven years. She says she didn't see much success though until a group of filmmakers behind the documentary "Sixth of June" read about her father's story and got involved.

In April of this year, the US Army announced that Fletcher, along with former warrant officer Johnnie Jones, would finally receive the Purple Hearts they had earned so long ago.

Army officials were able to verify their stories based on the testimonies of the two men, historical data and other sources.

"These men have the scars and stories that are hard to ignore," Lt. Col. Scott Johnson, the Army Human Resources Command's chief of awards and decorations, said in a news release.

When Streets first delivered the news to her father, she asked him how it felt to finally receive the honor he had been fighting for all these years.

It was a typical response from her father, who isn't typically one to make a big show of emotion, Streets said. But she knows it meant so much more.

"I think it was an amazing weight off of his shoulders to finally be validated, to finally have his story out there," she added. "The sad thing is that there are so many more who have the same story and were never acknowledged."

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These colorized photos show a new side of World War II

Posted On January 28, 2019 18:38:45

Marines finishing training at Parris Island in South Carolina./Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

The 1930s and 1940s were a time of upheaval for the US and the world at large.

Reeling from the start of the Great Depression in 1929, the world soon faced a greater disaster with World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Though the US did not enter into the war officially until after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the global war still affected the country.

The following photos, from the US Library of Congress, give us a rare glimpse of life in the US during World War II in color. They show some of the amazing changes that the war helped usher into the US, such as women in the workforce and the widespread adoption of aerial and mechanized warfare.

Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repairs department of the naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a National Youth Administration trainee from Michigan, in Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training, he will go into the civil service.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congres

Answering the nation’s need for woman-power, Davis made arrangements for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work at the naval air base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed in a US Navy plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

A sailor at the base in Corpus Christi wears the new type of protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed on a US Navy plane in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Feeding an SNC advanced-training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Av. Cadet Thanas at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Pearl Harbor widows went into war work to carry on the fight in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis was appointed by the civil service to be senior supervisor in the assembly and repairs department at the naval base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

After seven years in the US Navy, J.D. Estes was considered an old sea salt by his mates at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, painting the American insignia on an airplane wing. McElroy was a civil-service employee at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadet in training at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Ensign Noressey and Cadet Thenics at the naval air base in Corpus Christi on a Grumman F3F-3 biplane fighter.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Working with a sea plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadets at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mechanics service an A-20 bomber at Langley Field in Virginia.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-3 tank and crew using small arms at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-4 tank line at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle at Fort Knox.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Servicing an A-20 bomber at Langley Field.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A US Marine lieutenant was a glider pilot in training at Page Field on Parris Island in South Carolina.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Marines finish training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress


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