MM3 Doris Miller

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Doris Miller is credited with shooting down several Japanese planes with a machine gun from the deck of the U.S.S. West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of his actions reached the public, the African-American community saw him as their symbol of patriotism and pride. They wanted him to give speeches, named Boys Clubs after him, and started a write-in campaign to have President Roosevelt admit him to the Naval Academy. Although he did not attend the Naval Academy, Miller was decorated for bravery and continued to serve on active duty. Miller lost his life in the explosions and subsequent sinking of the Liscome Bay early on the morning of November 24, 1943.

We honor you, Doris Miller.

(#Repost @A People at War)

PVT Kenneth Brown Hart

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From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, the citizen soldier has played a vital role in our military history. These patriots laid down their plow shares and took up the sword when our nation called. Many gave their lives on foreign soil to preserve our freedom here at home.

One such citizen soldier was Kenneth B. Hart of Knoxville. Quiet and of a slender build, he was an unlikely warrior. He wore wire-rimmed glasses; loved to play his clarinet; and had an aptitude for math. Kenneth was a ’38 graduate of Knoxville High where he was a member of the band. He completed 2 years at the University of Tennessee as engineering major. As a member of the UT marching band he participated in the Orange Bowl an Rose Bowl parades. In 1940, he joined the Tennessee National Guard. One year later he married his high school sweetheart, Hazel.

Assigned to the 191st Field Artillery Band, he continued to play his clarinet. Kenneth and Hazel spent 2 years together at an Army Post in California where he trained for combat. Their final good-bye was in the spring of ’44 in New York as Kenneth shipped out for Germany. By June, he had entered the European Theater and had been reassigned to the 1st Infantry Division, 18th Regiment, 1st Battalion Company C. The “Big Red One” helped to chase the retreating Germans across France to the Siegfried line.

Control of the Dams of the Roer River Valley was a major objective of the allies. All that stood between them and the Dams was 70 square miles of dense fir trees and rough terrain known as the Huertgen Forest. It was infested with determined German troops that were intent on repelling the Americans. The Germans had reinforced this natural barrier with concrete bunkers, pillboxes, and heavy artillery. Often overshadowed in history by Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, the Huertgen Forest has been referred to as a m”meat grinder”. The records show that for every yard gained, it took more lives than any other American objective in Europe.

Against this backdrop, Kenneth’s unit fought through the Huertgen Forest. November 22, 1944 was cold and rainy, mixed with intervals of snow. Company C was trying to take Hill #203 according to battle reports. The Germans had the high ground and launched a deadly barrage of mortar and artillery and almost decimated Company C. Kenneth Hart died instantly that day from artillery shrapnel while taking shelter in a foxhole. Company C fought on despite the losses. On November 27th, a platoon from that company charged that hill. After 10 minutes of savage hand-to-hand fighting, the hill was in American hands. Only 2 American officers and 6 enlisted men were left of that platoon. Hill 203 has been described by members of the 1st Battalion as the fiercest fight they encountered in the war. The Americans finally took the Huertgen Forest and the Roer Valley. The final butcher’s toll was over 24,000 American dead, killed or missing. Another 9,000 were victims of frostbite, trenchfoot, and battle fatigue. It took 5 months, 9 divisions, a parachute regiment, and a Ranger battalion to take the Huertgen Forest.

We honor you, Kenneth Hart.

(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

Lt Col Gregory A. M. Etzel

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Greg Etzel was born on April 9, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt through the Air Force ROTC program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, on June 7, 1957, and went on active duty beginning February 27, 1958. Lt Etzel next completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Craig AFB, Alabama, in April 1959, followed by Helicopter Pilot training at Stead AFB, Nevada, from May to October 1959.

His first assignment was as an SH-21B Work Horse helicopter pilot with the 46th Air Rescue Squadron at Otis AFB, Massachusetts, from November 1959 to March 1960, and then as an SH-21B Rescue Alert Pilot with Headquarters Air Force Iceland at Keflavik Airport, Iceland, from March 1960 to March 1961. He then served as an H-21 and then CH-3C Jolly Green Giant pilot with the 1371st and 1375th Mapping and Charting Squadrons at Turner AFB, Georgia, from March 1961 to June 1967, followed by service as an HH-3E pilot with Detachment 2 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from June to October 1967. Capt Etzel next served as an HH-3E pilot with Detachment 1 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from October 1967 to July 1968.

He then attended Naval Test Pilot School from July 1968 to June 1969, followed by service as an Aerospace Research Flight Test Officer in the VTOL Section with the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, California, from August 1969 to August 1973. LtCol Etzel served as an HH-3E pilot and Operations Officer with the 1st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at McClellan AFB, California, from August 1973 to April 1975, and then as a Flight Test Officer with the Flight Test Engineering Division, 6510th Test Wing, at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB from November 1975 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 1, 1979.

His official Air Cross Citation reads:

“Captain Gregory A. M. Etzel distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force in Southeast Asia as an HH-3E helicopter pilot on 2 and 3 July 1967. On the 2nd of July, Captain Etzel flew his helicopter into one of the most heavily defended area of North Vietnam to rescue a downed F-105 pilot. Unable to effect a pickup because of oncoming darkness and intense small arms fire that damaged his aircraft, Captain Etzel withdrew from the area. After landing at a friendly base, he volunteered to continue rescue operations the next day. After minimum rest, he took off at first light and flew through intense automatic fire, dodged deadly missiles, and evaded attacking MIGs in search of the downed pilot. In the face of heavy small arms fire that severely damaged his helicopter, he located and rescued this valuable pilot. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Captain Etzel reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

Major Richard Mehr flew combat support in his A-1E Skyraider to defend the downed pilot in this rescue effort and aided Captain Etzel’s recovery effort. For his actions, Major Mehr was also awarded the Air Force Cross.

We honor you, Gregory Etzel.

(#Repost @Veteran Tributes and Hall of Valor)

GEN Lucian Truscott

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Some men are born to serve in the Armed Forces. Sometimes it’s familial tradition for sons to follow in a father’s footsteps, or a grandfather’s. In other cases, young men, at a very early age, dream of doing nothing else. And some men are drawn to service not by birthright or innate desire, but by circumstances in which they find themselves or their country.

Men in the latter category can become surprisingly effective, adapting to the service’s rigors and demands as if they were, in fact, born to it.

One such man is Lucian Truscott, considered to be one of the finest Generals who ever served in World War II. Even though he didn’t attend West Point, the prestigious military academy, and had no battlefield experience at the outset of the war, Truscott’s less obvious talents soon became clear, and he proved himself an ideal candidate for top honors as a military commander.

He first entered the war as a Colonel, as he had signed up during World War 1, feeling honor bound to serve his country. But when that war ended, he had a decision to make: realistically, would his lack of experience on the field impinge on his chances for advancement? But he stayed, and when World War Two arrived, he was made Colonel.

Truscott turned out to have a skill that proved very valuable to his leaders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower. He could play, and knew a great deal about, polo. This gave him a connection to Lord Mountbatten, who was leading forces in Europe at the time.

Eisenhower sent Truscott overseas with a mandate to forge a stronger bond between the two Allies. Truscott and others watched the Dieppe battle led by Mountbatten in 1942, and though it was a somewhat disastrous raid, but learned a lot about what not to do.

He was subsequently determined to use what he had learned at Dieppe to reduce casualties and death among his men when he finally began planning raids and battles himself.

His first mission as a General, in 1942, was when he led Operation Torch in Morocco. It was considered a success and earned Truscott a second star. But he felt it had been less than wonderful, too many men lost their lives. Yet it led Eisenhower to appoint him Deputy Commander.

Truscott always tried to think of strategic ways to reduce casualties. Because he believed that the enemy was in superior shape, he insisted his men undergo brutal rounds of personal training before heading into battle. They got into such great physical shape that they went into fighting doing what the men fondly dubbed, “the Truscott Trot.” But it helped, and the men grew fiercely loyal to him.

Truscott’s dedication to his men, as much as his training and experience, led to him becoming one of the most in demand generals leading forces into battle all over Europe.

When sent to Italy, he was not happy with one General, in particular, Mark Clark, who had rerouted troops in an attempt to seize Rome. Truscott felt that the attack was Clark’s vainglorious attempt to stroke his own ego, demonstrating little regard for the well being of the men, or the bigger picture of the war’s goals. He did not wish to participate in what he deemed to be an exercise in ego. Ultimately, Truscott led VI Corps in the invasion of Southern France.

In May, 1945, Truscott was asked to speak at a ceremony at the Sicily Rome American Cemetery in Italy. When he rose to stand by the dais, Truscott turned his back on his listeners so he could speak directly to the dead. Then, as World War II cartoonist Bill Mauldin recalled, he apologized to the fallen men buried there.

He would not speak of “the glorious dead,” Mauldin commented, as so many other military leaders did. He found no glory in row after row of white crosses giving mute testimony to dead soldiers, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties.

According to Mauldin, Truscott then made a promise. That if he ever met any old people, particularly old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. It was, he said, the least he could do.

We honor you, Lucian Truscott.

(#Repost @War Stories)

PVT Sabatino Abilio

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I am writing this narrative in behalf of my father who served his country in World War One. At this point and time, I can only relate the story that he told me as a child. He told me that he fought in World War One, in France, in the Campaign of Chateau Thierry. He was in the Battle of Verdun where he was wounded in the right leg. As a consequence, he laid on the battlefield among many, many dead and wounded soldiers. He laid there for three days before they came to pick up the wounded and the dead. this is as far as the story goes in my recollection, and unfortunately I do not know the exact date that he was wounded. I do know that my father walked with a limp his entire life as a result of his injury.

He was a very, very shy and humble man and to me it is fitting that he should be remembered for his service.

We honor you, Sabatino Abilio.

(Written by his daughter: Angelina LoSasso. #Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

CPT Isaac Camacho

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The First American POW to escape captivity during the war in Vietnam.

Green Beret Army Capt. Isaac Camacho vividly recalled the terrible night when he was captured by Viet Cong. It was the night of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. He was held for nearly two years until he fled, becoming the first U.S. prisoner to escape from Viet Cong captivity. That evening, Nov. 22, 1963, the Viet Cong forces started firing mortars into the Hiep Hoa U.S. Army Special Forces base camp, in South Vietnam, about 35 miles north of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). While half of his team was away, he said, Viet Cong fighters infiltrated the camp, silently killed guards and forced Vietnamese civilians to lay down their weapons — they only wanted to kill the Americans.

Several of the Special Forces troops manned a machine-gun position and began trying to stem the tide of invaders.

Camacho, who was the camp’s heavy weapons specialist, grabbed a carbine and made his way to the mor-tar bunker, where he waged a one-man mortar barrage against the enemy. He was still firing approximately 30 minutes later when he was joined by Lieutenant John R. Colby, the detachment’s executive officer, who was trying to rally the defending forces. In light of the attack’s intensity, and seeing that some of the CIDG troops were fleeing, Colby decided that further efforts to defend the camp would be futile. He handed Camacho a grenade to use for added protection and ordered him to leave while he could.

Camacho left reluctantly. He knew that a couple of Americans were still fighting inside the camp. Once outside the compound, he thought of his friends and could not bring himself to abandon them. He re-entered the enclosure and encountered heavier firepower and exploding mortar rounds. When he suddenly came face to face with some VC, he blasted at them with his carbine. The enemy fire was so overwhelming that he tossed his grenade at the VC and made a dash for cover in a machine-gun bunker. But the VC soon located him, as well as Sergeant George E. Smith, Specialist Claude McClure and Staff Sgt. Kenneth M. Rorback.

Apparently, I was seen, Camacho later recalled, because in the next 30 seconds, I was surrounded and flashlights were being shined on me. I was ordered to get up, and as I did a VC grabbed my carbine. He felt the barrel, which was hot, then he said something to the others in Vietnamese. While they were tying me up, one VC gave me a butt stroke with his M-1 and I was out. When I came to, I had blood all over from a gash on the back of my head. Then another order was given, and we were practically dragged across the barbed wire.

Although he survived the intense attack, Camacho and the three other men captured by the Viet Cong were beaten and blindfolded. They were transported like cargo to one of the guerrilla army’s bases. Camacho lived in shackles and was confined to cages, one of which was just six by eight feet, for much of the next 21 months.

The action (at the camp) earned him the Distinguished Service Cross. On July 9, 1964 His escape, spending four days evading pursuers in order to return to U.S. control, earned him the Silver Star.

We honor you, Isaac Camacho.

(Submission by: Miah Parry. #Repost @Special Forces Association Chapter LX)

TSgt John “Chappy” Chapman

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John A. Chapman was born on July 14, 1965 in Massachusetts but spent most of his young life in Connecticut, graduating from Windsor Locks High School in 1983. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, as an Information Systems Operator. He later volunteered to be a Combat Controller, where he was tasked to solve air and ground problems in different conflict and crisis situations.

He had assignments stationed in Colorado, North Carolina, and Okinawa where he became an expert in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control, and terminal attack control operations. In addition to his mental agility, he has had also mastered the physical demands of combat as an experienced static line and military free fall jumper, combat diver, and earned jumpmaster and dive supervisor qualifications.

He was then selected for a special duty assignment with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. As a team leader, he worked with personnel training them for their roles as special tactics operators, prepared them to conduct precision strike, personnel recovery, and special operations missions around the world. While deployed, Sergeant Chapman directed close air support aircraft, delivering destructive ordnance on enemy targets in non-permissive environments.

On March 4, 2002, Sergeant John A. Chapman was in Afghanistan as part of Operation Anaconda. Sergeant Chapman’s helicopter was hit with heavy fire from al Qaeda, one member of the team, Neil Roberts, fell from the back of the aircraft, and the helicopter ended up crash landing in a valley below the Takur Ghar mountain. Sergeant Chapman and the rest of the special operations team, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient Britt Slabinksi, volunteered to return to the enemy filled, snowy mountaintop in an attempt to rescue their fallen teammate.

Sergeant Chapman charged into the enemy forces seizing their bunker and killing the forces inside. He then moved from the bunker, completely revealing himself, to engage an enemy machinegun firing at his team. It was at this point he was severely injured, presumed dead, and his teammates evacuated the mountaintop. Chapman regained consciousness and continued to fight, engaging with multiple enemy forces before making the ultimate sacrifice.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

On August 9, 2018, the Air Force released overhead footage of the final moments of Tech Sgt. John Chapman’s heroic life. This is the first Medal of Honor to be awarded using surveillance footage rather than eye witness accounts.

“Chappy” as his teammates called him, was always a team oriented and humble man. Chappy’s commander at the time of his final actions had this to say

“John was always selfless – it didn’t just emerge on Takur Ghar – he had always been selfless and highly competent, and thank God for all those qualities,” said retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, Chapman’s commander at the time. “He could have hunkered down in the bunker and waited for the (Quick Reaction Force) and (Combat Search and Rescue) team to come in, but he assessed the situation and selflessly gave his life for them.”

Technical Sgt. John Chapman [was] posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House on August 22, 2018. President Donald Trump [presented] the Medal to Chapman’s wife, Valerie Nessel, and their families commemorated his life and his actions that were above and beyond the call of duty.

John Chapman’s story and spirit will live on in the lives of his family, friends and teammates. His wife, Valerie has said, “[John] would want to recognize the other men that lost their lives. Even though he did something he was awarded the Medal of Honor for, he would not want the other guys to be forgotten – that they were part of the team together. I think he would say that his Medal of Honor was not just for him, but for all of the guys who were lost.”

We honor you, John Chapman.

(#Submission by: Miah Parry. #Repost @MOH Museum)