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February 2005

Angels At Dawn! - The Los Banos Airborne Raid 60th Anniversary


Colin R. sent me a reminder of an important anniversary today.

Today is the 60th Anniversary of the 11th Airborne Division's Los Banos Raid. The 11th Airborne were known as "The Angels" and they completed a harrowing and successful Airborne, Sea, and Land Assault to rescue civilian and military Prisoners of War (POW). You may notice that I "borrowed" the 11th Airborne Division's patch for the Blackfive logo. 

Here is the story of the Los Banos Raid told from the perspective of one of the POWs, Robert Wheeler:

The Angels Came at Dawn 
by Robert A. Wheeler, Los Banos Internee

On February 23, 1945, the Marines raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi, on the island of Iwo Jima. On that same morning, about 25 miles south of Manila in the Philippine Islands, the 11th Airborne Division began an operation about which Army Chief of Staff Colin Powell proclaimed, “I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will be able to rival the Los Banos prison raid. It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.”

As that day dawned at Los Banos Civilian Internment Camp, it held two thousand one hundred and forty-six US, British, Canadian, French and other Allied civilian prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Forces. After several years of imprisonment, they were the remaining survivors, who were slowly but surely going to join their predecessors in starving to death. Among the remaining survivors were my father, mother, younger brother and myself.

We were down to one official meal a day; living on a bug-filled rice mush (mostly water) called lugau, banana tree stalks, papaya tree roots, slugs and in some cases, dogs and cats.

My father, who was almost six foot tall, weighed about 90 pounds, and my mother as she recalled said, “I stopped weighing myself when I weighed 80 pounds”. I myself weighed about seventy-nine pounds.

As we went to bed the night before, little did we know that as we slept, the men of the Recon Platoon of the 511th were sneaking up to their positions at key points outside the camp – the men of the 187th and 188th Regiments were busy keeping the Japanese troops occupied in a diversionary operation. The Men of the 672nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion were making their way in the dark with hand-held compasses across Laguna de Bay transporting the balance of the First Battalion of the 511th Regiment, and that “B” Company 511th was getting a little sleep at Nichols Field under the wings of the 65th Troop Carrier Squadron’s C-47s that were to carry them to their moment of history.

That morning, as I walked out of the barracks with my family to line up for 7:00 AM roll call, I looked up into the sky over a field near our camp and saw several C47 transport planes.

Suddenly, the sky filled with the “Angels”; the men of “B” Company of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, floating down as if from heaven in their white parachutes.

Continue reading "Angels At Dawn! - The Los Banos Airborne Raid 60th Anniversary" »

Godspeed Sgt Plumondore and SPC Gertson

    "How do you honor such heroes as Clint Gertson and Adam Plumondore? You honor them by telling the stories of their friendship, camaraderie, and fierce bravery. You honor them by continuing to fight to protect the man on your left and right who would lay down his life so that others might live. You honor them by continuing in this noble endeavor providing freedom to a people we do not know or understand the sacrifices that are made – but that is what makes America the greatest nation on earth." - LTC Michael E. Kurilla, 1/24th Battalion Commander, made these comments today in Mosul, Iraq

That quote is from the eulogy for Sergeant Adam Plumondore and Specialist Clint Gertson by their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kurilla.  Todd at Stryker Brigade News has the entire speech posted (following through on LTC Kurilla's advice), and it's one of the best, mixing humor and heroism and loss.  Be sure to read it.

Here's a message from their platoon posted by Lieutenant Bourque:

A Message from the Men of the Recon Platoon

Friends and Families of 1/24 IN Scouts,

It is with a heavy heart that we write today. Sergeant Adam Plumondore, of the sniper section, was killed in action on 16 February. His loss has hit the platoon hard, as we know it has his friends and family back home. Sergeant Plumondore was a tremendous soldier, a respected leader, and a great friend. He was a man of great strength, unending talent, and deep compassion. His spirit will live on forever with the men here who loved him and served with him. We want his family to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them in this time of need and that he will always be in our hearts, and we will never forget him.

The Men of Recon Platoon

You can leave a message at their web site, too.

Both men were heroes of incredible caliber.  Gertson was in the dining facility tent in Mosul when it was bombed and valiantly tried to save his Company Commander.  Both men were responsible time and time again for saving lives on the battlefield.

And, Sergeant Adam Plumondore was the Adam in Kim du Toit's Walter and Adam Fund (a fund that Kim started to help equip the snipers with the best equipment) which has been posted here before in response to requests from readers wishing to contribute to more "martial" organizations.

Riverdog also has a post about Adam, too.  He reports that Adam volunteered to take the place of another Soldier on the last patrol.

I'll end on the final note from LTC Kurilla at the memorial, "We will miss them both terribly, but I know that our Deuce Four snipers, Gerty and Plum, are looking down from Heaven continuing to look out for us – that voice you hear in your head is Gerty calling the winds, Plum ensuring you have the correct distance, and both always reminding you to always look for the positive in life."

Godspeed Adam and Clint, Godspeed.

Caring For The Troops

How much can one care package affect a soldier?

Russ Vaughn, the MilBlog poet laureate and Vietnam Veteran, has a post at American Thinker about a care package that he received 40 years after leaving Vietnam.

Old Sarge Gets a Care Package

Sergeant Vaughn got a care package today. It’s been almost forty years since I got my last one, a case of twenty-four #2½ cans of sliced peaches from my father. Memory fails me now, but I don’t believe I ever asked before he died what it cost to mail that monster,  but it must have been a pretty hefty hit in the wallet for a lifelong blue-collar worker. I had happened to mention in one of my rare letters home from Vietnam that canned, sliced peaches were my favorite item in our C Rations even if they were twenty years old. We could date them because the small cigarette packs enclosed with the rations were frequently Lucky Strikes in the old green packages that were phased out in the forties...

Be sure to read the whole post.  It's great.

You can really make a difference by sending the troops letters, emails, and various care goods.  There are many ways to help.

I am always happy to get emails from readers who took a few small actions and made a big difference to our military men and women.  Usually, they all start with, "I should have done this months ago."  There are great Americans walking the walk (even German citizens and Americans overseas), taking care of our defenders while they recover, ensuring our military men and women are never treated like they were thirty years ago.

Below, in the Extended Section is a must read letter about wounded hero Captain Daniel Gade, Big John of Adopt-A-Soldier and others at Walter Reed:

Continue reading "Caring For The Troops" »

Iwo Jima Remembered - Part 2

Here are some links about the battle:

Iwo Jima vet: I was proud to be part of it

Always Faithful

60 Years Later, Iwo Jima Recalled

Iwo Jima, if covered by our media - Senator Zell Miller writes (October 12th, 2004) about how Iwo Jima would be viewed today through the eyes of our media.

If you find interesting  blog posts or articles about Iwo Jima, please post the URL in the comments.  URL's become links automatically in the Comments section.

Update:  Thanks, everyone, for the Iwo Jima links!

Iwo Jima Remembered

    "Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."  - Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal upon seeing the Rosenthal photograph

On the morning of February 19, 1945, 70,000 US Marines invaded Iwo Jima.  The fighting was fierce.  Intelligence had made a significant error about the size of the Japanese force on the island.

During the early hours of February 23rd, Marines all over Iwo Jima were thrilled by the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi. Later that day, a larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy Hospital Corpsman: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, and PhM. 2/c John H. Bradley, USN.

News-photographer Joe Rosenthal caught the afternoon flag raising in an inspiring Pulitzer Prize winning photograph.


Three of the men would die in later battles on Iwo Jima and join over 6,800 of their brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Iwo Jima, one of the most hard-fought battles in the war, is also commonly remembered by quoting Admiral Chester Nimitz, "Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Gunner Palace - Blackfive Readers Interview Director

The folks running PR for Gunner Palace have agreed to allow you to ask questions of Michael Tucker, director (cameraman, etc.) of Gunner Palace.

So, email me your questions (subject: Gunner Palace).  I'll compile them and send them on Wednesday, February 23rd.  I'll post Mike's responses when I receive them.

Update: Armed Liberal at Winds of Change reviewed the premiere of Gunner Palace.

Update 2:  Michael Tucker sent me an email that there will be a large article in the Sunday New York Times about freestyle rap and soldiers...and, since that's part of Gunner Palace (and some of my favorite parts of the documentary), the film will also be featured in the piece.

Update 3:  Here's the link to the NY Times article.

The Truth Is Common Property

A new project involving Brian Scott, Charles Groggin, Bill Roggio and I with a host of contributors like NZ Bear, Rodger Morrow, Mike Krempasky, Rony Abovitz, Peter Cook and James Dwight:

Here is what Bill Roggio has to say about it and he's got the target bracketed beautifully:

War, Truth and Videotape was created with the specific purpose to get to the truth about what happened at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The resignation of Eason Jordan did not bring closure to this issue, and instead has deflected attention from what exactly was said. It has been reported by multiple eyewitnesses in attendance that American troops were slandered. These charges must be addressed.

A tape of the events exists, and the media has shown a curious lack of interest pressing for its release. The media have instead turned the focus of this issue on the bloggers, accusing us of conducting a witch-hunt. We strongly disagree, and a simple airing of the tape will settle these matters.

The tape is currently in possession of Mark Adams, Head of Media of the World Economic Forum. The claim has been made that the conference was “off the record”, however evidence exists that this conference was indeed on the record. We will press for the release of the tape. It is possible that independent transcripts or recordings of the conference exist, and we will pursue these avenues as well...

Be sure to check in at War, Truth and Videotape from time to time to see what develops.  In order to put pressure on the WEF to release the tape, we'll need a lot of help from you.

Journalists and Soldiers

John G. sends this Myrna Blyth NRO piece about a Columbia Journalism School First Amendment breakfast (panel discussion).  Definitely check it out.

Some of the reactions from the group, as disappointing as they are, probably won't surprise you.

There are some really great journalists out there and I don't want to give the impression that all of them don't understand what it's like to be a Soldier or that believe that Soldiers are not decent people.  I know of a few cases of embeds helping Soldiers and Marines stay alive.  But I also know that some journalists have a bias against the military (or the Bush Administration, and, therefore, the military in Iraq).  And I believe that there is more bias in the upper Executive levels of the media than with the reporters. 

Frontline Show About Soldiers In Iraq

I received the email below from Jessica Smith - the Outreach Coordinator for FRONTLINE - who wants us MilBloggers to spread the word about two episodes on PBS featuring Soldiers in Iraq. 

Frontline is contacting/outreaching to MilBlogs about these episodes.  I'll try to catch them, but I doubt they will be as awesome as Gunner Palace.

I'll post Jessica's email in the Extended Section.

Continue reading "Frontline Show About Soldiers In Iraq" »

Marine Corporal Tim Tardif - Someone You Should Know

    "Somehow, Corporal Tardif convinced the doctors that he need to be checked out of the hospital.  The doctor checked him out, and Corporal Tardif got ahold of a corpsman and borrowed a utility uniform. Then he went to the Air Force base and talked his way onto an aircraft to go back to Iraq."  - Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee

Chris M. sends these two links to Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers site.  Craig Bernthal talks to his nephew, Marine Corporal Tim Tardif, about Iraq.

If you read one thing today, this two part column should be it.

Below in the Extended Section is more information about Corporal Tardif:

Continue reading "Marine Corporal Tim Tardif - Someone You Should Know" »