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April 2010

30 years ago: Operation Eagle Claw


On 24 Apr 1980, the United States attempted a daring operation to rescue the 53 American hostages held by Iran. Sandstorms and mechanical failures rendered several helicopters inoperable and the mission had to be aborted. As the commandos  prepared to leave the staging area, zero-visibility conditions caused one of the RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters to collide with a C-130 tanker, killing eight and wounding four.

Mark Bowden - the author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War - wrote an excellent article for the Atlantic Monthly on the Desert One debacle.

The eight fallen servicemen included three Marines: Sgt. John D. Harvey, 21, of Roanoke; Cpl. George N. Holmes Jr., 22, of Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, 31, of Dublin, Ga. Five Air Force personnel: Maj. Richard L. Bakke, 33, of Long Beach, Calif.; Maj. Harold L. Lewis Jr., 35, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, 35, of Harrisville, Mich.; Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, 33, of Valdosta, Ga.; and Capt. Charles T. McMillan, 28,  of Corryton, Tenn.

While the military did not accomplish their mission, the incident served to improve the effectiveness of our special operations forces with the creation of Special Operations Command and the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Photo caption: Delta operators boarding a C-141 transport in preparation for Operation Eagle Claw. Col. Charlie Beckwith - credited with creating Delta Force - is wearing the white shirt. (Source: militaryphotos.net)

Attention Sky Six - Paratrooper Inbound

Dan1aOur friend Ponsdorf posts that his father-in-law passed away this morning.  His father, SSG Dan Leffler, was an artilleryman in the 82nd in WWII.  According to Pons, he had a bronze star and had jumped into Sicily and rode a glider into Holland.  Pon put up some cool WWII era photos of his FIL.

Another Greatest Generation member has passed.

God Speed, Dan. 


[H/T to the Farm Team]

Military Roundup 26 Apr 2010

Photo of the Day: Marines unleash hell in Egypt

2 Illinois state representatives ask governor to deploy National Guard… in Chicago

Lawmaker threatening to cut funding from sub program if military doesn’t provide key document

Government says al Qaeda ordered subway attacks – One of the three alleged conspirators has already plead guilty.

E-2C pilot’s last act saved the lives of three crew mates

Military appeals court overturns Marine’s murder conviction

Air Force’s classified space plane starts orbital test

Korean War: Source says South Korea’s military intelligence concluded that North Korea was responsible for sinking patrol vessel

North Korea to sieze South Korean property at resort

Afghanistan: Taliban’s captured number two leader providing U.S. with useful intelligence

Iraq: Al Qaeda confirms leaders’ deaths in last week’s US-Iraqi operation

Iran: Iranians celebrate the 30th anniversary of Operation Eagle Claw – the failed attempt to rescue American hostages held by the Iranians. Eight U.S. servicemen died in the operation.

Iran has built a “Mosque of Thanks” at the site, and plans to build a museum to display the crashed aircraft’s wreckage.

Pentagon report states that Iran’s Quds Force has stepped up its presence in Venezuela

Walid Phares: “If we don’t stop Iran’s nuclear program and its weapons delivery systems before 2015, then, yes, the United States will be under direct threat from a Jihadist regime, which has declared that ‘a world without America is possible.’”

Republished with permission of the Victory Institute

Blankets for buddies

Tanker babe is helping all the paratroopers get together as she is prone to do.

A group of Gold Star families, Blue Star families, families of the wounded from OEF VIII and civilian supporters of the 173rd, 2-503 are selling throws as a fund raising project.  The immediate goal is to raise funds to fly any medically cleared wounded of the 173rd ABCT from OEF X back to Italy and Germany at the end of the deployment to join their brothers in arms for Memorial Services and other official ceremonies.

Plus here is a story about, well maybe a Gold Star Dog?

A couple of months ago I wrote about a call I received from Mike Brennan, father of SGT Joshua Brennan who was KIA in Afghanistan in October 2007. Mike called to tell me that the Madison, WI police department was naming one of their new K-9 members in honor of Josh.  There are a couple of pictures of K-9 Josh at the link above.  It was emotional the day Mike called to tell me that news but even more emotional tonight when Mike called to tell me that K-9 Josh has finished his training and the department had the dedication today to signify that K-9 Josh is now offically a member of the force.  Mike pointed me to this video aired on local news by NBC 15 in Madison, WI.

Good stuff for sure.

Lt. Steve Zilberman

Read of a man, Lt. Steve Zilberman.

Lt. Zilberman, a US Navy Hawkeye pilot lost an engine while returning from a mission. He fought the controls long enough to let his three crewmates bail out, but did not survive his water landing. He leaves behind a young wife and two young children.
There is a scholarship fund for his children, and other children of aviators of his breed.

(H/t:  Instapundit.)

"I would have done the exact same thing."

Greyhawk points us to a milblogger who is writing about his experiences in Afghanistan.  He is honest in just the way that a milblogger ought to be:

The passenger bus came from the rear at a high rate of speed and the soldiers engaged the vehicle with heavy caliber machine gun fire, killing anywhere from 4-5 civilians and wounding dozens more....

If I were a civilian student reading this article, I would be appalled and embarrassed. I think, ten years ago, I probably would have joined the rest of the media and academic circles in scoffing at the carelessness of soldiers and their disregard for civilian life. The event would have bolstered my perception of the U.S. military as barbaric and unable to conduct a civilized war.

If I were a cadet at West Point, I would have scolded that unit’s senior leaders. I would have accused them of not enforcing an institutional culture of professionalism and restraint in their unit. I would swear that, “when I get over there, I’d be better than them…I’d be different.”

Sitting in my combat outpost in Afghanistan, I read and re-read the media accounts of the event that occurred no more than a few kilometers outside my front door. I closed my eyes and tried to recreate the platoon leader’s sensory inputs during those unyielding seconds of decision. I didn’t have to try too hard to understand what that platoon leader was going through; I’ve been there countless times. And at the end of my meditation…I opened my eyes to a striking realization: I would have done the exact same thing.

Read why.  If you've been reading milblogs a long time, you'll find much that is familiar here.

Roundtable: MG Stephen Lanza

We talked today with Major General Stephen Lanza, USF-I (the successor to MNF-I).  General Lanza is (Chuck Simmins tells us!  UPDATE:  Chuck Simmins tells us he was kidding!) the grandson of Hollywood actor Mario Lanza. This may seem a flippant detail, but remember how strongly Hollywood was tied in to the defense of the nation in its Golden era.  Here is an echo of those days, and a good one.

Several of the early questions were about today's bombings in Baghdad.  AQI scored a hit today, and it's natural enough that people would want to ask about it.  However, my sense is:  @#[email protected] AQI.  If they couldn't win the war when they could kill a few hundred or a few thousand people, they aren't going to win by killing a few people.  Their era has passed, and while the Kurdish issue remains latent in Iraq, these terrorist organizations are on a glide path to nowhere.  It's time to turn our attention to the bigger -- and less interesting -- issues that really govern the day to day lives of the people of Iraq.

I asked about agriculture.  This was something we spent a lot of time on when I was out Iraq way, and for good reason.  It's the #2 industry in Iraq, but only because oil has such high profit potential.  If you look at it from the perspective of how every tribesman outside the city makes his living, agriculture is king.  The Iranians know this, which is why they've been dumping super-cheap produce on the Iraqi market for years.  If they can hold down the Iraqi agricultural industry, they can keep average, tribal people from making a living.  That's how you foster instability in a nation emerging from war, if instability is in your interest.

The general gave a good answer.  The international water rights concerns he cites are very valid, and a key concern.  Drip irrigation looks like this:

  Early June - MMD 018

That's a photo I took out in Mahmudiyah qada, last spring, on a trip out to one of our drip irrigation projects.  The big pipe leads to a water tank that's lifted off the ground about twelve feet; it's filled using a small, gasoline-powered pump.  The tank then gravity feeds along the smaller hoses, which are pierced at intervals to provide dripping water that slowly, slightly dampens the earth.

Seems like a small thing, but it's not.  The traditional method of irrigation in Iraq means digging huge trenches, and flooding them with water from the Euphrates or Tigris rivers.  The problem is that this exposes a massive cross-section of the water to the sun, leading to a tremendous loss of water to evaporation in the desert heat.  Drip irrigation means that water use enjoys maximum efficiency, so that more farmers can profit from the same amount of water.

It's not sexy, like fighting AQI.  But AQI doesn't matter now.  They've lost the war.  What matters is helping the people of Iraq achieve their hopes, for themselves and their children.  Victory is like that:  you can start thinking about the best, and not merely about the worst.

Second SEAL cleared in alleged abuse case (Updated)

A jury cleared Special Operator 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe today during his court martial in Iraq. Keefe was charged with failing to prevent the alleged abuse of Ahmed Hashim Abed, the man believed responsible for the grisly 2004 massacre of four Blackwater security contractors.

SO1 Julio Huertas was cleared yesterday. Now only SO2 Matthew McCabe's trial remains, which is set to begin on 3 May in the United States. McCabe is the only SEAL charged with striking Abed.

My sources say that Abed was convicted in Iraq for murdering innocent Iraqis, and is sentenced to death. Will report on this as details become available.

Gratuitous anti-military propaganda is available from the Associated (with Terrorists) Press at this link, but the release doesn't contain anything not already mentioned in this post.

Update: The law firm representing Matthew McCabe informs me that they are asking Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland - the convening authority of the trials - to dismiss McCabe's charges. "To proceed with the trial against SO2 McCabe would be a tremendous waste of tax payer money."