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December 2010

Medal of Honor history: Howard and Yano

42 years ago, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Howard was on a joint patrol of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops when the unit was attacked by 250 North Vietnamese soldiers. After regaining consciousness from an explosion which riddled his body with shrapnel, Howard killed an enemy soldier who was wielding a flamethrower before dragging his commanding officer to safety. Howard then shoots several enemies with his pistol before being wounded once more in the foot, preventing him from walking. He then sets up a defensive position, repelling numerous attacks.

Howard, who retired in 1992 as a Colonel was believed to be the most decorated soldier since Vietnam. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in just over a year. Due to the covert nature of his operations, the other actions were downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross (he was awarded two) and the Silver Star. He received eight Purple Hearts – tied with four other soldiers for the record – and was wounded 14 times in his 54 months of combat during the Vietnam War. He was one of only two soldiers to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. He also was awarded four Bronze Stars, in addition to numerous other awards for valor. Read his citation here.

One year later, Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano was a crewmember aboard a command-and-control helicopter that was engaged with enemy forces near Bien Hoa. As Yano fired smoke and white phosphorous marking rounds to identify enemy positions for artillery strikes, a grenade detonated prematurely in the helicopter’s cabin, covering Yano with burning phosphorous and igniting the remaining ammunition. Despite his serious wounds, he began throwing the exploding ammunition overboard, causing further injuries – and ultimately his life – but sparing the helicopter and crew. Read his citation here.

A Late Hit on Dr. McCarthy

I see that Jim has already been beating on Dr. Colman McCarthy, as have many others.  I won't reprise what has been said, but I do want to raise one small additional point.  The man doesn't even have the courage of his own discipline.

He claims to be a professor of "teaching peace."  He objected to Notre Dame having ROTC, on these terms:

Notre Dame was a model of patriotism, he said, by training future officers who were churchgoers, who had taken courses in ethics, and who loved God and country. Notre Dame's ROTC program was a way to "Christianize the military," he stated firmly.

I asked if he actually believed there could be a Christian method of slaughtering people in combat, or a Christian way of firebombing cities, or a way to kill civilians in the name of Jesus. Did he think that if enough Notre Dame graduates became soldiers that the military would eventually embrace Christ's teaching of loving one's enemies?

The interview quickly slid downhill.

There may be reasons for a pluralistic nation like ours to worry about the military becoming excessively Christianized; I don't worry myself, but I respect that some might have concerns along those lines that could be framed in a way that was legitimate.  

Still, it's a pity Dr. McCarthy didn't do his companion the honor of at least summarizing his response.  I suspect it would have been along these lines:

1)  The Geneva Conventions and other limits on violence in war do not track to Islam, or Chinese philosophy (except pragmatically:  Sun Tzu did say that the highest level of generalship was to win without fighting, but not because it was more moral to win in that way).  Islam has its own set of theories about how to wage war morally, but they are both unrelated to our laws of war, and entirely ignored by the modern Islamic fighter.  Neither did the grand Marxist armies of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China institute military disciplines designed to limit casualties among civilians. 

2)  Rather, they come from a tradition known as Just War theory, which originated among the Romans, passed to St. Augustine of Hippo, and was particularly articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas.

3)  In between Augustine and Aquinas was a whole set of movements by the Church to regulate and limit the violence of war, known as the Peace and Truce of God.  The idea that there is a class of "noncombatants" who should be protected from the wars of the powerful is wholly a product of the Catholic Church.  It bent itself for a thousand years toward creating and defending that idea.  You might call this a "Christian way of slaughtering people in combat," because it designates just who and just how you may fight so that you do not endanger those in need of protection.

It also explains just why it is wrong for terrorists and "insurgents" to hide among the population:  because it endangers the innocent to be used as shields.  This is a point upon which our "peace studies" friends could usefully focus their minds.

4)  The Geneva Conventions and their earlier predecessors came straight out of this tradition.  The UCMJ limits on the use of force against civilian targets likewise come from this tradition.

5)  That is to say, all actually-enforced limits on the use of military power against civilians have a Christian origin.  Anyone "teaching peace," or professing to be a scholar of "peace studies" ought to know this.  The fact that you apparently do not is telling.

I suppose a response like that could be described as the interview "going downhill."  Still, it seems an inadequate summary of what was likely a worthy reply.

Vikings in Afghanistan

The Vikings have now made it as far as Northern Afghanistan. Somewhere under all that armor is a Norwegian EOD soldier, holding an MP-7 and what appears to be an iPhone. Apparently if the Norwegians come across an improvised explosive device, there's an app for that. (Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, courtesy of MilitaryPhotos.net)

Spirit of America finishing the year, not the effort

The year is ending, but Spirit of America is hardly stopping to notice. They are focused on helping our troops directly on the ground in Afghanistan. Here are a couple of reports sent along by Founder Jim Hake.

First, our year end appeal

Second, an explanation of our Commander Support Program and the new military regulation (CCR 27-14) that enables it

They put the tools and materials needed to help win hearts and minds right in the hands of our combat leaders. Let's help keep that going.

Don't poison the Ivy w/ military death squads

Sometimes the Washington Post prints a piece that you know warmed the cockles of of its editor's cold hearts. They have to pretend to be impartial (I know, quit laughing), but they take themselves quite seriously. So they bring in an old, crusty, decrepit former columnist to say what they don't have the stones to say themselves. Today's jackwagon in residence is Colman McCarthy and he is a world class left wing butthead. He argues that repeal of DADT shouldn't bring a return of recruiters and ROTC to the last bastions of free western liberal education those gulags where free thinkers go to be indoctrinated w/ PC BS. He tosses the gay argument out and says that the military is just flat out poisonous to the perfectly formed, mind molding operation they have going. He weasels through some of the usual pacifist garbage, but in the end lets his true colors show.

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America's or the Taliban's: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

The Taliban is not an Army sir, but a murderous, oppressive, barbaric theocracy and the fact that you are able to equate the US military and them speaks volumes about your lack of basic common sense. It is one thing to lie pampered behind the walls manned by your betters. It is quite another to sass them and equate their efforts with those who blind schoolgirls with acid, use soccer stadiums for public executions and have purposely slaughtered thousands of innocents to further their goal of Islamist domination. That is disgraceful.

In recent years, I've had several Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans in my college classes. If only the peace movement were as populated by people of such resolve and daring.

Oh sweet Lord there is a telling statement. Perhaps the real peace movement is populated by the very vets you just mentioned. Perhaps marching around the university chanting inanities and feeling good about yourself is not a noble or useful action. Perhaps the peace movement understands that evil doesn't give a rat's ass about a bunch of hippies lurching about in contortions of mutual back-patting. Evil must be opposed directly and our peace movement has done so for 235 years and counting. You are welcome you ungrateful f**k!

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.

First of all STFU about intellectual purity! I am not denying that you have achieved it, I am just completely discounting it's value or usefulness. You have created a totalitarian enclave where the least departure from PC doctrine is punished like the Taliban stoning a rape victim. Yeah I went there, kinda lame isn't it jack ass? We didn't invent nations killing and destroying, we just stand athwart the ramparts yelling Stop! If they don't, then we act forcefully. We neither invite nor enjoy such actions but doing nothing in the face of evil is...well unconsionable to those of us who are capable of opposing it. So you can huddle in drum circles all you want bemoaning the evil imperialist warmongers who keep you and most of the free world free. We hear your pathetic bleats and then ignore the sheep to focus on the wolves.

Operation FPH Blues Update

Well, the news we had hoped to share this week will have to wait until next week, but here's a quick update on Operation FPH Blues.

Gallery30 It is a go.  The tickets are bought and the rooms reserved.  Thanks to a very generous bit of help, the costs of the ingredients for the meal are covered.  That said, we are still a long way from our goal of $15,000.  Keep in mind that this is not all cost of the trip; rather, what is raised beyond the actual costs of the trip will be split between Cooking with the Troops and Pin-Ups for Vets so that both can go do even more for our troops and our veterans.  Any and all help in reaching the goal is very much appreciated.  Special thanks go to Chef Ellen Adams for agreeing to be our guest chef for this trip; to author Michael Z. Williamson for volunteering his time to go visit, sign autographs, and more; and, to Baen Books for donating books for Mad Mike to sign.  There are some more special and large thanks to come, but right now I want to thank everyone who has donated to this project. Your support is very much appreciated by all of us.


The post-holiday blues are bad enough when you are in your normal life -- they can be immeasurably worse for those who are wounded or injured, far from home, and away from normal life and support.  Let's do something about that


Final Report on Battle of Wanat- A victory with a high cost

Any story where 9 American soldiers die is tragic by definition. But tragedy does not automatically impart blame and it certainly does not inhibit heroism. The Battle of Wanat deserves to go down in the annals of the airborne as an example of brave paratroopers repelling an attack from the high ground by an enemy with vastly superior numbers. The fighting spirit and esprit de corps of the Punishers of 2nd Plt, C Co, 2nd of the 503rd carried the day and in the end they held their ground.That would have been a victory in any other war and we should make sure it is remembered as one in this war.

When the battle was initially reported and every step of the way since inaccurate information has been used to characterize the situation. The narrative became one of command failure in planning and supporting the opening of a new base. This led the families of some of the fallen to request an additional investigation which was initiated. At the same time a contract historian at Leavenworth named Cubbison had been working on a historic record of the battle and released a draft of his work to some colleagues. It was eventually released to the families and the public and it read like an indictment of the command structure of the entire Brigade. It was a nakedly, transparent attack on the judgment and professionalism of the officers involved with planning and executing the operation to build the new patrol base. Leavenworth has since done extensive editing to the draft to turn if from an attack into a legitimate record which is available here.

When the military investigation was finished it placed blame on the Brigade, Battalion and Company Commanders and they were told they would receive Letters of Reprimand. This was more ironic due to the Company Commander already having received a Silver Star for his actions during the battle. All three officers decided to appeal these letters and took the opportunity to present the officers conducting the appeal review with huge amounts of historical records and statements from parties who had not previously been heard. This additional information was overwhelming in destroying the notion that this mission was poorly planned or supplied. It showed considerable care and proper judgment was taken  in balancing the mission and the men and materials available.

I have met with more than a dozen of the enlisted men and officers who were involved with this operation. Thanks to the Tanker Babe I was in the room when the wounded from Wanat who were evacuated from the battlefield were reunited with their buddies for the first time. Their first hand accounts were about as unvarnished as any that could be told and the majority opinion was that of course things could have been better, but that they were paratroopers and their job is to hold ground with whatever they have. They did, and when asked if they considered Wanat a victory, they said "Hell yeah!".

The Washington Post has a story out now about how the Army edited the story of Wanat. It points toward the idea that this final report is simply a whitewash exonerating the senior leaders and placing blame on the junior leaders who were on site. That is simply not a fair assessment of the report. In the end the report ends up paining a picture of dedicated professionals doing the best possible in extremely challenging conditions. In the initial report leading to the reprimands, the placement of the observation post was not considered a major factor in how the battle unfolded. In the final report it was considered. This has led to a claim that the Arny is trying to hang the blame on LT Brostrom, the Platoon Leader, whose decision it was on where to place the OP. The report also notes that a number of the other combat leaders in the platoon grudgingly agreed that of the bad choices, he chose the least bad. LT Brostrom died reinforcing the men at that OP and deserves only our respect for his bravery.

I have read most of the hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation of this Battle. I have also had the privilege to speak with many of those who fought it. Wanat was no failure, it was an example of the heavy price of war. But those who paid that price and their brothers in arms who fought along side of them deserve to know that their deeds will be remembered and that the hard fought victory at the Battle of Wanat will be told for generations to come.

Here is a podcast interview with Mike Denton & Ryan Pitts who fought there talking publicly about the battle for the first time.

Assessing the Battle of Wanat

Blamestorming on the Battle of Wanat

Honoring CPL Jonathan Ayers

Dust Off- Someone you should know follow up

Awards ceremony for Battle of Wanat

Holiday news update

Even w/o all the usual suspects in town, there are still a few items to discuss. Mostly I'm trying out new software. I now have Adobe CS 5 so I taught myself After Effects and Premiere Pro. Now I just need to color fix my melon. We should thank the Obama for the Winter cherry blossoms, there was a unicorn wandering around as well.

Soldiers' Angels and Operation Care Package on [FoxNews] Hannity

In a video from the Hannity show on FoxNews, spending Christmas with the troops on the frontlines is featured.  More specifically, the Screaming Eagles are featured.  And Soldiers' Angels and Operation Care Package are also in the video.

Last time I checked a week or two ago, Soldiers' Angels spent more than $850,000 on postage for almost 170,000 care packages sent to the frontlines (SA is the number one shipper to the war zones. Period.)  You can go here and donate to help continue the Soldiers' Angels Mission - "May No Soldier Go Unloved".  

Here's a photo sent by SA fans/heroes who received the Holiday packages "somewhere in the North Arabian Gulf".

North Arabian Gulf