On this day, the Air Corps Act of 1926 changed the name of the Air Service to Air Corps, but left unaltered its status as a combatant arm of the U.S. Army. The act also established the Office of Assistant Secretary of War for Air. The Air Corps had at this time 919 officers and 8,725 enlisted men, and its “modern aeronautical equipment” consisted of 60 pursuit planes and 169 observation planes; total serviceable aircraft of all types numbered less than 1,000.
On June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the go-ahead for the largest amphibious military operation in history: Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of northern France, commonly known as D-Day.
By daybreak, 18,000 British and American parachutists were already on the ground. An additional 13,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion. At 6:30 a.m., American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches.
The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno and Sword beaches; so did the Americans at Utah. The task was much tougher at Omaha beach, however, where the U.S. First Division battled high seas, mist, mines, burning vehicles—and German coastal batteries, including an elite infantry division, which spewed heavy fire. Many wounded Americans ultimately drowned in the high tide. British divisions, which landed at Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, and Canadian troops also met with heavy German fire.
But by day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops–Americans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches and were then able to push inland. Within three months, the northern part of France would be freed and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet forces moving in from the east.
Before the Allied assault, Hitler’s armies had been in control of most of mainland Europe and the Allies knew that a successful invasion of the continent was central to winning the war. Hitler knew this too, and was expecting an assault on northwestern Europe in the spring of 1944. He hoped to repel the Allies from the coast with a strong counterattack that would delay future invasion attempts, giving him time to throw the majority of his forces into defeating the Soviet Union in the east. Once that was accomplished, he believed an all-out victory would soon be his.
For their part, the Germans suffered from confusion in the ranks and the absence of celebrated commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was away on leave. At first, Hitler, believing that the invasion was a feint designed to distract the Germans from a coming attack north of the Seine River, refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack and reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays.
He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. In addition, the Germans were hampered by effective Allied air support, which took out many key bridges and forced the Germans to take long detours, as well as efficient Allied naval support, which helped protect advancing Allied troops.
Though D-Day did not go off exactly as planned, as later claimed by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery–for example, the Allies were able to land only fractions of the supplies and vehicles they had intended in France–the invasion was a decided success. By the end of June, the Allies had 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy and were poised to continue their march across Europe.
The heroism and bravery displayed by troops from the Allied countries on D-Day has served as inspiration for several films, most famously The Longest Day (1962) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). It was also depicted in the HBO series Band of Brothers (2001).
Today, the U.S. Air Force Reserve turns 74!
Formally established in 1948, the Air Force Reserve stemmed from the Preparedness Movement and the National Defense Act of 1916 that authorized an Organized Reserve Corps. The Corps served as “a body of experienced technical men to organize and train in peacetime and be available when needed for war.”
In April 1948, President Harry Truman saw the Air Force Reserve as a program similar to one established during World War I when Reservist stood ready to serve during wartime. Since it’s formation, the Air Force Reserve has evolved from a reserve force for emergencies to a major command (MAJCOM) of the U.S. Air Force.
Today, the Air Force Reserve performs about 20% of the work of the Air Force conducting traditional flying missions and more specialized ones like Weather Reconnaissance, Modular Aerial Fire Fighting, and Personnel Recovery. Headquartered at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, there are approximately 70,000 Reservists comprised of commissioned officers and enlisted airmen.
Today marks the 246th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
On November 10, 1775, the 2nd Continental Congress passed the Continental Marine Act of 1775, a resolution that called for two battalions of Marines to serve as landing forces with the fleet. The resolution served to establish the Continental Marines and the birth date of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.”The Continental Marine Act of 1775, 2nd Continental Congress, Philadelphia, PA
Since then, the U.S. Marine Corps has served as protectors of the nation’s interests around the world and has participated in every war since 1812. In most cases, Marines were the first servicemembers to fight. As a result, many Marines are proud of their service’s heritage and traditions.
Over the years, the Corps developed many traditions. One of the most prominent traditions is the Marine Corps Ball that involves dancing, presenting the Colors, and cutting a birthday cake with a sword. Commands across the globe plan the ball to celebrate the birth of the Corps, bringing Marines together for a sometimes raucous but respectful celebration.
The Corps also issues a MARADMIN (639/21) outlining Marine Corps Birthday content. Below is taken from this year’s message from General Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“The character of Marines, our unwavering commitment and relentless pursuit of excellence, remains unchanged from that of past generations, even as the character of warfare is ever-changing. These changes will require us to do what Marines do best – adapt and innovate to win any battle or respond to any crisis. Just as Marines who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over these past 20 years adapted to the demands of protracted counterinsurgency operations – which would have been all too familiar to the Marines of 1970 – we will adapt to the demands of the present and the future, while learning the hard lessons from our recent past. We can’t know for certain where future battlefields will be, or how our methods of warfighting will be redefined as threats to our Nation evolve, but we can ensure that the Marines who fight those battles will be forged of the same courage, spirit, and warfighting excellence as all Marines before them.”A Message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps (2021), David H. Berger, General, U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant of the Marine Corps
With all its history and tradition, the United States Marine Corps brings with it nearly two and a half centuries of Honor, Courage & Commitment, the core values that serve as the bedrock of each and every Marine’s character.
This all said, to each and every Marine, past and present, thank you for your service in defense of the Nation.
And, again, Happy 246th Birthday, United States Marine Corps!
- The USMC celebrates 246 years of service to its Nation, Marines.mil, 09 November 2021
- The Marine Corps’ 246th birthday message is here, Marine Corps Times, 08 November 2021
- Marine Corps Birthday C ontent, MARADMINS/Marines.mil, 05 November 2021
Sixty years ago today, the toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange was first sprayed. Developed by Dow Chemical, Agent Orange was a chemical compound designed to defoliate areas of the Vietnamese countryside. This killing of vegetation would disallow the enemy potential cover and destroy crops that fed the people. Agent Orange was one of a group of “tactical use” chemicals known as the Rainbow Herbicides used by the U.S. military in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Chemically, Agent Orange was composed of equal parts 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2-4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D); in the mix, there were found to be traces of the most toxic form of dioxin known as 2,3,7,9-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD). Even in traces, TCDD was found to cause major health problems to many who were exposed and would later to be found to affect the offspring of those exposed.
First sprayed in August 1961, it wasn’t until November 1961 that Agent Orange was authorized for use in Operation Ranch Hand, the codename for the U.S. Air Force’s herbicide program in Vietnam. On January 9, 1962, the first batch of Agent Orange was unloaded at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. From there, records show that at least 6,542 spraying missions took place during the course of Operation Ranch Hand from 1962 to 1971. American combat troops did not begin to officially fight in Vietnam until 1965.
Although initial research suggested that the use of Agent Orange could create health problems for those exposed, the compound was employed widely anyway. While in Vietnam, U.S. troops were told not to worry and were reportedly persuaded that Agent Orange was harmless. Upon return home, Veterans of the Vietnam War began experiencing health issues in note only themselves but also in their spouses; those affected would miscarry or have children with birth defects. At that point, Vietnam Veterans started to suspect that their exposure to Agent Orange was the cause of all these problems.
It would be about six years after the U.S. ended operations in Vietnam when Veterans began filing claims for disability compensation for health conditions they believed were tied to exposure to Agent Orange. However, claims were denied unless it could be proven that these conditions began during time in service or within a year of being discharged.
This ultimately placed Veterans of the Vietnam War in the difficult position of having to prove exposure to Agent Orange after being told by the military that Agent Orange was harmless. All the while, these Veterans developed one or several medical conditions associated with exposure to the chemical compound or, most likely, to dioxin. Health conditions caused by Agent Orange include the following:
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Some soft tissue sarcomas
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne (or other forms of acneiform disease like it)
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Ischemic heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
From 1977, when Veterans began filing claims for Agent Orange exposure, to about April 1993, only 486 of 39,419 Veterans had been compensated.
In 1979, about 2.4 million Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange filed a class action lawsuit that was settled out of court to the tune of $180 million by seven large chemical companies that made the herbicide. The settlement occurred five years after the lawsuit was filed. In the years that followed, the settlement was challenged and some 300 Veterans filed additional lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the settlement in 1988. At that point, the settlement had gained interest and had risen to $240 million.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act into law. The act mandated that the some diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure and other herbicides be treated as the result of wartime service. This helped codify the VA’s response to Veterans with health conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange.
Approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971, it’s been reported that roughly 300,000 troops have died from exposure and an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese people have also died.
For Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
Over the years, the VA has stepped up its efforts to reach out and address health conditions in Veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans can now file claims for disability compensation for exposure to the herbicide. The conditions are outlined above.
The VA’s Agent Orange page also states: “If we denied your claims for any of these conditions in the past, we’ll automatically review your case again. You don’t need to file another claim. We’ll send you a letter to let you know we’re reviewing your case.” This pertains to the most recent additions to the list of presumptive conditions: Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.
If you are a Veteran of the Vietnam War and served in locations that exposed you to Agent Orange, the VA states that you have a presumption of exposure. You will need to do the following to put together a claim:
- File a claim for disability compensation and submit your evidence (supporting documents).
- Submit a medical record that shows you have illness related to Agent Orange exposure and military records showing how you were exposed to Agent Orange during your service.
- If your illness isn’t on the list of presumptive diseases, you’ll need to provide one of the following types of evidence: Evidence showing the problem started during – or got worse because of – your military service, or scientific or medical evidence stating that the illness you have is caused by Agent Orange. This scientific proof may include an article from medical journal or publish research study.
- If you meet the service requirements for presumption of contact, you can schedule an Agent Orange Registry health exam. This is a free health exam that could alert you to illnesses that may be related to contact with herbicides. By being part of the registry, you’ll also be helping the VA better understand and serve those affected by Agent Orange-related illness. Keep in mind that this is not a VA claim exam, that exam is associated with your claim for disability compensation. To schedule an Agent Orange Registry exam, contact your local VA environment health coordinator and learn what to expect at the exam.
Below are some helpful links should you decide to pursue a disability claim with the VA:
- Birth defects linked to Agent Orange
- Vietnam War Veterans health issues
- Request your military service records (DD214 and others)
- Get your VA medical records (VA Blue Button)
- Find out how to apply for VA health care
Although the Purple Heart was created by President George Washington on this day in 1782, National Purple Heart Day has only been around since 2014. National Purple Heart Day is also known as Purple Heart Day, Purple Heart Recognition Day, and Purple Heart Appreciation Day. It’s considered an unofficial observance though communities across the nation observe the day in a number of different ways.
But first, let’s go through the history of the Purple Heart and its appearance within the LGBTQ+ Veteran community.
Before that, the SITREP would like to express appreciation for each and every servicemember and Veteran who has given life and limb for this nation’s defense. Thank you for your service and for your sacrifice.
Now, let’s get into it.
A Brief History
In 1782, General George Washington was the commander in chief of the Continental Army and he created the “Badge for Military Merit” that consisted of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk edged in silver with the word Merit stitched across the front in silver.
The badge was presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action” and allowed its wearers to bypass guards and sentinels without being challenged. Additionally, the honoree would have his name and regiment inscribed in a “Book of Merit.”
During the Revolutionary War, only three soldiers were known to have been awarded the “Purple Heart”: Elijah Churchill, William Brown, and Daniel Bissell, Jr. Sometime after, the “Book of Merit” was lost and the badge was forgotten, that is, until 1927 when U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Charles P. Summerall sent a draft bill to Congress to “revive the Badge of Military Merit.”
The bill was ultimately unsuccessful and the cause of reviving the decoration went to General Summerall’s successor General Douglas MacArthur in 1931. It was General MacArthur’s hope that the “Purple Heart” be revived in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.
This time around, the effort was successful and the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart” on Washington’s 200th birthday, February 22, 1932. In its first days, the Purple Heart was only authorized to be awarded to those serving in the Army or the Army Air Corps. It wasn’t until 1942 that a presidential order would be signed opening the Purple Heart to all branches of the military including the U.S. Coast Guard.
Awarding the Purple Heart
Since the Revolutionary War, the Purple Heart has reportedly been awarded to more than 1.8 million servicemembers. Below is an estimation of awards for every conflict since the badges creation in 1782:
- Revolutionary War: Three
- World War I: 320,000 (Awarded retroactively to U.S. Army personnel wounded in action or who were presented a “Meritorious Service Citation Certificate” for actions during the war.)
- World War II: 1,000,000
- Korean War: 118,600
- Vietnam War: 351,000
- Persian Gulf War: 607
- War in Afghanistan: 12,500
- Iraq War: 35,000
To date, the criteria for earning the Purple Heart continues to evolve and is too long to list. In general, the medal is awarded to U.S. servicemembers who have been wounded, killed in action, or have died or may die from wounds received in any action against the United States, action with an opposing armed force, the results of any hostile “foreign force”, and other situations where servicemembers find themselves under attack.
🌈 The Purple Heart in the LGBTQ+ Veteran Community
Since the beginning, LGBTQ+ men and women have served in our nation’s military and have gone on to earn awards for their service. While researching for this article, it was surprising to find how few LGBTQ+ personnel were out there who had earned a Purple Heart. Below are some noted recipients of the Purple Heart and articles found in the search for this article:
- Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, United States Air Force, for injuries from a land mine in Da Nang, Vietnam.
- Pride Month recalls military LGBT champions, Defense Logistics Agency, 24 June 2020
- 5 LGBTQ service members who changed military history, MilSpouseFest
- How a Closeted Air Force Sergeant Became the Face of Gay Rights, TIME, 08 September 2015
- Gay Airman Who Fought Ouster Dies From AIDS, New York Times, 24 June 1988
- Staff Sergeant Eric Fidelis Alva, United States Marine Corps, for loss of limb due to a land mine in Iraq in 2003.
- On Purple Heart Day, Meet the First Marine Seriously Injured in the Iraq War – A Proud Gay Man, Modern Military Association of America, 06 August 2019
- Gay Marine helps change history, The Harvard Gazette, 07 April 2017
- Op-Ed: Gay Purple Heart Recipient Says ‘Mission Not Accomplished’, The Advocate, 25 May 2015
- Amos “Pretty Much Spit on Me”, The Advocate, 15 December 2010
- Eric Alva, Wikipedia
- Sergeant Robert Stout, United States Army, awarded after grenade sent shrapnel into his arm, face, and legs while he was operating a machine gun on a Humvee in May 2004.
- Army boots openly gay Purple Heart winner, Deseret News, 01 June 2005
- Private: Gay Purple Heart Recipient Wants to Keep Serving, American Constitution Society, 07 April 2005
- Gay Soldier Who Won Purple Heart in Iraq Wants to Serve Openly, Associated Press via Fox News, 07 April 2005
- Stephanie Heart, United States Army, awarded after being wounded in a rocket attack in 2004.
- Transgender veteran speaks out on President Trump ban, 23 ABC News Bakersfield, 31 August 2017
- Local veteran, Purple Heart recipient shares story about being transgender in military, Bakersfield Now, 26 July 2017
- Senior Chief Petty Officer Kristin Beck, United States Navy, awarded for wounds suffered in combat.
- Ep. 27: Kristin Beck: A Navy SEAL, a Purple Heart, and a Transgender Activist, Glenn Zweig, 13 February 2018
- Kristin Beck, Military Wikia
- Kristin Beck, Wikipedia
If you know of any LGBTQ+ Veterans or Servicemembers who have received the Purple Heart, feel free to send a message to the SITREP so they can be mentioned in future content: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read More About the Purple Heart
- A Guide to the Most Purple Hearts Awarded in Each Conflict, Medals of America -Military Blog
- 8 Things You Need to Know About the Purple Heart Medal, USO.org
- Purple Heart, Wikipedia
- The Purple Heart – The Story of America’s Oldest Military Decoration and Some Soldier Recipients, The Army Historical Foundation
- This Day in History – August 07: George Washington creates the Purple Heart, HIstory.com
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government. On August 4, 1790, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that called for the construction of ten vessels to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. The organization served as the nation’s only armed force afloat up until 1798 when the Navy Department was established.
For nearly 125 years after its formation, the Coast Guard was known by several names: “revenue cutters,” the “system of cutters,” the Revenue Marine, and finally the Revenue Cutter Service. In 1925, the service adopted its present name the U.S. Coast Guard under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
It was also under that same act of Congress that the Coast Guard was codified alongside the nation’s other armed services in that it “shall constitute a part of the military forces of the United States.” In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard and in 1946, Congress transferred the Commerce Department‘s Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. Both transferred placed lighthouses and merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under the Coast Guard‘s purview. At this point, the Coast Guard served as the nation’s single maritime federal agency dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the United States’ maritime laws.
In 2003 and as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where it serves as the front-line agency for enforcing the nation’s law at sea, protecting the marine environment and the nation’s coastline and ports, and saving life. The Coast Guard operates under the DHS during peacetime but serves as part of the Navy Department in times of war or at the direction of the President of the United States.
Today, the U.S. Coast Guard has approximately 43,000 active duty personnel, more than 8,000 Reservists, and 30,000 Auxiliary personnel that serve in several fields including operation specialists, small-boat operators, maintenance specialists, electronic technicians, and aviation mechanics. These men and women carry out the Coast Guard‘s responsibilities of providing search and rescue (SAR), maritime law enforcement (MLE), aids to navigation (ATON), ice breaking, environmental protection, port security, and military readiness.
🌈 LGBTQ+ Coast Guard Stories 🌈
- Gay runner at Coast Guard Academy finds being authentic allows him to thrive, Outsports, 23 March 2021
- Gay rower was part of secret LGBTQ military network during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Outsports, 10 March 2021
- Meet the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ veteran who became Stonewall’s first park ranger, NBC News, 29 June 2019
- Coast Guard Veteran: Being Yourself Isn’t a Crime, Freedom for ALL Americans, 14 February 2018
- Tyler becomes Taylor: A transgender Coast Guard office in transition, Washington Post, 28 July 2017
- Gay At Sea – A Look At The US Coast Guard’s LGBT Community, gCaptain, 10 July 2016
- First Same-Sex Marriage Announcement At The Coast Guard Academy, BuzzFeed News, 11 December 2013
- Coast Guard enacts pro-gay non-discrimination policy, Washington Blade, 31 October 2013
On March 19, 2003, the United States along with a coalition of forces mostly from the UK started the war on Iraq. It would served as the first stage of the war with the air campaign commencing on March 19th followed by the ground campaign on March 20, 2003.
The justifications for the Iraq war started with Iraq’s failure to disarm as the “single trigger.” Over time, the Bush Administration would state Iraqi violation of UN resolutions, the Iraqi government’s repression of its citizens, and violations of the 1991 ceasefire as additional justifications for war. To the disarmament, it was alleged that then-leader/dictator Saddam Hussein possessed or was attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that Hussein had terrorist ties, specifically al-Qaeda.
It would be about three weeks before the Iraqi government and military would collapse. U. S., British, and other coalition forces overwhelmed the Iraqi Army and Iraqi civilians with U.S. soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad.
As for Hussein, he went into hiding and was captured in December 2003 outside his hometown in Tikrit. After standing trial, Saddam Hussein was executed three years later in 2006.
Back to the war in Iraq, on May 1, 2003, President Bush formally declared an end to the military phase to take down the Hussein regime. Bush would speak from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner.
However, the Iraq war was quite far from over as loyalists to the Hussein regime went on to lay the foundation of a postwar insurgency. In the meantime, no WMDs were ever found in Iraq and the U.S. would remain in Iraq for eight years before declaring an end to the war on December 15, 2011.
In 2021, the U.S. military completed troop-level drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq; there are reportedly now 2,500 servicemembers each in both areas of operation.
Most recently, U.S. and coalition forces came under a rocket attack in western Iraq on March 3, 2021. No U.S. troops were injured; however, a civilian U.S. contractor died of a heart attack during the attack at Al Asad Air Base.
- Civilian Contractor Dies of Heart Attack After Rocket Attack on Iraq Base, Military.com
- Iraq Body Count
- The Iraq War, Council on Foreign Relations
- Timeline of Major Events in the Iraq War, New York Times
- 2003 invasion of Iraq, Wikipedia
- US Completes Drawdowns to 2,500 Troops in Iraq, Afghanistan; No Word on Somalia, Military.com
- U.S. Completes Troop-Level Drawdown in Afghanistan, Iraq, Defense.gov
- U.S. forces: Rockets hit airbase in Iraq housing US troops, ABC News
- War in Iraq begins, History.com
On March 19, 1941, the U.S. War Department established the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC) that would become the first unit consisting of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. In a time when segregation was the law of the land, the Tuskegee Airmen pushed back on the prevalent racism within and outside the ranks of the U.S. military. Following accomplishments in flight by pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart in the decades before (1920s & 1930s), young men and women lined to up follow their flight paths; among them were young African Americans looking for their chance to take flight.
Unfortunately, African Americans were regarded as less-than and this widespread way of thought presented significant obstacles. In fact, black people were regarded as inferior in combat and seen as unable to become trained pilots. In 1938, President Roosevelt, seeing war was on the horizon, expanded the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in the U.S. to ramp up the number of pilots in the nation; black people were excluded. But, in 1939, the CPTP opened up to historically black colleges which helped increase the number of black aviators. In 1940, the Roosevelt Administration announced that the AAC would begin training black pilots. At the start of 1941, it was announced that an all-black fighter pilot unit would be trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama located in the heart of the Jim Crow South.
The Tuskegee Airmen would go on to confront racism at home and abroad while racking up an exemplary record in World War II. The Tuskegee program would train some 1,000 pilots and nearly 14,000 navigators, bombardiers, instructors, aircraft and engine mechanics, control tower operators, and other maintenance and support staff. The Tuskegee Airmen flew about 1,600 missions and destroyed over 260 enemy aircraft in Nazi-controlled territory. In addition to the airmen’s amazing record, they would help lay the foundation for President Truman’s decision to finally desegregate the armed forces in 1948.
Following the war and desegregation, the Airmen carried on in the newly formed U.S. Air Force (USAF) and some taught in civilian flight schools. They were instrumental in developments in aviation and one Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. became the first African-American to attain the rank of four-star general. Another Airmen Marion Rodgers went on to work for NORAD and served as a program developer for the Apollo 13 project.
Time has seen the Tuskegee Airmen cement a remarkable legacy of breaking barriers and accomplishments during and after World War II.
Time has also seen members pass on with age. Robert Holts, the last known member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died on February 12, 2021 at the age of 96.
- How the Tuskegee Airmen Became Pioneers of Black Military Aviation, History.com
- Last Member of Famed Tuskegee Airmen from Nebraska Dies at 96, NET Nebraska
- Tuskegee Airmen, History.com
- The Tuskegee Airmen, Military.com
- The Tuskegee Airmen: An Interview with the Leading Authority, The National WWII Museum
- Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
- Tuskegee Airmen Veterans tell story in ‘Red Tail Angels,’ VAntage Point
PICTURE IT, U.S. Army, 1942…
On this day in 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the U.S. Army began training dogs for the newly formed War Dog Program, or K-9 Corps. Militaries around the world have employed dogs since ancient times. Originally, dogs were employed in offensive operations, being sent into enemy territory to break up formations and tearing down as many enemies as possible. Over time, dogs were used as couriers, sentries, and scouts.
It’s estimated that over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I as messengers and providers of comfort to soldiers. After WWI, the U.S. largely halted the practice of training dogs for military purposes. When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, a movement was formed by the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense to ask dog owners to donate healthy animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. The QMC started training dogs in March 1942 and, later that year, more dogs were trained for the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.
Initially, the K-9 Corps accepted over 30 breeds of dogs but that was narrowed down to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes, and Eskimo dogs. Training consisted of 8 to 12 weeks of basic obedience training after which canine recruits were sent through specialized programs to become sentries, scouts or patrol dogs, messengers, or mine-detectors. Scout dogs were notable because they proved essential in alerting patrols of enemy approach and preventing surprise attacks.
Since then, canine compatriots have put their paw prints on military history, proving themselves vital in every conflict. Here are some notable K-9s:
- Sergeant Stubby, 102nd Infantry Regiment: In 1917, a stray pit bull mix wandered into where members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment were training and proceeded to participate in drills, even learning how to salute with his right paw. It was clear Stubby would fit right in and he was adopted by Private J. Robert Conroy who smuggled him into the trenches of France where he proved himself in war. Stubby warned troops of imminent poison gas attacks and learned how to locate the wounded during patrols. He was promoted to Sergeant after sniffing out a German spy and attacking him until reinforcements arrived. Sgt Stubby served 18 months during which he took part about 17 battles, surviving wounds and boosting morale of his fellow soldiers.
- Chips, 3rd Infantry Division: Trained as a sentry dog, Chips, a Collie-German Shepherd-Siberian Husky mix, was donated to serve during WWII and deployed with the 3rd ID in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. In the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by a machine gun team. Chips jumped off leash and jumped into the machine gun pillbox, attacking the gunners and causing them to surrender. He sustained a scalp wound and powder burns in the battle but this did not deter him from helping take 10 Italian prisoners later that day.
- Cairo, U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six: A Belgian Malinoi, Cairo deployed with the SEAL Team that stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May 2011. He was tasked to stand guard outside the compound and keep locals at bay. Inside, he would sniff out bombs or booby traps. Depending on the needs of the mission, Cairo was trained to fill any role; however, when the first of two choppers hovering around compound had to ditch, Cairo’s chopper made a landing across the street. From there, Cairo and four SEALs set up a perimeter while the rest of the team stormed the site. It would be over a half hour before bin Laden was confirmed dead, then Cairo and his SEAL team came back to base.
March 13th is K-9 Veterans Day
Today, March 13th is a day set aside to honor and commemorate the service and sacrifice of military working dogs throughout history. America’s military dogs serve important roles in units around the globe. It’s estimated that the U.S. Army employed 1,500 dogs during the Korean War and 4,000 in the Vietnam War.
According to the U.S. Army, today, there are about 578 dog teams that have seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq. These dogs carry on a tradition of distinguished service, continuing to save life and prevent injuries to our troops.
To every American military K-9 and handler, past and present, thank you for your service!
- Dogs of War, Texas Monthly
- The Dogs of War: The U.S. Army’s Use of Canines in WWII, The Army Historical Foundation
- 5 of History’s Most Dedicated Dogs, History.com
- K9 Veterans Day, Museum of the American G.I.
- My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid, The History Reader
- National K9 Veterans Day, Military.com
- Remembering K9s on Veterans Day, The Bark
- Support Your Four-Legged Veterans on National K9 Veterans Day, American Humane
- Today is National K9 Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty
- U.S. Army launches K-9 Corps, History.com
- War Dogs: The Birth of the K-9 Corps, U.S. Army
- War Dogs in World War II, U.S. War Dog Association
When Japanese forces carried out the infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. Navy was alerted of the need for a militarized construction force as the attack marked the United States’ entry into World War II. On December 28, 1941, three weeks after Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell requested the authority to create Naval Construction Battalions which would be comprised of military-trained, skilled American laborers who could build anything, anywhere under any conditions.
Before World War II (the last 1930s), the U.S. observed the need to prepare militarily and Congress authorized the expansion of naval shore activities to the Caribbean, then to the Central Pacific. The U.S. Navy awarded contracts to civilian construction firms that employed native civilian populations and U.S. citizens who fell under the command of naval officers overseeing construction projects. These firms would go on to build several large bases on Guam, Midway, Wake, Pearl Harbor, Iceland, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad. However, international law dictated that civilians that came under enemy military attacks would not be able to resist and could be executed. This remarkable mandate added to the U.S. concern to have a military-trained construction entity if and when war arrived.
Unfortunately, Pearl Harbor served as a tragic wakeup call that pushed Rear Admiral Moreell’s December 28th authorization request to create Naval Construction Battalions. It would be just over a week when the Bureau of Navigation would give the go-ahead and on January 5, 1942, the original Construction Battalions (CBs) were formed at the new naval base in Davisville, Rhode Island. On January 17, 1942, less than two weeks later, the First Construction Detachment made up of 296 men deployed and arrived in Bora Bora on February 17, 1942.
On March 5, 1942, the Department of the Navy officially named all Construction Battalion personnel the now famous Seabees. Their motto, Construimus, Batuimus (We Build, We Fight), was personally supplied by Rear Admiral Moreell. Their logo, the Fighting Bee, was created by Rhode Islander Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian file clerk who later enlisted and served as a Chief Carpentersmate with a CB Maintenance Unit.
The history of the Seabees is storied by legendary deeds spanning the globe. World War II saw them construct over 400 advanced bases in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation. More than 325,000 Seabees served in WWII and they were among the first to go ashore during D-Day of the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944 (See below) as members of naval combat demolition units. When the war entered demobilization, the Bees’ base depot and training center were closed in December 1945 and the units were renamed Mobile Construction Battalions (MCBs) where members carried out support ops in Cuba and throughout the Pacific.
This would not be the end of the Seabees however…
In June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea in a move that would kickstart a civil war that later involved the U.S. and China. The Davisville base was reactivated and the Seabees once again got into the fight, this time providing pontoon causeways, serving side by side with the Marine Corps and Army, building and defending what they built. Perhaps the largest accomplishment in the Korean War was building Cubi Point that saw the Seabees essentially cut a mountain in half to make way for a two-mile long runway. Cubi Point would be comprised of an air station with an adjacent pier capable of docking the Navy’s largest carriers.
- Annual deployments starting in 1955 to Antarctica to build and expand scientific bases that included constructing a 6,000-foot ice runway on McMurdo Sound despite a blizzard.
- From 1965 to 1970, they supported Marines in Vietnam by building aircraft support facilities, roads, and bridges but also helped the Vietnamese by paving roads, digging wells, providing medical treatment, and building schools, hospitals, utilities systems, roads and other community facilities.
- Building a base on Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean, a project that lasted 11 years and cost $200M. The base would provide invaluable during Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.
- During the Gulf War, more than 5,000 Seabees built advanced bases, constructed airfields, provided petroleum and water facilities, and went with the Marines into Kuwait.
- Seabees deployed to Beirut following the 1982 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon to build underground bunkers for the Marines.
- Relief and recovery efforts following Hurricanes Camille, Andrew, George, Mitch, Katrina, Ivan, and Maria.
- Construction support and disaster relief in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.
Today, the Seabees continue to serve in the Global War on Terrorism. They have repaired runway facilities in Afghanistan and built aircraft parking, munitions storage, landing pads, bridges, and camps in Kuwait and Iraq. About two-thirds of Seabees today are reservists with active duty members serving in six active Battalions, two Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACBs), and two Underwater Construction Team (UCTs).
The U.S. Navy continues to reach out to recruit Seabees as builders, construction electricians and mechanics, engineering aids, equipment operators, steel workers, and utilitiesmen. Check out the video below for more information on today’s Seabees.
Last and very certainly not least, to all our Seabees, past and present, out there: Thank you for building up and defending the nation!
- Building the Road to Freedom, CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation
- Construction Careers, U.S. Navy
- Seabee History, Seabee Museum & Memorial Park
- Seabee Magazine
- Seabees, Naval History & Heritage Command
- 10 Things You Need to Know About Your Seabees!, Naval History & Heritage Command
- U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, Navy History & Heritage Command
Today the U.S. Navy Reserve turns 106!
Formed in 1915 in response to the outbreak of World War I, the U.S. Navy Reserve was first only open to Navy Veterans. By 1916, general enlistment requirements opened up the reserve and the number of serving Naval Reservists grew to 245,789 which accounted for about 54% of the total U.S. Naval Force at the time. At the end of World War II, the ranks of the Navy Reserve numbered to about 3 million, making up 85% of all Sailors serving at the time.
Over the past 106 years, the U.S. Navy Reserve has seen five future U.S. Presidents and 15 Medal of Honor recipients in its ranks. Today, the Reserve delivers operational support to the fleet and to combat forces. In its time since 9/11, the Reserve has mobilized over 70,000 times and has deployed more than 4,500 times by reservists on Full-Time Support.