The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.

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AchillesHeel
11/10/08 12:28:35PM
Veteran's Day, a.k.a. Armistice Day, a.k.a. Remembrance Day, is tomorrow. If you live in the US, you've probably noticed the rebroadcasts of "Saving Private Ryan" and "Ken Burns' 'The War.'" Being the history-nerd that I am, I thought it would fun, interesting, and/or thought-provoking to start a thread for movies, books, anecdotes, and stories, historical or personal, funny, sad, or proud, about the people who fight wars.

I'd like to ask that we try to avoid speaking about the politics, philosophies, or other controversial aspects of the "big picture" of war. People sometimes conflate one's opinion of war with one's opinion of the people who fight them. I hope to avoid doing that here. I'd also like to keep the conversation steered towards the people whose experiences or achievements are worthy of commiseration or celebration. There are certainly plenty of people whose conduct during war is reprehensible, however much that behavior might be the norm or the exception. If, in your view, honoring the people who behaved admirably means recognizing only the noble few, that's fine, but please narrow your comments to them, and save the rest for another time.

If you're wondering about the thread title, it's a reference to the official ceasefire on the Western Front of World War One, which was at 11:00am, November 11th, 1918. Veteran's Day, formerly known as Armistice Day (and still called that, in some countries), was originally established to acknowledge the veterans of World War One.

Finally, while this is by its nature an Anglo-centric website (being as we're all English-speaking), I hope this won't just be Americans writing about Americans.
Rush
11/10/08 12:40:44PM
Both my grandfathers fought in WWII. I never really talked to them about it because I was young and also a little nervous about bringing back any bad memories.

I always wear a poppy a week prior to and a few days following Remembrance Day. I hope it's a day that is never forgotten (can you sense the irony with that), but every year I see fewer and fewer young people wearing poppies. By young I mean under 25 yrs old.

It's sad because I think these kids should know where their freedom came from and to not take it for granted.

Here's to remembering.
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AchillesHeel
11/10/08 12:46:05PM
Today, 10th November, is the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Some random bits (hopefully I’m remembering them correctly)...

When the Russians surrendered in the spring of 1918, Germany was able to turn the bulk of its army West, and launched its "Spring Offensive" against France. The Germans achieved massive breakthroughs against the British and French, particularly at the Battle of the Somme, where the Brits suffered casualties that look impossible for a country the size of the UK (e.g. 20,000 dead on the first day of the offensive – Britain’s total pre-war population was approximately 46 million). On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, German artillery supposedly fired more than 1 million rounds at Allied positions.

Near Château-Thierry, in Picardie, France, on the banks of the Marne river, almost within sight of Paris, is Belleau Wood. This was where the Germans had deployed their famous "Paris Gun", a 200-ton, 210mm artillery piece, with a 90-foot barrel, and a crew of 80 men. It was so big it could only be deployed by a train, it’s believed to have fired the first man-made object to reach the Earth’s stratosphere, and it had an effective range of about 80 miles. From 75 miles outside Paris, the shells had to travel so far that the gunners had to factor the rotation of the Earth into their firing solution.

As Americans marched into the area at the beginning of June, retreating French soldiers urged them to turn around and go back the way they'd come. An American officer famously answered, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" The Marines were ordered to "hold where they stand" against the German attack, and dug in using their hands and bayonets. Hold they did, against multiple German divisions, for about 20 days, suffering their highest casualties in the history of the Corps to that point (2,000 dead and 10,000 wounded). It was at Belleau Wood that the Marines earned their nickname "Devil Dogs", a translation of “teufelhunde”, which is what the Germans started calling them during the battle. It was also at Belleau Wood that a Marine sergeant supposedly rallied his men with the famous line "C’mon, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" Another Marine won a Medal of Honor when he single-handedly repelled an attack by twelve Germans. After the war, the French government awarded one of the Marine brigades the Croix de Guerre, and a monument was erected in the wood (probably still there today, I would imagine).

I'd heard that the red stripe on the dress pants of Marines commemorates this battle, but I've also heard that it commemorates the Battle of Chapultepec, fought during the 19th-Century Mexican-American War.

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The embroidered loop on the top of the hat that Marines wear is from the age of sail. Marine sharpshooters would perch in the rigging of Navy ships during boarding actions, and the sailors below them would put a coil of rope on top of their hats so the snipers could distinguish friend from foe.



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The ceremonial saber carried by Marines commemorates their participation in the First Barbary War in the early 19th century. The sword was presented by an Ottoman officer to an American Marine. The line "...to the shore of Tripoli" in the Marine Corps Hymn is a reference to one of the battles in that war.

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p.s. I'm not a Marine, I'm just a nerd.
DCRage
11/10/08 12:58:20PM
Military service has a long history in my family, several of my relatives as well as my father spent several years in various service branches-mostly the Army but a couple were in the Navy. I'm thankful none of them had to serve in the battlefield during wartime-my father was in the Army during Vietnam but never had to go there (I think he was stationed in Hawaii). So the day has always had a little bit of significance ot me even though we never do anything to observe it but of course it's become a bit more of a big deal here since 9/11.
postman
11/10/08 1:05:49PM

Posted by Rush

Both my grandfathers fought in WWII. I never really talked to them about it because I was young and also a little nervous about bringing back any bad memories.

I always wear a poppy a week prior to and a few days following Remembrance Day. I hope it's a day that is never forgotten (can you sense the irony with that), but every year I see fewer and fewer young people wearing poppies. By young I mean under 25 yrs old.

It's sad because I think these kids should know where their freedom came from and to not take it for granted.

Here's to remembering.



I was never told about the poppy that I know of. I have no relatives that I know that served so maybe thats where my ignorace comes from. I always wondered what the differance betweem Memorial day and Rememberance day is.
roadking95th
11/10/08 2:12:54PM
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

-- Father Dennis Edward O'Brian, USMC


On November 11, 1921, an unknown American soldier from World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in recognition of WWI veterans and in conjunction with the timing of cessation of hostilities at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). President Warren Harding requested that: "All ... citizens ... indulge in a period of silent thanks to God for these ... valorous lives and of supplication for His Divine mercy ... on our beloved country." Inscribed on the Tomb are the words: "Here lies in honored glory an American soldier know but to God." The day became known as "Armistice Day." In 1954, Congress, wanting to recognize the sacrifice of veterans since WWI, proposed to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day in their honor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander in WWII, signed the legislation.


"It's been my responsibility, my duty and very much my honor to serve as Commander in Chief of this nation's Armed Forces these past eight years. That is the most sacred, most important ask of the Presidency. Since our nation's founding, the primary obligation of the national government has been the common defense of these United States. But as I have sought to perform this sacred task as best I could, I have done so with the knowledge that my role in this day-to-day-to-day effort, from sunrise to sunrise, every moment of every hour of every day of every year, is a glancing one compared to yours. ... But it's not just your fellow Americans who owe you a debt. No, I believe many more do, for I believe that military service in the Armed Forces of the United States is a profound form of service to all humankind. You stand engaged in an effort to keep America safe at home, to protect our allies and interests abroad, to keep the seas and the skies free of threat. Just as America stands as an example to the world of the inestimable benefits of freedom and democracy, so too an America with the capacity to project her power for the purpose of protecting and expanding freedom and democracy abroad benefits the suffering people of the world." --Ronald Reagan



I copied these quotes from the PatriotPost. The site/newsletter may be hard for some more liberal readers to tolerate, but I think everyone can get a lot out of reading it from time to time. It offers great historical quotes and stories as well as Reagan quotes/stories and present day information.


Rush
11/10/08 3:23:23PM

Posted by postman


I was never told about the poppy that I know of. I have no relatives that I know that served so maybe thats where my ignorace comes from. I always wondered what the differance betweem Memorial day and Rememberance day is.




In Canada we wear poppies around Remembrance day. It's something we grew up learning about in school.

The last experience I had in school regarding Remembrance day was in my last year of high school and a bunch of idiots thought it would be cool to organize a simultaneous cough during the assembly (I'm talking about 30+ people coughing at once). It was so disrespectful, but probably a sign that kids were at the age where they didn't understand the concept of the day. What it's like now, I have no idea. It's been over 12 years since high school. That's almost a whole generation and now the kids probably don't care about what their great grandparents fought for.

As for the difference between Remembrance day and Memorial day. I'm not sure. Remembrance day generally is focused on Canada's veterans from WWI and WWII (with more focus on the second war). I've always thought Memorial day was more for vets of all American fought wars, but to be honest, that's just a guess.
dannyfrank
11/10/08 3:28:29PM
here's to my grandfather, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge

and to my parents, the two leathernecks that raised me



SEMPER FI!

also my brother who served in iraq and is going back in may
emfleek
11/10/08 4:11:38PM
Something I'm VERY, VERY, VERY proud of...

My dad's cousin...my 2nd cousin...was issued the Medal of Honor for his heroics in the Vietnam War.

LINK


Charles Clinton Fleek (August 28, 1947 – May 27, 1969) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.



Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Binh Duong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 27 May 1969. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Born: 28 August 1947, Petersburg, Ky. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Fleek distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader in Company C, during an ambush operation. Sgt. Fleek's unit was deployed in ambush locations when a large enemy force approached the position. Suddenly, the leading enemy element, sensing the ambush, halted and started to withdraw. Reacting instantly, Sgt. Fleek opened fire and directed the effective fire of his men upon the numerically superior enemy force. During the fierce battle that followed, an enemy soldier threw a grenade into the squad position. Realizing that his men had not seen the grenade, Sgt. Fleek, although in a position to seek cover, shouted a warning to his comrades and threw himself onto the grenade, absorbing its blast. His gallant action undoubtedly saved the lives or prevented the injury of at least 8 of his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Fleek's gallantry and willing self-sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army .




Jackelope
11/10/08 6:03:19PM
Right on, cool thread

I'll share a story that doesn't involve blood and guts, but shows some of the lesser known crap that soldiers have got to go through on an every day basis. It's not all about guts and glory. Most of the time your best soldiers are the guys who suck it up and work hard no matter what the mission. The guys you can count on in those situations are the guys you can usually count on when the shit hits the fan.

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In October of 2006 my unit arrived in what was then the most dangerous part of Iraq- Ramadi, Al Anbar province. We were moved to Al Anbar because we had been effective in counter-insurgency up in the northern part of Iraq, so the government thought maybe we could help out the Marines in Al Anbar. They wanted to try out our tactics in volatile Al Anbar because up until that point nothing was working in that area. Our tactics were simple- Deny the enemy freedom of movement by emplacing overwatching positions on hostile territory, fortify our own presence, establish a 24 hour undeniable free movement presence of our own be it foot patrol or mounted patrol and engage the general public in conversation in order to get them to "fix themselves". The idea seems obvious from an outsider's perspective, but things get twisted up when you're dealing with actual war. Anyway, luckily for us we had a brave enough commander that was willing to try something new. It ended up working.

However, when we first got to our base myself and my fellow soldiers went through the most taxing experience in my entire life. Our commander had us take over a huge house in the middle of a hostile area and secure it. We took control of the house no problem, but then the securing began. We received a 5 ton pickup truck literally stuffed full of empty sandbags. Our job was to fill all the sand bags amongst about 30 dudes and build sand bag walls and bunkers around our base. We went 3 days and nights straight wearing all of our body armor the whole time (around 80 lbs. of gear) filling sand bag after sand bag. No sleep, and maybe two MRE's to eat throughout the whole ordeal. Day and night, filling, moving, and emplacing sand bags. Not to mention all of the stuff that comes associated with standing out in the open in the middle of very hostile territory. (Mortars, snipers, etc. etc. etc. hence the body armor the whole time) We went through a vast array of emotions that only sleep deprevation and extreme exhaustion can bring on. One minute you were happy, another you were sad, then you were angry, and then giddy, and then sad again. So on and so forth for 3 days and nights straight with nobody on the same emotional page at the same time- so you were always at each other's throats. When we finally finished we got maybe 2 hours sleep before we were back out sitting on overwatch positions spying for the enemy and securing bridges/roadways through foot patrols and mounted patrols. It is still the most exhausting (physically and mentally) thing I have ever done in my life. To add insult to injury we didn't get a shower until 45 days later. And you can only imagine how nasty we were from filling sand bags for 3 days and nights straight and then fighting a war. Our clothes were literally so soaked with sweat that they could stand on their own due to salt build up.

Without getting into the crazy war stories that's literally what guys are going through all of the time over there and in previous wars. Your worst days aren't always the ones when you're in the middle of a huge firefight. Hell, those are the easy ones because your adrenaline carries you through it. From the vietnam and WW2 vets I've spoken with they all say the same thing.

In the end it was those same fortifications that saved us from multiple attacks, but MAN did we hate our commander for making us do that.

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Props if you made it all the way through that, LOL. I know it probably wasn't the most entertaining story, but honestly there's a lot of soldiers I know who deployed with me, and even though they may have never gotten their chance to prove themselves in unbelievable circumstances (Like Normandy beach or Iwo Jima scenarios) I still know they would have been those brave and unlucky medal of honor recipients if they had been in those situations.

Another thing I think about (and it is what I thought about at the time to tell myself it wasn't that bad) is the guys who sat in the cold for days on end at Bastogne while attrition and mortars took their toll left and right. Or guys in Vietnam who had to sit quiet in riverbeds for days on end while leeches sucked away on their blood. I honestly believe that it's the unsung heroes who win wars. It's those guys freezing to death in Bastogne, or the rangers climbing Point du Hoc at Normandy beach, or the grunts of Vietnam crawling into enemy infested tunnels. The guys who never have a medal attached to their deeds even though they were all courageous in their own right. Staff Sergeant Legaspi comes to mind (A man who was in 1AD with me, but his courageous story was never truly honored) Again, it's all a re-affirmation to the general public that the real heroes, in my mind, are the ones that don't get their stories told. The ones who just shut up, do their job, try not to stick out, and put in hard work.

Maybe I'll check back later on in the thread and tell some "cooler stories" about actually shooting/getting shot at and blowing shit up lol
Svartorm
11/10/08 9:15:58PM
Awesome stuff! I'm a huge history buff and make every effort to talk with vets about their experiences, and have a few members of my family that served in wartimes.

My grandfather on my mothers side, Robert Musgrave, received a Silver Star for crash-landing a C-47 on D-Day. The planes fly like buildings, and its next to impossible to crashland something like that, but he managed to do so and everyone onboard lived, although he shattered both his legs in the process. He was sent home to California to recover and eventually returned to duty, flying in the Pacifiic Theater during the island jumping phase, flying a supply plane from India to whatever island they were resupplying at the time. We still have the map he had with him, which has a message about being a solider in six or seven languages, in case he crashed and someone in those areas found him.

One of my great Uncles, by marriage, participated in Dolittles Raid in WW2, where US forces ran a propaganda mission to bomb Japan from an air craft carrier, to show Japan they could strike home as well. The pilots took off, knowing they'd have to crash land in China because they wouldn't have fuel to get back.

My father is a disabled Vietnam Vet who served at the Laos/Cambodia border as a machine gunner attatched to an artillary unit from 70-71. He threw his medals over the wall of the White House when he got back, so he doesn't have some of them anymore (he was a hippy back in the day), although he gave his Purple Heart to my mom. I know he had two bronze stars, but I've never asked what he got them for.
Rush
11/11/08 11:13:09AM
moment of silence.
D0wnUnd6e6r
11/11/08 11:15:28AM
today's also my birthday lol
DCRage
11/11/08 11:18:03AM
A moment to stop and salute our veterans past, present, and future and thank them for all they have done for our country. HOO-RAH!
emfleek
11/11/08 11:22:18AM
For anyone reading this...don't just take the time today. Make EVERY day a veteran's day. Never forget those who fought for your country.

cmill21
11/11/08 9:41:09PM
I just wanted to say that both of my grandfathers served in WWII, my grandpa Holgar 'Stanley' Erickson served in the Italian campagin, which most people forget about when talking about the war, while my grandpa Hunter Miller served in Normandy I believe. I never met my grandpa Miller as he died when my father was only 13, but my grandpa Stan and I were very close and watched alot of documentaries about the Italian campaign. I don't know anything that they did while over sea's but I am very proud of both of them for serving and giving not only our country, but many of the european contries freedom. I honestly don't blame any soldier when it comes to war, they are just fighting for their country, and they all deserve a prayer. To the veterans around the world and in heaven, I thank you.
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