Originally published August 16th, 2011.
I was reading abut the history of the MOH. It was started during the Civil War, and given out rather liberally. It was only later that the requirements really tightened up.
I’ve also thought how many could have been awarded to service members but for the fact there were no witnesses. But then they don’t do it with the hopes of getting a medal. They do it for their comrades.
Always remember a main theme in the book <Flags of Our Fathers
The book – which went into the history if Iwo Jima and how that particular flag came to be raised (it was actually a second one, the first was much smaller and if I remember correctly they used a pipe for a flag poll – but when it was raised you could hear the horns of a thousand ships all around the island.
Anyway these 6 – 5 Marines and a Navy Corpsman – were selected to go on a bond raising tour around the country.
The organizers raised them – to the crowd – to beyond hero status – just kept building them up.
And to a man guilt – and shame – were building up in them at this tour. While anyone would – and should – consider them heroes – they were remembering all those left behind on the island – many dead. They all felt that they were the real heroes.
They didn’t like all the adulation heaped on them as they were going around the country..
One of them, Ira Hayes, took to booze and died – years later – as an alcoholic.
The modern MOH recipients seem to have that same humility.
The great Clint Eastwood made a fantastic film based on that book. And it did show the conflict among the men who went on that tour.
Just look at the SpecOps guys coming forward now about the killing of Bin Laden. They don’t want glory, fortune or anything like that; and they certainly don’t want their CinC taking credit for something either. It’s an interesting circle – they don’t want the credit yet they don’t want to see someone undeserving if it, take it for themselves. I haven’t read all there is out there on this recent story however I have to believe these guys feel that Obama’s claiming glory dishonors those among their ranks who may have given their lives in defense of their country – and remain unrewarded.
Kris – I would suspect that those elite SEALs are pretty humble about what they did – knowing there was a whole chain of people – from the helicopter guys flying them in – all the support people – guys in other missions who may have died in the line of duty and aren’t around to “take credit” – I remember the toast of those SEALs in Act of Valor – all by themselves on the beach at night – ready to go “down range” the next morning – the Petty Officer giving them some last things to think about – leave any home problems at home – and all toasting with their beer bottles “For those of us who go down range – there’s darn few of us” –
The great – in any endeavor – usually have a humility to them -
Absolute unquestioned operational security…is the sine qua non of the Special Ops community…alas…a concept totally foreign to the jug eared occupant in the White House…Best, Frank C.
In his excellent book, Spec Ops, VAdm McRaven pinpoints six essential principles of spec ops success, one of which is (no surprise!) SECURITY(the others are: simplicity, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.) He then applies them against 8 historical special operations. Six are from WWII: the German commando raid on the Belgian fort Eben Emael (1940); the Italian torpedo attack on the Alexandria harbor (1941); the British commando raid on Nazaire, France (1942); the German glider rescue of Benito Mussolini (1943); the British midget-submarine attack on the Tirpitz (1943); and the U.S. Ranger rescue mission at the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines (1945). The two post-WWII examples are the U.S. Army raid on the Son Tay POW camp in North Vietnam (1970) and the Israeli rescue of the skyjacked hostages in Entebbe, Uganda (1976).
It\’s an educational read; highly recommend.
(much of the above description is lifted from the Amazon.com summary, as my rapidly aging neurons no longer retain details like that & I don\’t have the book with me at work to consult!)
One of the things the Israeli’s commented on – that disastrous attempted rescue of the Iranian hostages in 1979 – was to have a fallback plan. It was this raid – that I believe Charles Beckwith led – and based on that experience, he went on to create the Delta Force – which, having served as liaison with a British SAS unit – organized it on the same structure – small teams – minimal supervisory hierarchy – I remember reading that the regular British Army has a dislike for the SAS (formed in North Africa fighting Rommel I believe) – anyway your typical SAS soldier is not a spit and polish kind of guy – but they are among the best in the world.
I know for the raid on OBL they couldn’t have had a reserve team of SEALS to come in (or could they?) but the fact that a helicopter crashed within the walled confines told me that at least they had some redundancy in transportation – able to get them all out despite the loss of a helicopter –
Frank – over the months I have guessed that you were either an Army Ranger or Special Forces – I know, you could tell me but then you’d have to kill me – my inclination – since you had to eat snakes – is the latter -
Bill, Yes…as some of the old timers around here might remember I did have, what was for me, the singular privilege of serving with the 5th Special Forces in RVN…(1967 to 1968)… as first an A-Team XO and later as Mobile Strike Force ( AKA Mike Force) XO and untimately company commander…and I was all of 26 years old. As far as the “Snake Eater” nom de blog goes I first used it here as a kind of inside joke…a self put down…no matter…I was never called on it around here so it stuck.
….to explain, a Snake Eater in the Special Forces parlance of my time was a kind of poseur…think of an over the top Stallone/ Rambo…all knives, flexing muscles, headband, sweat and attitude …definitely not the cool reticent special operator we all aspired to be…as far as actually eating snakes goes I’m not really sure but I supposed I did. We did eat a lot of mystery meat among other delights on operation and I did go to Bangkok on R & R … those crazy/beautiful bastards cook and eat everything. Best, Frank C.
Wow Snake – I don’t recall ever hearing your story before. I truly am a very lucky girl, I get to hang out with a crazy bunch of amazing people. Adding your story to the list just keeps the color going… ICSFTH.
Snake..Do you recall Capt Phil Waldman with the 5th?
Eating snakes…I claim no skills or abilities to match any of the special forces guys (salute to you, Snake Eater), what they do and how they train to get to the level they attain is waaaay out of my league.
However, during survival school (before I ever saw a cockpit as a student nasal radiator) somewhere on the Eglin AFB complex, our group caught a medium size black snake. Of course we were all hungry, we dressed the meat and cooked it on a spit over an open fire. Came time to actually eat it, no one was willing to take the first chomp, no matter how hungry. Except for me, I was really hungry, so I volunteered to take the first bite.
Much to my surprise the meat was tender and tasted much like a cross between a chicken and a filet mignon! Very good.
However, I made the worst possible face as I chewed and swallowed. No one else wanted to try a bite.
So it was up to me to finish the rest of the meal. Mmmmm.
Snake Eater – my hat’s off to you. I surmised you were Army because during Vietnam I believe a rite of passage for the Special Forces was jungle training in Panama, complete with eating snakes.
And, like colocomment, my rapidly aging neurons no longer retain details like that – but I believe maybe 10% got through Special Forces training?
I learned so much about leadership in the Army – the best and the worst – mainly – from the lofty rank of E4 – Spec/4 – I was mainly under it – but one of the finest leaders I knew – and a friend – was a Captain who was in Vietnam in the Special Forces. If he said Men – we have a dangerous mission – starting with rappelling down the Grand Canyon to a man his men would say “Yes Sir!”
Anyway during some long hours in “das Bunker” – although this one was a German NATO Bunker – saying to missile batteries “commo check, how do you hear me” every 2 hours (it wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds) at oh-dark-thirty – he told me a few stories of his Vietnam time – such as the time an entire North Vietnamese battalion was searching for his team – trying to kill them – and for 24 hours they all literally ran for their lives.
He said the Army gave them Speed to help them….
Busbob – I have long thought that among “gourmet” items these days – someone had to have been awfully hungry to try them the first time. Who’d ever think of eating a lobster?
Bill – in fact lobster was once reserved for the peasants. It was deemed too beneath the monied elite to ever consume something that took that much work to both catch and eat. I’m not sure when they finally caught on but IIRC it was the mid 19th century.
dwas, The 5th in my time had upwards of 5,000 men on the ground running from the DMZ to the Mekong Delta…a group on steroids you might say almost triple ++ the TOE of a stateside group… short answer is no, unfortunately I did not know Cpt Phil Waldman nor did I know the vast majority of the other men in the 5th…please give my regards to the Captain.
Bill, Your Captain was correct…standard, must have personal itemes, in addition to a rifle, poncho & liner and bullets and beans, to be carried on operation…Darvon…for the aches and pains,Dexedrine/speed to
E & E ( escape and evade ) a five pack of morphine syrettes and battle dressings and the ever present bug repellant for the obvious reasons…it was indeed fun and games all around….you just had to survive.
Kris, I once worked with an old timer who grew up dirt poor on the Maine coast…he related that after every big storm especially a Nor-Easter numerous lobsters would be washed up on the shore for all to harvest, They had so much lobster they even fed it to the cats. Of course this was before widespread referigation, eating habits and improved transportation changed everything.
Good weekend all, Best, Frank C.
Ok, thanks..He had 3 tours, I think..was attached to a SOG ..Now deceased
Kris – I read somewhere – that before man decided that this ugliest of creatures was good to eat (especially with butter!) New England farmers would bury them (I guess after washed up by a storm?) – for fertilizer. One of my favorite scenes is in the movie Tom Horn – with Steve McQueen – when he is hired by this – as it turns out – sinister wealthy WY rancher to kill cattle thieves – and they are all at a table for a party – and being served lobster –
What is this – a giant bug? asked a perplexed McQueen
Frank – what a story! After my last post I am thinking how hard my head is – posting about eating snakes in Panama – when you gave us the origins of that story in the Special Forces –
Capt Daley told me several interesting stories of his time there – as a Sgt I believe – I have been picturing them for the last 40 years E & E’ ing 1,000 NVA in the jungle – He was a friend
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