Category Archives: Army

El Paso Part 1

It’s funny how with age some of the smallest things in life one can still remember, like a photograph. My very first memory of El Paso was upon hearing Reveille , looking out my barracks window and seeing nothing but an ocean of sand. The day before, I had finished basic training at Ft Ord, along the coast of the Monterey Peninsula, and the Drill Sgt had us all in formation as he was giving out assignments with the Army post we’d be going to for advanced training. .

Guys were getting infantry, signal corps, and when it came time for him to call my name, “Brandt! Ft Bliss, Texas – Air Defense!

I’m thinking (to myself of course) – say what?

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Filed under Army, In Memoriam

D-Day Plus 75 Years : A Short Story

At this precise moment 75 years ago – 9 hours ahead of Pacific time – the first amphibious landings started at Normandy.

By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches code named Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.

He’s been gone about 20 years, but I still remember him stopping by my late father’s office every Wednesday at 1200 for lunch, in that big 70s Lincoln.

I can’t remember him without a smile and some pleasantries when he arrived. Never knew him by anything other than his nickname, which was Dusty. Outside of his family, I doubt that anyone else did, either.

He and my father would then head off for restaurants unknown. They were 2 Army veterans of that era. Neither talked much about those times.

He was wounded in that war and recuperated in a British hospital. As he was recuperating, there was an Army nurse at his side.

And from that time for over 50 years that nurse never left his side.

One Thanksgiving they invited us to their home. I had to decline, having a prior invitation.

It is a dinner I have regretted missing for 20 years. My parents told me that after dinner over desert and wine, the conversation got serious. After all those years, he opened up for the first time and talked about his day on that beach 75 years ago.

Since I wasn’t there, all I have are the few things I was told afterwards.

He was in the second wave.

What he remembered most that day were the drownings. Not all of the Higgins Boats  could get to the shoreline. If the feet couldn’t find the bottom with all of the equipment carried – 90 lbs in some cases – you were in big trouble.

And you couldn’t stop to help them.

You were trying to stay alive and get ashore. He watched his best friend drown.

When my mother asked him if he was worried about dying, he replied that “you never think it will be you“.

Allied victory wasn’t certain that day. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, gave it 50% odds of success *. Eisenhower had an alternative letter ready in the event of failure.

Winston Churchill went to bed that evening worried that by next morning, he would learn that 20,000 were killed. That was the number of British killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He also remembered the Dieppe Raid just 2 years earlier. After 6 hours and 60% casualties, the British were forced to withdraw.

(Then) Lt. General Omar Bradley was very close to ordering a withdrawal at Omaha.

“…by mid-day on June 6, caused Gen. Omar Bradley, a competent and “unflappable” commander, to fear that his 29th and 1st Divisions had “suffered an irreversible catastrophe.” He came within an inch of ordering withdrawal of the Omaha force — representing the main bulk of the American D-Day effort.”

“…The beaches of Omaha were a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down, while the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment.”

I’ve always kept to a rule of not using people’s names in my posts unless I have their permission, but in this case I’ll make an exception. They’re both long gone now.

He left us shortly after that dinner and she left soon after.  I think too of the anonymous thousands who have already left us, taking their own stories of that day with them.

They deserve more than to be forgotten.

They were Dusty and Doris Miller.


 

 

* The Secret of D-Day, by Gilles Perrault. (1965 – out of print). 

More on the 2nd wave here.

 

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Filed under Army, Heroes Among Us, History

The Lessons of TF Smith

 

By lex, on December 30th, 2010

On 30 June 1950, an understrength and under-equipped battalion of 430 infantrymen, along with a 134-man artillery detachment – together known as Task Force Smith – left their cozy garrisons in occupied Japan to reinforce the line in Osan, Korea. The occupation forces sent to oppose the North Korean blitz were not the same battle hardened soldiers that had driven through Europe and across the Pacific 5 years earlier. Their training in combined arms action had been perfunctory. They faced over 30 tanks and 5000 DPRK regulars – two full infantry regiments. When the North Koreans hit them – hard – they fought as well as any men might under such circumstances before they were nearly enveloped. After three and a half hours of sustained combat, low on ammunition and with their communications cut-off, they were forced to withdraw. One isolated platoon was even forced to leave behind its equipment, their dead and even some of their more seriously wounded comrades. With characteristic magnanimity, the victorious North Korean soldiers bound the survivors hands behind their backs and shot each of them once with a bullet to the back of the head.

This wasn’t the war that they had trained for.

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Filed under Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, History, Lex, Marines, Neptunus Lex

Retention Bonuses

By lex, on January 21st, 2009

Ward’s team * notices some interesting disparities between the Army and Marine Corps captain retention incentives:

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Filed under Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Marines

Counter Defilade

 

By lex, on November 17th, 2010

Concealment is important for an ambush. But once the shooting starts, or in a stand-up fight, I’m told that soldiers vastly prefer cover to concealment. The army’s XM-25 Counter Defilade Targeting Engagement System (who comes up with these klunkers?) is going to make even cover a little harder to come by:

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Filed under Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon

24/7/365

 

By lex, on February 19th, 2010

Remember that snowstorm that shut the capital down last week?

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Filed under Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Neptunus Lex

M4s at Wanat

By lex, on October 21st, 2009

There’s been an interesting discussion going on having to do with the reliability and suitability of the M4 Carbine in Afghanistan, one that I’m ill qualified to formulate an opinion over but am watching with polite naval interest.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon