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Sgt. Peralta died very much like Michael Monsoor when he led a group of other Marines through a series of house clearings, during the November 2004 Battle for Fallujah. They were successful in the first three house, but things went bad in a hurry as they charged the fourth.
The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project describes how Sgt. Peralta “found two rooms empty on the ground floor, but upon opening a third door he was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire that left him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.”
Moments later terrorist inside the room threw a grenade at the Marines. Sgt. Peraldas Wickapedia page describes how “The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room, but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that, despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.”
In a Newsweek article about the event, Cpl. Robert Reynolds explained how Sgt. Peralta collapsed onto the floor in a “pool of blood,” after being shot. “Then Reynolds spotted what is the dread of every infantryman: a grenade bouncing toward the squad. “It was yellow and it came from a room to our side,” he says. Reynolds says he watched Peralta reach out and drag the grenade under his body.”
Pfc Ricardo Peralta was only 14 when his brother died in such a selfless way, but is quoted in the above article as saying, “I knew what I had to do, and that was to enlist in the Marine Corps.”
August 18, 2010
Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, Calif., said during a public meeting in 2007 that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor.
The initial reaction, from the Indland Valley Daily Bulletin, in an article titled Xavier Alvarez Must Resign Now was what one might expect. “We call upon Xavier Alvarez, the water board member whose lies stand as an affront to every member and veteran of the U.S. armed forces, to resign his elected position immediately.”
Well hold onto your seats. According to an AP article out today, “A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with [Alvarez] in a 2-1 decision Tuesday, agreeing that the law was a violation of his free-speech rights.” The article affirmed that the “three-year-old federal law that makes it a crime to falsely claim to have received a medal from the U.S. military is unconstitutional.” To read more click here.
Not only can you protest at the funeral of a hero, you are now able to impersonate one. The question I have is this. Does the Constitution give us the right to lie?
by Norman Fulkerson
This is the story of Samuel L. Davis who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. When his 42-man unit was attacked by a 1500 man Vietcong battalion, he refused to give up. After suffering a broken back and perforated kidney, he was not only able to repel the enemy, but carry three men to safety, AT THE SAME TIME. One of the defining moments in his life was the noble way he endured the ungrateful treatment upon his return home.
Born November 1, 1946 in Dayton, Ohio, Sammy Davis’ family eventually moved to southern Indiana where he graduated from Mooresville High School. During his junior year, he worked in the lumber industry taking down 200-foot white pines. This not only provided pocket money, but also contributed to an upper body physique one commonly associates with lumberjacks. All in all, Sammy was pretty much your garden variety, hard-working, Midwestern boy living an average existence in America’s heartland.
All of that changed, during an evening with friends at the local bowling alley. Above the din of smashing pins, Sammy’s attention was momentarily drawn away from the game to watch a news item that piqued his interest: Colonel Roger Donlon was being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson, for his heroism in Vietnam. It was not so much the fame and glory of the event that attracted Sammy, but the way Colonel Donlon stood so straight and tall as he received our nation’s highest honor.
“I want to grow up to be just like him,” he said. “I want my daddy to be proud of me.” It did not take long for him to act on this good inspiration. At seventeen, he decided to join the Army. Before he left for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, his father who had fought in World War II looked at him and said, “Son, now it’s your time to serve.” After finishing advanced artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma he was sent to Vietnam in March of 1967 as a Private First Class.
Eight months later he would accomplish a feat that would make his father and the nation very proud.
“Go, Kill the GI!”
For a small-town boy from Indiana, war was a different experience. Three days after arriving into Vietnam, he received a baptism of fire when the Long Binh ammunition dump was blown up by member of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). It was the largest such storage facility in the world at that time. Private Davis or “Dave,” as his fellow soldiers called him, remembered the experience of unexploded eight inch rounds landing all around their compound. Although this caused him no small amount of alarm, it was nothing compared to the life-defining battle which occurred later that same year.
On November 15, Private Davis, forty-one other soldiers and four 105mm howitzers were dropped into a swampy area known as The Plain of Reeds: a vast wetland located in the southernmost portion of Vietnam along the Mekong River. Their mission was to provide close and continual artillery support for infantry units fighting hard to push the advancing Vietcong back over the border into Cambodia. Their home for the next days was Fire Base Cudgel, during an operation code named Coronado One.
Just before five in the afternoon on November 17, Sammy remembers very well the arrival of a helicopter. On board was an officer who informed the men that there was a 100% probability they were going to get hit that night. Since arriving in the area on November 15, they had already seen a plenty of action. Therefore, it was hard to fathom what this officer was speaking about. Private Davis figured it would be pretty much the same and regrets they were not given more details.
As darkness surrounded the sleeping members of Fire Base Cudgel, the man pulling guard duty that night was finding it hard to stay awake. Private Davis was having the opposite problem, and agreed to relieve him fifteen minutes before his own scheduled 2:00 a.m. shift. Minutes later, he heard the ominous sound of mortars sliding down metal tubes, followed by a mortar attack which lasted for half an hour before stopping abruptly. Private Davis described the silence that followed as “unearthly.” The stillness was suddenly broken by the sounds of whistles and bugles. With the order to charge, 1500 enemy soldiers began screaming in broken English, “Kill the GI!” The intensity of the battle over the next four hours defies description.
Surviving “Soldier Hell”
Sammy Davis immediately began firing beehive rounds from his 105mm howitzer. This particular shell, containing 18,000 fleshettes that look like miniature spears, virtually turns the howitzer into a gigantic shot gun. After several rounds, the NVA were able to zero in on his gun, by aiming their rocket propelled grenade launcher at the muzzle blast. Their first round of retaliation was a direct hit on the Howitzer which threw Private Davis, now unconscious, back into his foxhole. His commanding officer simply disappeared into the night.
The remaining members of the decimated unit, located behind Private Davis, attempted to stop the advancing enemy. They fired off another beehive from their howitzer which struck Sammy Davis in the back as he lay unconscious. The impact would have killed him if not for the flack jacket he was wearing. When Davis finally regained consciousness, he was laying face up in the fox hole with dozens of wounds from fleshettes that had pierced his body. One of them perforated his kidney, while another lodged in his fourth vertebrae, causing intense pain. The explosion left him temporarily deaf and during the momentary silence, he began to marvel at the multi color tracers, illuminating the sky above him. “Wow,” he thought to himself, with childlike candor, “that looks just like Christmas lights.”
As his hearing returned, so did the noise and chaos of battle. Six feet in front of him was the canal with hundreds of enemy troops, at a time, coming through the water to finish what they had started. At this point, Private Davis, thinking he was alone, became a solitary “line of defense.” With a shattered howitzer and little hope of resistance, he clearly remembered thinking, “You don’t lose until you quit trying.”
With this inspirational thought running through his head, he grabbed an M-16 and fired it till he ran out of ammunition. He then found an M-60 and 1000 rounds. As he shot through the first 500 rounds a human wave of enemy combatants continued to come at him, like bees from an agitated hornets’ nest. Seeing the apparent futility of resistance, he struggled with the strange thought that perhaps his gun was not working. By the time he reached the end of the 1000 rounds something even more bizarre crossed his mind.
“I figured I had died and was in ‘soldiers hell,’ ” he said, “and this torturous circumstance was going to last forever.”
Refusing to quit, he looked skeptically at the smoldering howitzer. Although it was badly damaged he felt certain he could get off another shot. Not too concerned with precise measurements, he crammed it full of powder, loaded another beehive and quickly pulled the lanyard. All he heard, in response to his efforts, was a pathetic “poof” sound, giving the sinking impression of wet powder.
Anticipatory excitement soon followed as the big gun began to convulse like a shuttle ready to blast off. The maximum load, for a fully functional howitzer, was a seven charge. They would later estimate Private Davis had given his a twenty charge.
When the gun finally fired, it reared up in the air and off its wheels. The subsequent explosion and burst of fire was so violent that the rest of the men screamed with joy thinking Private Davis had rigged up some kind of hellish flamethrower.
“Way to go Dave,” they screamed. As they were jumping with joy, Private Davis was writhing in pain. He had been thrown to the ground by the blast and the two-ton howitzer landed on his back, breaking his third lumbar vertebrae. The swelling caused by the injury pushed against his spine provoking a numbness in his legs.
However, as bad as things were, he was about to face his biggest challenge of the night; rescuing three soldiers caught on the opposite side of the canal.
“You Never Leave a Buddy Behind.”
In spite of the severity of his injuries, Sammy Davis was somehow able to fire three more beehives before hearing, what sounded like an American soldier shouting for help. “Don’t shoot, I’m a G.I.,” the person screamed from across the canal. American servicemen were warned to treat such cries with suspicion. The enemy had learned to say the same thing, in perfect English, as a way of drawing them into an ambush. Nevertheless, after firing an illumination round, Sammy Davis clearly saw the individual, frantically calling for help, was a black man named Gwendell Holloway.
With a broken back and his energy almost gone, Private Davis grabbed an inflatable mattress and began to cross the canal, as bullets pelted the water all around him.
Arriving on the other side, he found three members of a recon unit commanded by Lt. Lee Alley, who narrates the night’s events in his book Back from War. Gwendell Holloway, Billy Ray Crawford were both badly wounded, but the third man, Jim Deister, lay lifeless after being shot point blank in the head. The bullet entered the ear and, it was later determined, lodged in his brain: very much like the fatal shot inflicted on President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Sammy was forced to perform the gruesome task of pushing Jim Deister’s oozing brains back into his head.
With the battle still raging, Private Davis reasoned that three separate trips to get the wounded to safety would be risky. To carry all three at the same time seemed virtually impossible. But after “calling on help from above,” that is exactly what he decided to do.
“When I was little,” Sammy Davis says, describing his actions, “and we would go out to play, my mom would always tell us, ‘now don’t leave your brother.’ It was the same way in the Army. I wasn’t going to leave my brother behind.”1
With iron resolve, he placed the limp body of Jim Deister over his shoulders. He then grabbed the other two, one in each arm, and began to make his way back to the canal. Periodically he was forced to stop, when a group of enemy soldiers passed. He would then lay his men down in the tall elephant grass and cover them, very much like a protective mother hen. Whenever the enemy noticed they were alive, Sammy was forced to silence them.
After arriving to the other side of the canal he put the wounded soldiers on the helicopter and after placing the lifeless body of Jim Deister among the KIA (killed in action) he collapsed from exhaustion. As the chopper slowly ascended, the medic looked with astonishment at the soldier with the horrifying head wound. Jim Deister was actually breathing. They immediately began tending to his wounds and, although no one could figure quite how, he ultimately survived.
Sammy Davis was eventually promoted to corporal. Although he endured that battle, he would face another, almost as painful, upon his return to the United States.
“To Get to Your Aircraft You Have to Run the Gauntlet.”
It occurred on the day Sammy Davis was about to board his final flight in San Francisco, the last leg of a very long trip home to Indiana. One can only imagine his joy at being reunited with his family after the horrors of war and the pride for having served his country admirably. His father would no doubt be proud of him, but others would not.
Milling around in the San Francisco airport were a group of twenty hippies. In order to circumvent the laws forbidding clubs, all of them pretended to be disabled, and carried canes instead. They also had brown paper bags full of what Corporal Davis described as the “nastiest things you can think of” such as “dog droppings.”2
Although Sammy and two other servicemen were dressed in civilian clothes, as instructed for those on commercial flights, their military bearing made them clear targets for revolutionary aggression. One soldier reminded Sammy of the specific orders given by their sergeant, back at Travis Air Force base. They were explicitly forbidden to retaliate, should someone start an altercation, since the media would inevitably spin it against the returning soldiers.
“Hey, if you want to get to your aircraft,” one of the hippies said, “you have to run the gauntlet.” Seeing the scene before him, Sammy Davis said he and his fellow soldiers decided they would not run the gauntlet, they would walk it: and do so with pride and dignity.
The first hippies began rubbing the contents of their bags in the soldiers hair, on their face and stuffing it into their ears. When they failed to get the desired response they began beating them with the canes which opened up head wounds, causing Sammy and the others to bleed profusely.3
This was the despicable treatment for a man who proved himself on the field of battle to be one of America’s great warriors. Yet through it all, Sammy Davis accepted these injustices with dignity and kept his composure till the end.
It is worth mentioning, for the record, the treatment they received on the plane. Solicitous stewardesses gratuitously seated them in first class, served them champagne, cleaned their shirts and wiped the blood from their head and faces.
Where They are Today
Because of his injuries, and the lingering effects of Agent Orange, Sammy Davis was forced to retire from the Army in 1984 with the rank of sergeant. Besides the Medal of Honor he also earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.
After being medically discharged from the military, Jim Deister returned to college where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology and later a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. He now resides in Salina, Kansas where he works as a counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing for the State of Kansas, in 18 different counties.
When people ask him about retirement, his response is always the same.
“I will retire,” he tells them, “when my secretary, comes in and finds me dead at my desk.” If not for the speech impediment, one might never know the trauma he endured. There are two reasons for this.
First of all, he detests the way Vietnam veterans are often portrayed in books and movies, with what he calls, the “victim syndrome.”
“The majority of us did our duties,” he says, “then we came home, went to work and raised our families.”
The second reason is more personal. Mr. Deister recognizes that Sammy Davis not only saved his life, but gave him the inspiration to go on living. He received this motivational nudge from one sentence in a speech given by his friend, which moved him profoundly. “You not only have to be willing to die for your country,” Sergeant Davis often tells audiences, “you must also be willing to live for your country!”
“That particular phrase sort of shocked me out my guilt feelings,” Mr. Deister admitted, “and I told myself that yes, that means me. I am alive, now I have to live for those men who were killed that night.”
Today Sergeant Davis lives a simple life amidst the corn fields of southern Illinois. He is a member of the Medal of Honor society along with his boyhood hero Colonel Roger Donlon. He continues to give an average of 300 inspirational talks around the country each year. In spite of the ill effects of war, he accepts his sufferings with patience and calm. However, he will candidly admit that memories of November 18 still haunt him, but quickly adds, “Its only been 41 years. So tomorrow night will surely be better.”4
In spite of everything he has accomplished in life, Sergeant Sammy Davis retains a refreshing humility and, one could say, almost boyish simplicity. It is not hard to imagine how such a man could think about Christmas while contemplating the multi-color tracers during a hellish firefight in Vietnam: perhaps that is what makes Sergeant Sammy Davis so special. Not one for complicated formulas, he sees life through a different prism. It was for this reason that he was able to overcome life’s toughest battles. He knew that you really don’t lose until you quit trying.
1. http://blogs.uiowa.edu/jmcglobal/2010/03/05/the-real-forrest-gump [back]
2. http://blogs.uiowa.edu/jmcglobal/2010/03/05/the-real-forrest-gump [back]
3. http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/medal-of-honor/ [back]
4. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/jul/05/soldiers-tale-of-uncommon-valor [back]
Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards
By Dan Lamothe – Staff writer for Marine Corps Times
With no air or artillery support, the Marines of Embedded Training Team 2-8 were trapped deep in a kill zone in eastern Afghanistan. Their radios worked only sporadically, and dozens of insurgents fired on them repeatedly from three sides.
“We’re surrounded!” Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson yelled into his radio in the early-morning hours of Sept. 8, 2009. “They’re moving in on us!”
At least twice, a two-man team attempted to rescue their buddies, using an armored vehicle mounted with a .50-caliber machine gun to fight their way toward them. They were forced back each time by a hail of bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. An enemy bullet hit the vehicle’s gun turret, piercing then-Cpl. Dakota Meyer’s elbow with shrapnel. He shook it off, refusing to tell the staff sergeant with him because he didn’t want to make the situation worse, according to U.S. Army documents outlining a military investigation of the ambush.
What he did next will live on in Marine Corps lore — and, some say, should earn him consideration for the Medal of Honor.
After helicopter pilots called on to respond said fighting was too fierce for them to land, Meyer, then 21, charged into the kill zone on foot to find his friends. Under heavy fire, he reached a trench where the pilots had spotted the Marines, by then considered missing.
He found Johnson, 31; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30; 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22; and an Afghan soldier they were training — all dead and bloody from gunshot wounds. They were spread out in the ditch, their weapons and radios stolen.
“I checked them all for a pulse. There [sic] bodies were already stiff,” Meyer said in a sworn statement he was asked to provide military investigators. “I found SSgt Kenefick face down in the trench w/ his GPS in his hand. His face appeared as if he was screaming. He had been shot in the head.”
Rather than give up, Meyer, of Greensburg, Ky., fought to bring his buddies back home. Bleeding from his shrapnel wound and still under fire, he carried their bodies back to a Humvee with the help of Afghan troops, and escorted them to nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce, about a mile to the northeast of Ganjgal…”
To read the entire story of this heroic Kentuckian click here.
What I found most noteworthy about this story is how Cpl. Meyer refuses to read the media coverage of what he did. “The main thing that we need to get from that day,” he is quoted as saying, “is that those guys died heroes, and they are greatly missed. This isn’t about me. If anything comes out of it for me, it’s for those guys.”
This is a true sign of a hero: a person who does not realize the grandeur of the deed he has accomplished. I happened to stumble across this article while driving through Kentucky in the Louisville Courier Journal, which carried the story. It obviously gives me no small amount of pride that a fellow Kentuckian could accomplish such a magnificent deed.
by Jim Hanson
“SSG Sal Giunta, a paratrooper w/ the 173rd Airborne, is likely to be the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. He earned this by charging a group of Taliban who were trying to make off with a wounded comrade in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. His actions broke the Taliban’s attack and allowed him to regain control of SGT Josh Brennan. He also saved the lives of the many other members of his unit who had been caught in a near ambush by the Taliban. Giunta didn’t hesitate one second before advancing on his own to ensure the enemy would never take one of ours, but sadly Josh Brennan was too badly wounded too survive. His cousin PVT Joe Brennan recently graduated airborne school and has joined the same unit proudly carrying on Josh’s memory.
…Giunta was a Specialist when the action occurred and his squad was hit with a well-planned ambush at extremely close range. He was the trail team leader and Josh Brennan was the lead. When the fighting started Brennan was severely wounded, their squad leader was knocked to the ground, their medic was killed and several others were wounded. Giunta immediately began maneuvering toward the enemy throwing grenades and eventually charging them when he saw two of them hauling Josh away. He emptied a magazine killing one and wounding the other and grabbed Brennan telling Josh to stay with him so that he would get a chance to tell heroic stories. They did get Brennan on a medevac chopper, but unfortunately his wounds were too severe and he didn’t survive. But Giunta’s actions stopped the Taliban from taking him and by running headlong at the enemy he disrupted the ambush. SSG Giunta’s story can be read in Junger’s book “War” starting on page 115.
It has been far too long since we have awarded the Medal of Honor to someone who survived, and SSG Giunta is a wonderful addition to the ranks of those who have earned our country’s highest honor. There are a number of others under consideration for this decoration and hopefully this is a sign that more of these brave warriors will be recognized. We have heard this was approved by the White House and they are only waiting to set a date for the ceremony.
We salute SSG Giunta and all who serve or have served our country….”
Accuracy was His Middle Name
by John Flores
When retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock II died at the age of 57 on Feb. 26, 1999, his legend had long since chiseled its way into the pantheon of Marine Corps history.
He’d served almost 20 years in the Corps, including two tours as a sniper during the Vietnam War. A killer more deadly and silent than Hathcock finally had him in the cross hairs and pulled the trigger, ending his extraordinary life.
The medical term for that stealthy, relentless force is multiple sclerosis, a slow, progressive terminal malady that attacks the central nervous system. MS can cause paralysis, spasms and the loss of coordination and muscle control.
His disease was diagnosed in summer 1975 by doctors at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Va. It took 24 years to finally bring him down. During his time as a sniper, GySgt Hathcock was noted for his precision, absolute coolness, patience and endurance.
For 93 of his kills he had witnesses —a requirement for the kills to be considered“confirmed.” Although he never kept a ledger, Hathcock once guessed that he’d taken out upward of 300 enemy personnel during his time in the Vietnam bush.
Retired Marine Corps Major Jim Land was Hathcock’s boss in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967, and earlier, the two were on the Marine Corps rifle marksmanship team. They remained friends until Hathcock’s death and burial near his home in Virginia Beach, Va.
A representative of a local Native American tribe was invited to Hathcock’s funeral, and he presented eagle feathers to Hathcock’s wife, Jo; his son, Carlos III; and Hathcock’s shooting buddy, Jim Land. The Indians respected this lone warrior, who was part Indian.
Hathcock’s funeral was an emotional moment for Land, who’d often worried about his friend spending too much time in the jungles on missions. Nevertheless, Land smiled when he recalled the time he restricted Hathcock to his quarters. The year was 1966, and Hathcock was under his command at an outpost near Da Nang.
“The only difficulty I had with Carlos was that he’d stay out there too long. He went on about five [operations] one time before I could get a fix on him. I told a gunny, ‘Bring [him] back here.’ Well, he did, and [Hathcock] looked like a scarecrow,” Land said.
Hathcock was about 5 feet 10 inches tall and normally weighed about 160 pounds. After he came back from an extended time on patrol where he subsisted on little more than peanut butter, crackers and whatever he could gather from nature, Hathcock weighed about 120 pounds, Land recalled.
“I said, ‘What you been eating out there?’ and he said, ‘I’m doing all right. I’m eating enough to keep the buzzards off my back.’ I told him no self-respecting buzzard would want him,” Land said with a chuckle. But the smile faded, like so many of the memories of Vietnam. Hathcock, however, remains clearly, indelibly imprinted on his mind.
“Carlos just really believed in what he was doing out there. He was saving Marines; that’s how he really saw it. He was just doing his job, his duty. Now, Carlos is kind of a folk hero to a tremendous number of people,” he said.
Long after the Vietnam War ended, a reporter asked Hathcock if he had been a “trophy collector,” shooting for sport while on the job. It was an insult, and Hathcock fired back at the reporter quickly and accurately. He did not waste bullets or words.
“He told that reporter, ‘Anybody would have to be crazy to like running around through the woods killing people,’ ” Land said. “He said if he didn’t get [the enemy], then they were going to kill the kids over there.”
Hathcock was born in Little Rock, Ark. His parents divorced when he was just a youngster, so he lived with his grandmother. He began hunting in the thick woods near his grandmother’s house. He was self-taught, like World War I legend Sergeant Alvin York and World War II hero Audie Murphy. All the men were experts with a rifle and were also good-natured, hard-working rural boys.
“As a young’n, I’d go sit in the woods and wait a spell,” Hathcock once told an interviewer. “I’d just wait for the rabbits and the squirrels, ’cause sooner or later a squirrel would be in that very tree, or a rabbit would be coming by that very log. I just knew it. Don’t know why, just did.”
He was the original laconic, cool-headed country boy. When put to the big-city test, he broke records. In those days, the Marine Corps wouldn’t take anyone under 17. So, on his 17th birthday in 1959, Hathcock enlisted. During recruit training in San Diego, he immediately qualified as an expert with the M1 rifle, a .30-06 that was used widely by Marines and Army soldiers during WW II. It was a heavy rifle, and he could hit the 18-inch-diameter bull’s-eye from 500 yards at the rifle range time after time. He developed a complete fascination with developing the skill and precision of long-range shooting with high-powered rifles. That fascination stayed with him the rest of his life.
Initially, he went to Vietnam as a military policeman, but wound up volunteering for combat. It didn’t take Hathcock long to realize that he would be killed with some of his fellow Marines who did not have the woodsman skills and instincts he had developed. He wanted to go it alone.
In his first few years in the Corps, Hathcock broke just about every shooting record and received many awards including the 1965 Wimbledon Cup, the U.S. Long-Range High-Power Championship. Maj. Land needed that type of person as an instructor for a sniper school he started in Vietnam for the First Marine Division.
Land’s 17-man instructor team trained more than 600 snipers between September 1966 and April 1967. During one 90-day period the sniper team took out more Viet Cong than entire local battalions. That’s when Land’s group of ice-water marksmen was tagged with the ominous moniker “Murder Incorporated.”
Before he was stricken with MS, Hathcock was unmatched in his ability to endure physical and mental hardships to position himself for a kill. With the slow, deliberate moves of a panther in the night, Hathcock would stalk his targets sometimes for days and inches at a time.
He felt that a good sniper needed seven characteristics to get the job done and get back to base alive. According to the list, a sniper must be an excellent marksman, a good woodsman, emotionally stable so as not to be easily excited, smart and keenly observant, aware of his surroundings, good with a map and compass and patient.
“It takes an awareness of the environment and total concentration at the moment you fire the shot. You have to be aware of the wind, which has a tremendous impact at 1,000 yards; you have to be aware of the sun, whether it goes behind a cloud or not. Then, at the last millisecond, if you will, you have to develop total concentration.
It takes a tremendous amount of discipline,” Land said. He noted that while most other Marine snipers were proficient or above average in their skills, Hathcock’s uncanny abilities took him to another level entirely.
“The thing that made him different in Vietnam, it wasn’t the marksmanship skill, but he just had this ability to totally integrate himself into the environment, and he noticed everything. He had a total awareness of his surroundings,” Land said. “We all developed an edge, but Carlos took it one step further. He was like a mountain man. He noticed every breeze, every insect. He certainly did have Indian blood.”
Often, Land said, a sniper would have to sit for long periods totally still and silent. If the enemy was near, any movement could mean instant death. “A lot of times you would be sitting so long in one place you either urinated or defecated in your trousers,” he said.
The bush could be very unpleasant after several days of no bathing, getting bitten by ants and mosquitoes, going without food and water, the basics. Once, while on a mission, Hathcock came face to face with a deadly snake. But because the Viet Cong were close by, he could not move. He had to stare at the snake and pray. After several tense minutes, the snake flicked its tongue and slithered into the underbrush.
After Hathcock had killed a significant number of enemy personnel, the Viet Cong gave him the name “Long Tr’ang,” which means “white feather.” It was because Hathcock wore a white feather in his hat when he was on patrol as a member of Land’s sniper detachment. He traveled light, normally carrying a bandoleer with 84 cartridges, two canteens, a combat knife, a .45-caliber pistol, compass, map and several cans of basic rations.
And he carried one thought in his head: Take down the enemy. Land said he and Hathcock both had the dubious distinction of an enemy bounty being placed on their heads by the Viet Cong. Anyone who killed either of them would be paid three years salary. It amounted to about $1,000 U.S., and that was a lot of money for Vietnam, he said.
According to the book “Marine Sniper,” written by retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Charles Henderson, during Hathcock’s service as a sniper, he took down many targets with incredible precision and an unrelenting, cool calculation. Once he put a round through a Viet Cong’s sniper scope while the two men were looking at each other, several hundred yards apart. The bullet went through the enemy’s scope and into the sniper’s head.
Hathcock also killed a female Viet Cong sniper called “Apache Woman.” She delighted in torturing and slowly killing young Marines wounded in ambush or in traps set for them in the jungle, Henderson wrote. Land confirmed those stories.
“Gunny” Hathcock also shot a Chinese army officer out of a small canoe like boat from a range of about 300 yards. The officer drowned in the river. Land said it was a telling point about Hathcock that he didn’t even mention it in his debriefing session after the mission was completed.
Hathcock took no pleasure in killing. He recounted meticulously the details of his mission until getting to the point of seeing the large red star, a Chinese army emblem, and then casually mumbled that he shot the target.
“I said, ‘No joke, Carlos? You shot a Chinese officer?’ He said, ‘I don’t tell no lies,’ ” Land said.
Probably his most daring and important active-duty mission was when Hathcock shot and killed a North Vietnamese Army general from a range of about 700 yards. Hathcock literally spent days crawling, inches at a time, to get within range of the general’s command post.
A magazine article by Green Beret veteran Charles W. Sasser details that event. Hathcock finally took the shot in an open field, vulnerable to the enemy amassed at the compound.
“When the general came outside with his aide to get into the car, Hathcock pulled his bubble around him so that nothing could disturb his concentration. He no longer felt hunger or thirst or weariness. The general came out onto the little porch. He yawned and stretched in the morning sunlight. Hathcock lowered his cross hairs to the officer’s heart. He was squeezing the trigger when the general’s aide stepped in front of him,” Sasser wrote.
“As soon as the aide stepped aside, exposing the general’s broad tunic, the rifle jarred against Hathcock’s shoulder. The Marine brought the scope out of recoil and saw immediately that the general was down and not moving, which meant a heart shot. The other NVA officers and aides were scrambling for cover.”
After hurrying for the cover of the jungle, it took Hathcock about an hour to meet his getaway helicopter that flew him out of harm’s way.
Hathcock was never hit by an enemy bullet. The closest he came to being killed was when he was in an armored personnel carrier that struck a mine in the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam. Hathcock pulled several Marines from the burning APC, although he, too, was terribly burned from the blast of the large mine. Suffering from second- and third-degree burns over more than 40 percent of his body, he spent months recovering at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He had more than a dozen skin grafts. He was injured so badly that his sniper days were at an end.
Those who witnessed his brave and selfless actions wanted to see him receive a top medal, but the quiet, unassuming Hathcock didn’t want one. Stricken with MS and wheelchair bound, he was awarded the Silver Star 30 years later on Nov. 12, 1996, by the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper.
Not long after recovering from his burns, Hathcock received orders to help establish the scout and sniper school at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
“He emphasized that snipers could not be John Wayne, that we should be more reserved,” said William Bartholomew, a former sniper in the Baltimore Police Department. In an article in The Baltimore Sun, Bartholomew described Hathcock’s training methods. “If you didn’t apply what he taught you, if you made an absentminded error, he could stare right through you. He could chew you out without ever raising his voice.”
On April 20, 1979, MS forced Hathcock to retire, just a few months shy of 20 years on active duty. He taught classes right up to the day of his retirement. Land and others worked with Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps to make sure Hathcock retired with full benefits.
At his retirement ceremony, he was given a plaque with a bronzed Marine campaign cover mounted above a brass plate that reads: “There have been many Marines. There have been many marksmen. But there has only been one sniper—Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock. One Shot. One Kill.”
Editor’s note: John Flores, a former search-and-rescue crewman serving four years active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, is a self-employed journalist in Albuquerque,N.M. Last fall he received the Department of the Navy’s Meritorious Public Service Award from the Marine Corps Commandant, General James T. Conway. Flores is writing a biography for Texas Tech University Press about Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez, a Medal of Honor Marine killed during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
This article is re-printed by courtesy of the Marine Corps Gazette and copyright is retained by the Marine Corps Gazette.
Colonel Van Barfoot is a 90 year old Veteran of WW II. During his time of service he earned our nations highest award, the Medal of Honor, along with the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, yet he is now in trouble with his home owners association. You will be surprised to find out that this true American hero is in trouble for flying his flag. Yes, that’s it, for flying an American Flag.
The Sussex Square Homeowner’s Association in Richmond, Virginia says the issue is with the pole. Short flags on poles hanging on the front porch of a house are permitted. The pole in Colonel Barfoot’s front yard with a magnificent eagle on top, is not. But Colonel Barfoot was raised in a different way.
“First of all it is not dignified”, he said concerning porch flag mounts, since the flag is in a “half mast position.” One video I found shows the war veteran and hero raising the American flag atop his pole. He then performs a solemn salute. The fact that such a man continues to love his country and honor our flag after so many years is quite an example for young people.
What is our country coming to when an “American” homeowners association is not able to bend the rules for a man of such stature ?
The Sussex Square Homeowner’s Association really needs to put their little rule book aside for once and honor this true American Hero and our Flag.
Was Michael Monsoor a Muslim? Well that’s the impression a person might get after reading the November 9, 2009 New York Times article “Complications Grow for Muslims Serving in U.S. Military”, by Andrea Elliott.
For those unfamiliar with Michael Monsoor. He was the Navy Seal who unselfishly gave his life, in order to save his fellow Seals, when he jumped on a live grenade on September 29, 2006. He was the only one, in a roof top overlook, who could have escaped unharmed that day, yet he chose to give his life instead. In doing so he not only overcame his own instinct of self preservation but he actually went against what SEALS are trained to do in such circumstances.
Those who survived described him as “never taking his eyes off the grenade” and always moving down and toward the explosive. The most moving tribute to Monsoor came from one of the SEALS who survived. “Mikey looked death in the face that day,” he recounted, “and said, ‘you cannot take my brothers, I will go in their stead.’”
Let all tongues be mute.
Now we have the opposite thing take place on the largest Army base in the world when another soldier, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, turned his weapons on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood; thirteen were left dead in his wake of destruction. As he was carrying out this massacre, Hasan was reported to be continually yelling “Allah Akbar”, the same thing Muslim extremist scream as they cut off the heads of their American victims.
There are those who refuse to see the religious motivations for the actions of Hasan, but what writer Andrea Elliott does in her November 9th article simply goes beyond the pale.
She tells of the woes Muslims face in the military but then ends the article by showing the great contribution, by people of the Muslim religion, that are often overlooked. Among those she cites is a soldier who received the Bronze Star. This soldier pointed out how “many Americans overlook the heroic efforts of Muslims in uniform.” The prime example he gave was that of Michael Monsoor.
Michael Monsoor was of Lebanese descent and he was a practicing Roman Catholic. His godmother personally told me, in an interview for my article No Greater Love, that he frequented the sacraments. His attendance at Sunday mass left such an impression on those who served with him, that they sometimes joined him. Besides attending mass he also frequented the sacrament of confession. He was an exemplary individual in many ways but most especially by his practice of his Catholic faith. To insinuate in any way the he was Muslim is a gross ignorance of the facts and misleading for the reader.
A two minute search on Google is all that is needed to find out the facts I have narrated in this article. Why did Mrs. Elliott not take the time to research who Michael Monsoor was before allowing such a gross misrepresentation of the man in our nation’s most prominent newspaper.
What is so insulting about all of this is the contrast between the actions of the two men. Maj. Hasan was, from what every report indicates, full of hatred, whereas Michael Monsoor was motivated by the purest of love, a love which was said to have no equal by our Savior Himself: “No Greater Love.”
Andrea Elliott owes an apology to the Monsoor parents and to the American people. Heroes of the caliber of Michael Monsoor are extremely rare in the world we live in. He was young, handsome, strong and had his whole life ahead of him when he stepped onto the Ramadi rooftop that day in 2006. He had everything life can offer and in the blinking of an eye he gave all of it up. He was given a choice to save himself or his friends. He chose, in a split second, to save his friends. He is an example for us all and he deserves better than this.
Note: Since the original posting of this article, the New York Times published a correction on November 11, 2009.
Comments of Medal of Honor Recipient, General Patrick H. Brady US Army (Ret.) on Colonel John W. Ripley and the book “An American Knight.”
“I have never known anyone with enduring repetitive courage who was not also a person of faith. In combat my faith was for me a substitute for fear; it was a source of comfort, calm and courage — it allowed me to do things that for me would have otherwise been impossible. John Ripley was also a man of faith. It was clearly the source of his extraordinary physical and moral courage. He was a true hero, not a celebrity. Not only a person who performed acts of courage, rather he was a good person who performed acts of courage. Only when you combine courage with goodness do you have a true hero. His goodness crowned his courage and defined his character which marked him as an extraordinary example for those who follow the warriors path.
“It is for this reason that I highly recommend Norman Fulkerson’s book on John Ripley, An American Knight, to all who seek to understand heroism.
General Patrick H. Brady, US Army (Ret.)
Medal of Honor Recipient
On the evening of October 8, 2009, Marine Raider, Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell died as his home after a valiant struggle with brain cancer. Although his name might not mean much to most people, he was a member of a very special group of Marines who fought in World War II. They were the ground breakers for our modern day special forces. It was their job during the first weeks of the war to conduct surprise attacks behind enemy lines. The men who formed this unit were simply known as “The Raiders”.
“They were the first American combat forces to wear camouflage, to operate at night and to be trained in martial arts and knife fighting…Although the Raiders were in business for only two years as specialized units, their actions became the stuff of legend. A look at their decorations for individual acts of valor tells the tale.”
In their brief existence, seven Marine Raiders earned our nations highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor and another 138 were awarded the Navy Cross.
If the reader will take the time to watch the videos I have provided on the these unique group of Marines, you will see clips of Sergeant O’Donnell. What impressed me most about the man was that, although he was a true warrior, he possessed a refreshing unpretentiousness.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Shusko, USMC (Ret.), director of the Marine Corps Martial Arts program at Quantico, was with Sergeant O’Donnell before he died and took the took time to speak with me by phone. Shusko said he looked upon the late warrior as a grandfather, then went on to tell me how he would describe the man for those who did not have the pleasure to know him.
“I tell folks that if they look in the American dictionary for the definition of the word gentleman, they will find a picture of Ken O’Donnell.” On this day we should all remember Sergeant Kenneth O’Donnell, a proud member of the Marine Corps Raiders; a gentleman and a warrior.
Sergeant O’Donnell was 85 at the time of his death. Our sincere condolences to his wife Mary Jane.
May he rest in peace.
 Marine Raiders Honored at Quantico with Bricks, Museum http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0809/651685.html