Great Military Stories

Famous Marine Corps Unit: 1st Marine Raider Battalion

Famous Marine Corps Unit: 1st Marine Raider Battalion

"Always Faithful, Always Forward" The Early History of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion The year was 1942, and a new type of unit was born in the US Marine Corps. Edson's 1st Raider Battalion was designated, and several days later, Carlson's 2d Raider Battalion was named. Later in the year, Liversedge's 3rd Raider Battalion and Roosevelt's 4th Raider Battalion were created. One hundred seventy-five members of Marines TWS are part of the United States Marine Raiders Association as members of one or more of the four Marine Raider Battalions during their respective periods of existence between 16 Feb 1942 and 31 Jan 1944 based on the Master U.S. Marine Raider Roster which contains about 7,710 Marine and 368 Navy personnel. As of 2023, a USMC battalion strength was about 900. Also, 127 current MTWS members had been assigned to the 1st Marine Raider Bn. A special TWS forum dedicated entirely to the late Raymond Louis Merrell (Sgt. USMC) titled "Raider Ray's Remembrances" includes...

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Vince Speranza’s Epic Beer Run During the Siege of Bastogne

Vince Speranza’s Epic Beer Run During the Siege of Bastogne

The Siege of Bastogne was one of the most crucial fights of World War II, and it came amid the largest battle the U.S. Army has ever fought – the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans caught the Americans by surprise on Dec. 16, 1944, mustering more than 400,000 men, 550 tanks, and hundreds of other vehicles for one last offensive. The goal was to push the Allies back toward the sea and recapture the critical port of Antwerp.  The Siege of Bastogne: Defending Against the German Forces German forces overwhelmed American defenses as they poured through the Ardennes Forest, forcing the retreat of tens of thousands of shocked American soldiers. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower knew his supply lines were already thin, a blizzard negated Allied air superiority and the Ardennes area was full of green and exhausted troops – some who had been fighting since D-Day. Eisenhower declared that holding the Belgian city of Bastogne would be the single most important mission of the battle and sent the 101st...

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The First Battle of Fallujah

The First Battle of Fallujah

In the earliest years of the Iraq War, the city of Fallujah was one of the most contested cities in the country, but it didn't start out that way. Local citizens had taken control of maintaining order in the city, but a series of misunderstandings between Coalition forces and local leaders soon led to violence and outrage. At the end of March 2004, four private military contractors were massacred and mutilated by insurgents there. The same day, five American soldiers were killed by a massive explosive device near Habbaniyah while en route to Fallujah. The U.S. military decided something needed to be done.  The First Battle of Fallujah: The Surge Begins On April 4, 2004, the U.S. launched a massive operation to capture or kill those responsible for murdering Blackwater contractors and the five American troops while pacifying the city. An estimated 10,000 troops, including U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne, 10th Mountain Division, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd...

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Famous Coast Guard Unit: USCGC Ironwood (WAGL/WLB-297/NRPN)

Famous Coast Guard Unit: USCGC Ironwood (WAGL/WLB-297/NRPN)

On March 31, 1941, Marine Iron and Shipbuilding in Duluth, Minnesota, laid the keel for the first Coast Guard vessel of a Mesquite new buoy tender class, joining the so-called "Black Hull" fleet. The new vessel measured 180 feet overall and had a beam of 37 feet at the extreme. She had a displacement of 935 tons and drew 12 feet. Marine Iron and Shipbuilding made all but one, the Coast Guard cutter Ironwood (USCGC Ironwood), coming in for $1,388,277, was built at the USCG yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland, and was launched and commissioned in 1943.  USCGC Ironwood in the Pacific Theater After shakedown, USCGC Ironwood departed Norfolk for War in the Pacific, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia, via Bora Bora and Pago Pago in March 1944. During World War II, the Ironwood and her sister ships covered thousands of miles of open ocean, working to establish LORAN stations, moving and establishing mooring buoys, and carrying cargo, mail, and personnel between South Pacific islands. "Some...

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The Fall of Rome

The Fall of Rome

In any normal war, capturing an enemy capital would capture the imagination of soldiers and the public back home. During World War II, capturing the capital of one of the original members of the Axis Pact should have been a defining moment. That moment was overshadowed by another defining moment: D-Day, the amphibious invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.   When the Allies captured Rome on June 4, 1944, however, the city was open because most of the fighting had taken place along the way – and the Allied soldiers paid dearly for their efforts almost the entire way. The Fall of Rome: A Pivotal Yet Overshadowed Victory of WWII Having kicked the Axis out of North Africa in 1943, the Western Allies' next target was Sicily, a resounding success that captured the island in just five weeks. They then prepared to move on to Italy, Europe's "soft underbelly" (as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it). Their victory on Sicily caused the overthrow of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini,...

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The Cast of Band of Brothers Jumps into Normandy on the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

The Cast of Band of Brothers Jumps into Normandy on the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

For the first time in 82 years, airborne training returned to Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Between March 25-30, 2024, eight actors from the hit HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" conducted airborne qualification training in preparation for jumping twice into Normandy, France, on June 3 and June 8, 2024, as part of the commemoration for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. D-Day Commemoration: Actors from "Band of Brothers" Prepare for Historic Jumps The actors' experiences are being captured in a feature documentary called "The Jump: Currahee to Normandy." Numerous non-profit organizations, including the All Airborne Battalion, Tunison Foundation, and Walk Among Heroes, are supporting the project. The original soldiers depicted in the "Band of Brothers" miniseries were first made famous by historian Stephen Ambrose in his 1992 book "Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest." Though none of the original members of Easy Company...

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Pvt. Salem Poor, Continental Army (1775-1780)

Pvt. Salem Poor, Continental Army (1775-1780)

In June 1775, colonial patriots in Boston got wind of a British plan to occupy the hills outside the city, which would give the redcoats control of Boston Harbor. British troops occupied the city, but control of the surrounding hills would give the rebels the ability to lay siege to Boston and force the British occupiers out, so they took control of those hills and began to build fortifications. The main defenses were on the hill closest to the city, Breed's Hill. Once the colonials began reinforcing the position, British forces under Gen. William Howe set out to attack and capture it with 3,000 men. Col. William Prescott led the colonial defense with just 1,200 men in what would be remembered (in a weird twist of history) as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Among those defenders was a Black man named Salem Poor, who would become one of the most celebrated Soldiers of the entire American Revolution.  Salem Poor: From Slavery to Freedom Poor was born into slavery in the Massachusetts Bay...

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The War of 1812

The War of 1812

The War of 1812 is a relatively little-known war in American history, but it is also one of its most important. It lasted from June 1812 to February 1815, and was fought between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, its North American colonies, and its Native American allies. It also defined the presidency of James Madison, known as the "Father of the Constitution." Despite its complicated causes and inconclusive outcome, the conflict helped establish the credibility of the young United States internationally. It also fostered a strong sense of pride among the American people that is reflected and preserved in one of the fledgling nation's most famous patriotic songs, the U.S. national anthem.  Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy's forced impressment of as many as 10,000 American merchant sailors, and America's desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian...

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Famous Navy Unit: USS Parche (SS-384)

Famous Navy Unit: USS Parche (SS-384)

The first USS Parche (SS-384) was a United States Navy submarine. She bore the name of a butterfly fish, one of at least 114 species. Butterfly fish have a large spot that looks like an eye on the tail end of their body. Their natural eye is often much smaller or camouflaged within other body markings. This is to trick a predator into thinking the fish will move in the direction of the false eye, thereby giving the small fish a chance to escape capture. USS Parche: World War II Exploits and Commander's Bravery USS Parche (Sp. pronunciation Pahr-cheh) was a Balao class submarine used during World War II. One hundred and twenty boats completed of that type, the largest class of submarines in the United States Navy. An improvement on the earlier Gato class, these boats had slight internal differences. The most significant improvement was the use of thicker, higher yield strength steel in the pressure hull skins and frames. Her first Commander, Lawson Paterson "Red" Ramage's, famous...

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Cinco De Mayo is About Celebrating a Battle, But Has Nothing to Do With The US Military

Cinco De Mayo is About Celebrating a Battle, But Has Nothing to Do With The US Military

Americans love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It's hard to imagine there's anyone who doesn't love to sip margaritas or Coronas at their favorite Mexican restaurant. Some of us probably even partake in a little dancing. However, for many Americans, the origin of this celebration of Mexican culture is a little unclear.  Cinco de Mayo: Historical Significance and Misconceptions Some think it has to do with the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, and they're not entirely wrong—it was a display of resistance from those who opposed the war. Some believe it's a celebration of Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually on the 16th of September. The holiday commemorates a military victory, but it is not a victory for the United States.  The Battle of Puebla In 1862, as the U.S. was fighting the Civil War, Mexico was fighting a French invasion. Because its economy had been wracked by a civil war of its own, the Mexican government instituted a two-year moratorium on its loans to...

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The German Wehrmacht and U.S. Army Fought the Nazi SS Together at Itter Castle

The German Wehrmacht and U.S. Army Fought the Nazi SS Together at Itter Castle

On May 3, 1945, a Yugoslavian handyman walked out of Nazi Germany's Itter Prison on a 40-mile trek to Innsbruck (in what is today Austria). His mission was to find any American troops he could and get them back to the castle. Itter Castle was a prison for the Reich's most high-value prisoners, including the sister of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and former French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier.  The Imminent Threat to Itter Castle With the end of the war soon coming, the prisoners had taken control of Castle Itter but knew that Hitler's most fanatical troops, the Waffen-SS, were still fighting – and were still a threat. They were right to be concerned. The 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division was operating in the area, killing military-age males and executing anyone who surrendered to the Allies. They now had their sights set on taking Itter and killing everyone inside. A motley crew of American tankers, French prisoners, German soldiers, and a former SS commander would fight the SS...

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MSgt John F. Baker, Jr., U.S. Army (1966-1989)

MSgt John F. Baker, Jr., U.S. Army (1966-1989)

One of the most daunting jobs of the Vietnam War – if not all of military history – was that of the "Tunnel Rats." These brave men were tasked with entering tunnels dug by the Viet Cong as forward operating bases. Once inside these enemy strongholds, they would embark on search and destroy missions, clearing the underground complexes of any men and materiel with only a sidearm, bayonet, some explosives, and a flashlight for seeing in the dark depths.  Facing the Dangers of the Tunnels Enemy troops weren't the only dangers lurking in the tunnels beneath the jungles of Vietnam. They had to contend with scorpions, rats, snakes, booby traps, and flooded compartments – and it's not as if they had a lot of room to maneuver once inside. Illinois native John F. Baker joined the Army in 1966. He would leave Vietnam with a Medal of Honor citation. What he did didn't happen in the tunnels, but it might have been the tunnels which made him a fearless combatant in the face of the enemy.  John F....

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