Great Military Stories

SFC Fred Willam Zabitosky, U.S. Army (1959-1989) – MOH Recipient

SFC Fred Willam Zabitosky, U.S. Army (1959-1989) – MOH Recipient

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SFC Fred Zabitosky, US Army, distinguished himself while serving as an assistant team leader of a nine-man Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrol. SFC Zabitosky's patrol was operating deep within the enemy-controlled territory in Laos when they were attacked by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army unit.  SFC Fred Zabitosky Repeatedly Exposed Himself to North Vietnamese Attackts SFC Fred Zabitosky rallied his team members, deployed them into defensive positions, and, exposing himself to concentrated enemy automatic weapons fire, directed their return fire. Realizing the gravity of the situation, SFC Zabitosky ordered his patrol to move to a landing zone for helicopter extraction while he covered their withdrawal with rifle fire and grenades. Rejoining the patrol under increasing enemy pressure, he positioned each man in tight perimeter defense and...

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WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

The Battle of Wake Island was fought December 8-23, 1941, during the opening days of World War II. A tiny atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, Wake Island was annexed by the United States in 1899. Located between Midway and Guam, the island was not permanently settled until 1935 when Pan American Airways built a town and hotel to service their trans-Pacific China Clipper flights. Consisting of three small islets, Wake, Peale, and Wilkes, Wake Island was to the north of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and east of Guam. As tensions with Japan rose in the late 1930s, the U.S. Navy began efforts to fortify the island. Work on an airfield and defensive positions began in January 1941. The following month, as part of Executive Order 8682, the Wake Island Naval Defensive Sea Area was created which limited maritime traffic around the island to U.S. military vessels and those approved by the Secretary of the Navy. An accompanying Wake Island Naval Airspace Reservation was also established...

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Civil War – The Battle of Chattanooga

Civil War – The Battle of Chattanooga

The November 1863 Battle of Chattanooga was a series of battles that were fought over the course of three days. It was also a series of battles that probably should have never happened in the first place. Around the same time, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captured the key city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Union Army defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg; Gen. William Rosecrans managed to defeat Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga, forcing the south out of middle Tennessee. But Rosecrans failed to follow up on his big win in good time. When he finally did, he was soundly beaten at Chickamauga and pushed back to Chattanooga. Gen. Thomas: The Hero of The Battle of Chattanooga It was only because of Gen. George Henry Thomas’ determined stand at Chickamauga in September 1863 that the Union Army avoided destruction. Chattanooga was an important transportation hub at the time critical to both the Union and the Confederates. There was no going around it: both sides needed the city....

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The Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers

Ever since the premiere of "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, there's been a little bit of confusion around how and why the Army might want to pull one of its soldiers out of a combat zone, even if all of his many brothers were killed in combat.  During World War II, there were very few exemptions to the military draft. Most of the time, potential recruits were rejected for things like medical issues, having jobs critical to the war effort, or religious exemptions. It wasn't until after the war that the Department of Defense began considering things like families losing multiple sons in combat.  "Saving Private Ryan" was loosely based on the story of the four Niland Brothers. Edward Niland's B-25 Mitchell Bomber was shot down over Burma in May 1945, and he was considered killed in action (he was later liberated from a Japanese POW camp). Brothers Preston and Robert Niland were both killed at Normandy in June 1944. Sgt. William "Fritz" Niland was with the famed 501st Parachute Infantry...

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Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Kurt Chew-Een Lee is believed to have been the first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps, rising through the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.  Lee was born in 1926 in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. Lee's father was M. Young Lee, born in Guangzhou (Canton), emigrating in the 1920s to the Territory of Hawaii and then California. Once established in America, M. Young Lee returned to China to honor an arranged marriage. He brought his bride to California and worked as a distributor of fruits and vegetables to hotels and restaurants. Two of his brothers, Chew-Fan and Chew-Mon, became Army officers who also served in the Korean War. Chew-Mon received the Distinguished Service Cross and Chew-Fan the Bronze Star. Kurt Chew-Een Lee Joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944 Eager to fight in World War II, Kurt Chew-Een Lee joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944. Instead, he was based at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a...

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Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

VFA-31 (Strike Fighter Squadron 31) is the second oldest Navy attack fighter squadron. Known as the Tomcatters with the call sign "Felix," it is currently based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. It flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet. "V" stands for fixed wing, "F" stands for fighter, and "A" stands for attack. Chief Of Naval Operations Instruction (OPNAVINST) governs the squadron designation system. The Navy's oldest currently active squadron is VFA-14, and it has been redesignated 15 times since it was established in 1919. The Enduring Tale of Felix and the Tomcatters Over the history of U. S. Naval Aviation, many designations have been used multiple times, resulting in numerous unrelated squadrons bearing the same designation at different times. The use of letter abbreviations for squadrons was promulgated in the "Naval Aeronautic Organization for Fiscal Year 1923," which is the first known record associating the abbreviated Aircraft Class Designations (V-heavier than...

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The First Air-to-Space Kill

The First Air-to-Space Kill

Even before the creation of the U.S. Space Force, American military leaders have had to grapple with what a war in space might look like and what we would need to be successful. In 2022, Russia launched what U.S. intelligence believes to be an orbital anti-satellite weapon into space. China is thought to be pursuing a range of anti-satellite weapons.  The F-15 Eagle: The Triumph in Cold War Skies While that may seem surprising to some and downright frightening to others, it's important to remember that the U.S. has had the capability to shoot satellites out of orbit for almost 40 years – and it didn't require advanced rocketry, fuels, or some kind of secret weapons to do it, either.  About 50 years ago, the U.S. Air Force's newest air superiority fighter took to the skies for the first time. The F-15 Eagle was intended to take lessons learned from the Vietnam War while creating a fighter that could match the power, altitude, and speed of the Soviet Union's newest...

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Three American Battles Fought on Christmas

Three American Battles Fought on Christmas

In the days before industrialized warfare, armies would hole up in winter months, as colder temperatures and harsher weather limited the mobility and food quantities of forces on campaigns. Even after the rise of industry, mechanized warfare, and powered flight, the operational tempo of fighting seems to have slowed down slightly.  Christmas is a national holiday for the United States (even celebrated by most non-Christian Americans), and so having a combat operation is rare. Even more rare is a pitched battle. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Wars stop for no one, and if the timing is right, one side or another is going to strike, and American troops are no exception. Here are three times the United States decided to give the enemy a taste of defeat for Christmas.  The Battle of Trenton (1776) By the end of the year 1776, things weren't looking so great for Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army. They had beaten the British in Boston but were walloped in...

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Col. Robert Lewis Howard, U.S. Army (1956-1992)

Col. Robert Lewis Howard, U.S. Army (1956-1992)

The last time someone received a second Medal of Honor was in World War I, and it's unlikely we'll ever see another two-time recipient in our lifetime. But if anyone were going to come close to receiving multiple Medals of Honor, it would have been U.S. Army Col. Robert Lewis Howard. During his 54 months of active combat service in Vietnam, he was wounded an astonishing 14 times and received eight Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars. He was also nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in 13 months, the only soldier ever to receive three nominations. Two of those were downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star because his actions took place in Cambodia, where the United States wasn't technically at war. He would be awarded the medal on his third nomination, forever changing his life and career.  Robert L. Howard's Service in Vietnam Alabama-born Howard enlisted in the Army in 1956 and would spend the rest of his working life serving his country. Some 36 of...

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Marine Corps Mascot Chesty XVI Gets Promoted to Private First Class

Marine Corps Mascot Chesty XVI Gets Promoted to Private First Class

Like any other Marine, Chesty XVI, the Marine Corps' Devil Dog mascot, has been promoted after six months of honorable, satisfactory service. Unlike every other Marine, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro dressed him for the event. Chesty XVI and Marine Corps Tradition Chesty XVI is an English bulldog, the mascot of the United States Marine Corps. He took over for his predecessor in a relief and appointment ceremony in May 2022. Lance Cpl. Chesty XV was a little too rambunctious, so the Corps decided to make him a terminal lance after a four-year enlistment. Chesty XV isn't the only mascot who's caused a scene. Sgt. Chesty XIII snarled at Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's golden retriever in 2012. Cpl. Chesty VI was demoted to Private in 1979 for destroying government property and disobeying a direct order. He was NJP-ed a year later for biting two corporals. Chesty II went AWOL on multiple occasions. So far, the Marine Corps says Chesty XVI is a much more disciplined Marine, hence his...

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Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Stories of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington are legion, many founded in fact, including how he led the legendary Black Sheep squadron, and how he served in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, the famed Flying Tigers. He spent a year and a half as a Japanese POW, was awarded the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, and was recognized as a Marine Corps top ace. Always hard-drinking and hard-living, Pappy's post-war life was as turbulent as his wartime experiences. Biography of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington Born on Dec.4, 1912, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, young Boyington had a rough childhood, as divorced parents, an alcoholic step-father, and lots of moves withheld much-needed parental guidance. He got his first ride in an airplane at the ripe young age of six, when the famous barnstormer, Clyde Pangborn (who later flew the Pacific non-stop), flew his Jenny into town, and young Gregory wangled a ride. What a thrill for a little kid! In 1926, at the age of 13, his family moved to Tacoma,...

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Civil War – The Battle of Fort Donelson

Civil War – The Battle of Fort Donelson

After the successful siege of Fort Henry by Federal troops on February 6th, 1862, the Confederate forces hurried back to the neighboring Fort Donelson, which was located a few miles away. The Federals sought control over the waterways of Cumberland and Tennessee, knowing full well the advantage that it would afford them in the Western Theater of the Civil War. scan from 4x5 color copy transparency The chief agitator of the move to conquer the forts was Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had sent several telegrams to his superior officer, Maj. Gen. Henry Wager Halleck. In his messages, he urged Halleck to deliver his consent to besiege the forts along the Cumberland and Tennessee waterways, all without favorable response. Despite being a very successful commander in the Civil War, Halleck had little faith in Grant, fearing him to be very irrational in his thinking. Once Grant's requests were backed up by Flag Officer, A.H. Foote, the petitions made by Grant were accepted. ...

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