Great Military Stories

SFC Leigh Ann Hester, U.S. Army (2001-Present)

SFC Leigh Ann Hester, U.S. Army (2001-Present)

On the morning of March 20, 2005, then-Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was tasked with assisting a supply convoy moving east of Baghdad, a job that meant scanning and clearing the route of any improvised explosive devices. She'd done this job countless times before, getting shot at on almost a daily basis and seeing vehicles blown up more times than anyone would like to remember. Leigh Ann Hester Was Cited for Valor in Close Quarter Combat Executing daily patrols as a member of the National Guard's Kentucky-based 617th Military Police Company meant guaranteed exposure to combat, something the Pentagon, until an order was signed in 2013, was not even allowing women to officially engage in as an occupational specialty. "It was that one job where you can get out there and get dirty and be in an infantry-type environment," she told the Tennessean in 2015. "I guess it was one of the more exciting jobs in the military for women when I enlisted, and it still is now." As such, Hester's resolve in the...

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George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

World War II was a total war, meaning that once the United States entered the war, everyone fought it somehow. The troops, of course, did the fighting, but civilians on the home front made sacrifices, collected scrap and grew gardens to keep food fresh for the soldiers and sailors on the real front. There was also the American workforce, who built the machines and materials needed to do the job. From the very moment the U.S. was thrust into World War II, civilians were ready to do their part. There were some like George Walters who literally fought in World War II, even though he wasn't wearing a uniform. Walters was a dock worker at Pearl Harbor who happened to be on duty when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941. What he did that day may not have changed the outcome, but it made sure some Japanese airmen didn't make it to the victory celebration. George Walters: A Hero Who Worked on a 50-Ton Crane Walters was born in Colorado but came to Hawaii...

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Why Americans Use Yellow Ribbons To Support the Troops?

Why Americans Use Yellow Ribbons To Support the Troops?

You just can't keep a good tradition down. The good stuff will always come back up to the top in the ebb and flow of history. Using yellow ribbons to remember the troops is based on that kind of tradition. The Use of a Yellow Ribbons in American Popular Culture There are a lot of myths and legends surrounding when ribbons were first tied on, why the color yellow is used, and where exactly one is supposed to tie the ribbon. Those legends are only a part of the full story. For centuries, people have used items with special meaning to remember loved ones while they are away, whether they're at war or not. The use of a yellow ribbon in American popular culture first appears in a folk song, "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon." This song can be traced as far back as 1838 and as far away as the United Kingdom. Versions of the song have appeared and reappeared in American culture ever since. It emerged once again in 1917, as the United States entered World War I as "Round Her Neck She...

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WW1 – The Christmas Truce of 1914

WW1 – The Christmas Truce of 1914

During World War I, in the bitter winter of 1914, on the battlefields of Flanders, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, safe in muddy, man-made trenches six to eight feet deep that seemed to stretch forever. The Sudden Christmas Truce During World War I All of a sudden, German troops began to put small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing songs. Across the way, in the "no man's land" between them came songs from the British and French troops. Incredibly, many of the Germans, who had worked in England before the war, were able to speak good enough English to propose a "Christmas" truce. A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers left their trenches, meeting in the middle in fortified trenches to shake hands. The first order of business was to bury the dead who had been previously unreachable because of the conflict....

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Heroes of The Coast Guard: Munro and Evans

Heroes of The Coast Guard: Munro and Evans

Within days of their Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy occupied scores of islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Japan's goal was to create a defensive buffer against attack from the United States and its Allies - one that would ensure their mastery over East Asia and the Pacific. It wasn't until the United States' strategic victories at the Battles of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7, 1942) finally halted the Japanese Empire's expansion that the Allies were free to unleash an offensive. The strategically-located Solomon Island chain, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and critical to protecting the supply lines between the U.S. and Australia, was selected as the place to begin the island-hopping offensive campaign to take the Pacific back from the Japanese. The Solomon Island operation, America's first amphibious operation since 1898, lasted six months and consisted of a number of major battles - on land, at sea, and...

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WW2 – Battle Of the Aleutian Islands

WW2 – Battle Of the Aleutian Islands

In June 1942, six months after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into World War II, the Japanese targeted the Aleutians, an American-owned chain of remote, sparsely inhabited, volcanic islands extending some 1,200 miles west of the Alaskan Peninsula. After reaching the Aleutians, the Japanese conducted airstrikes on Dutch Harbor, the site of two American military bases, on June 3 and June 4. The Japanese then made landfall at Kiska Island on June 6 and Attu Island, approximately 200 miles away, on June 7. Japanese troops quickly established military bases on both islands, which had belonged to the U.S. since it purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. The Aleutians to Have Little Military or Strategic Value Like the other volcanic islands in the Aleutians, Attu and Kiska appeared to have little military or strategic value because of their barren, mountainous terrain and harsh weather, infamous for its sudden dense fogs, high winds, rains, and frequent snow. Some...

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The Fall of Tenochtitlan

The Fall of Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was an amazing city and larger than any in Europe at the time and held approximately 200,000 people with some estimates as high as 350,000. Built over 100 years or so on Lake Texcoco, the city was impressively organized. Being built on the lake meant that land platforms were created as needed in an orderly fashion leaving clean canal streets for canoe traffic and multiple bridges and paths for pedestrians. Each neighborhood was distinct and had its required services from schools to garbage collectors. The city also had fabulous amenities befitting a great city. Huge gardens were popular and the city zoo and aquariums held wildlife from all over Mesoamerica. Fresh spring water flowed through several aqueducts along the three long causeways that connected the city to the north, west and south shores. Among the beauty of Tenochtitlan was a great amount of war and death. The large central temple complex usually held daily sacrifices and many of the different gods required...

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The Marine Corps Memorial

The Marine Corps Memorial

The Battle of Iwo Jima is one of the most important battles in the history of the Marine Corps. More than 26,000 United States Marines were killed or wounded for the strategically vital eight square miles of the island. It allowed the United States to attack the Japanese home islands from the air without warning and become the staging point for the coming invasion of Japan. It also came to define the modern Marine Corps. The image of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi became the iconic memorial to all Marines who gave their lives for their country since 1775.  The Marine Corps Memorial and the Mysterious 13th Hand The Marine Corps Memorial also birthed one of the Corps’ most enduring myths - that of the mysterious 13th hand. Iwo Jima was the modern Marine Corps’ finest 36 days. More Medals of Honor were awarded there than any other single battle in American history, 27 to Marines and five to Navy Corpsmen. A full 20% of the Medals of Honor awarded in World War II...

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Does the U.S. Military Really Use Saltpeter to Calm the Urges of Basic Trainees?

Does the U.S. Military Really Use Saltpeter to Calm the Urges of Basic Trainees?

This old legend might be the first military myth new recruits come across, and it might have been around for as long as saltpeter itself. Despite the combined efforts of science, health education, and common sense, somehow, the myth of the military adding saltpeter to the food or beverages in basic training still persists.  History with Using Nitrated Sodium Salts Why would the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps do such a thing? The legend says they would add saltpeter to any or all of the food served in order to control the sexual urges of its young recruits.  Saltpeter has gone by a number of names, including "nitrated sodium salts" or simply "niter." It is a historically critical component of the black powder used in early firearms. Chemically, it would either be called potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate. Either one is effective in the use of explosives.  What it's not effective at is keeping a large group of 18-22 year-old military recruits from...

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Civil War – The Battle of Nashville

Civil War – The Battle of Nashville

On Dec. 15, 1864, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood had the unfortunate job of going up against the Union's only undefeated general officer, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. Thomas, nicknamed "The Rock of Chickamauga" for preventing a disaster for the Union in 1863, would keep that record throughout the Civil War. After the two-day Battle of Nashville, his nickname would become "The Sledge of Nashville," after he effectively destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Sherman's Famous March to the Sea Aft Hood failed to prevent Gen. William T. Sherman's forces from destroying Atlanta; he sought to disrupt Sherman's supply lines by moving north to Chattanooga. Sherman instead conducted his now-famous March to the Sea, instead leaving Gen. Thomas to secure Tennessee. Hood would have been better off against Sherman.  In moving north, he chased Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's army to Nashville, where the Union forces retreated into the fortified city, which had been in Union hands since...

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Mary Walker: Civil War’s Only Woman Doctor

Mary Walker: Civil War’s Only Woman Doctor

Mary Edwards Walker, was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war and surgeon. She is also the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor. Mary Walker Became the Army's First Female Surgeon Prior to the American Civil War, she earned her medical degree, married, and started a medical practice. The practice didn't do well, and at the outbreak of the War Between the States, she volunteered with the Union Army as a surgeon. Despite her training, however, she initially had to work as a nurse. At the time Union Army Examining Board felt women and sectarian physicians were considered unfit as surgeons. Proving her skills as a physician, she eventually became the Army's first female surgeon while serving with the 52nd Ohio Infantry. Known to cross enemy lines in order to treat civilians, she may have been serving as a spy when Confederate troops captured her in the summer of 1864 and sent to Castle Thunder, a converted tobacco warehouse for...

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LtCol Gene Hambleton, U.S. Air Force (1943-1972)

LtCol Gene Hambleton, U.S. Air Force (1943-1972)

On April 2, 1972, the third day of the Easter Offensive, the largest combined arms operation of the entire Vietnam War, 53-year-old Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal 'Gene' Hambleton was a navigator aboard one of two United States Air Force EB-66 aircraft escorting three B-52s. Bat 21, the call sign for Hambleton's aircraft, was configured to gather signals intelligence, including identifying North Vietnamese anti-aircraft radar installations to enable jamming. (Photo is Bat 21 in Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.) During Bat 21 Gene Hambleton was the Only Survivor Midway through the operation, Bat 21 was destroyed by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, and Hambleton was the only survivor, parachuting behind the front lines into a battlefield filled with thousands of North Vietnamese Army soldiers. The bodies of the aircrew were never found. Because of Hambleton's knowledge of Top Secret Strategic Air Command operations and an expert in surface-to-air missile countermeasures, his rescue...

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