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Posts from the ‘military history’ Category


The Civil War’s Bloodiest Battle

By LtCol Mike Christy

Together We Served Dispatches


On July 3, 1863, the three-day Battle of Gettysburg ended, leaving behind an estimated 51,000 total casualties – the highest number of any battle in the Civil War.

Following a series of military successes in Virginia, Confederate general Robert E. Lee took his troops north in June 1863 into south-central Pennsylvania. Lee was unaware until late June that the Union’s Army of the Potomac, under General George G. Meade, had followed his army north, as Lee’s cavalry, under JEB Stuart, was separated from the main body of the army and was thus unable to provide intel on the enemy’s movements.

On July 1, elements of Lee’s army came up against Union cavalry by chance outside the town of Gettysburg and fighting broke out. Both sides received reinforcements, and the Confederates were eventually able to push back the Federals to the south of Gettysburg. During the evening and the following morning, both sides gathered the rest of their armies, for a total of 83,000 Union troops and 75,000 Confederate.

At the commencement of fighting the following afternoon, July 2, the Union army was arranged like a fishhook, with the Confederates surrounding them to the north and west in roughly the same shape. The 2nd saw bloody fighting on the Union left and center, but despite high casualties, the Union was generally able to repulse the Confederates. Fighting also occurred on the Union right later that evening and continued after dark in a rare night battle.

On the 3rd, the Confederates once again launched an attack on the Union right, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Then, following a massive artillery bombardment, Lee attacked the Union center in what is commonly known as Pickett’s Charge. During this attack, approximately 12,000 Confederate troops crossed nearly a mile of open ground to attack Union positions but were decimated by Union fire. The Confederates who made it to the enemy lines managed to briefly break through, but they were eventually repulsed. Also on this day, the Confederate cavalry – which had arrived on the afternoon of the 2nd – was put into action off the Union right flank, but with little result.

On the 4th, Lee waited for Meade’s counterattack on his position, but it never came, so Lee’s army withdrew back over the Potomac. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the war, with 23,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate. It is often considered the turning point in the war and commonly referred to as the “high tide” of the Confederacy.


Bases, Places and Memories: Memorable Flights

By GySgt Paul Moore, USMC (Ret)
WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veteran
I had several memorable flights in the 50 years of flights in both Helicopters and before them the old stiff wings. My first attention getter was in the old Bi-Wing UPF 7 in Primary Flight Training. We had 12 of them parked on an old dirt field located outside Fort Worth Texas in early 1944. We arrived there each day on a bus and then pre-flight our assigned aircraft for our daily flight. This was all a one man operation.

After the preflight, we’d climbed up on the wing left side and with a crank wound up the old inertial starter. We threw the crank down on the ground, jumped in the cockpit, moved the mixture to full rich, cranked the throttle just over Idle, turned the primer to the top cylinders then pulled the toggle to engage the starter motor. Then hope it would fire up or go through that routine again!

After the start, I’d run up to full power check and reached that point then fluctuated. I thought well, that’s not good but if I down the aircraft meant I wouldn’t fly that day. With that unwise decision, I taxied out & took off for our training area which carried me over the outskirts of Fort Worth. Regulations required an altitude not lower than 500 ft over those areas. I went to about 800 ft and the engine dropped back to idle!! I started rapidly moving both the mixture & the throttle FW and Aft and it caught up momentarily then back to idle which required me to drop the nose & start a downward descent to avoid stalling out.

I looked in all directions and it was city streets and houses. I could do nothing but continue my descent without a clue in or on what I was going to land! I had the old seat parachute but altitude and where the aircraft would hit precluded any use of the chute. I was at about 200-foot altitude when I saw the high tension wires in front of me. I pulled the nose up and cleared the wires but lost my forward airspeed and did the only thing left in that mode; lowered the nose and prepared to make a 3 point stall landing!!

To my complete surprise, I was over the railroad tracks that went from Fort Worth to Dallas. I landed alongside the rails in some very tall weeds and came to a stop almost against a building. Would you believe it was a small beer joint on the outskirts named “Blondies.” As I was landing, I noticed cars pulling over along the street and folks looking up at me. I went inside and called the field trying to tell them where I was. At first, they thought it was a caller pulling a joke.

They later took the aircraft on a flat boy trailer back to the field and found that a restriction in the fuel system had caused the problem. It was complete luck that I ended up there without hitting a structure. I received high marks for making the safe landing since I only had been flying solo for 8 hours.

The other one that really got my attention happened at the foot of the mountains in Vietnam near Cam Ranh Bay Jan 17, 1967while flying out of Nha Trang in my old CH34C 543045. I had auto rotated down alongside the mountain to observe an assault by gunships on a mountain site. Suddenly, I went into a very violent spin which made it impossible to move as I was pasted against the seat by the spinning force. I knew that I had lost tail drive and the only possible emergency procedure was to release torque from the main rotors. This happened when I had applied throttle to flare and stop the autorotation. The throttle was on the collective stick and I managed to rotate it to idle and the spin momentarily stopped that was when I saw I was headed nose down to the trees and ground.

Figured that fire was the most likely thing when you crashed so I turned off the battery switch and hit the Mag switch and threw the cyclic stick full left. Wanted to stop the main blades when we hit so they would not chop off our heads. We took down some small trees and the main blades hit the ground on the left side and wound around the top of the cockpit just inches above my head. I was with my left leg outside the side window and the ground. The Vietnamese captain in the right seat climbed up and out the right side window and me trying to get my leg free. I remember hearing the fuel, “gloop, gloop,” running out from the fuel tanks under the troop compartment floor and praying that a fire didn’t start as I could hear the inverters & electrical components running down.

I finally got free and climbed up through the right side window. There in the middle of all that spilled fuel was that dumb Vietnamese officer firing those finger flares we carried into the air. I grabbed him and pushed him away from the helicopter and asked him if he was trying to get the Viet Cong to rescue us!! He wanted to start walking towards the Nha Trang Air Base. I said go ahead if you know where all the minefields and VC might be located. I was going to stay by the crash and see if something flew over then I would fire some flares.

After about 20 minutes some of the Army Hueys flew over and after some time they finally came down with the door gun trained on us to be sure who we were.

I was a very happy camper when we got back to the Nha Trang base. I had some broken ribs, banged-up left leg and numerous bruises but in one piece! When that violent spin started I was sure that was going to be my last flight and my last day on earth.

Anyway, that is two of several flights in my times that I remember every minute of!!


Profile in Courage: The Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor in Navy History

By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches

In the history of the United States Navy, only seven men have earned all of the big three valor awards: Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, and Silver Star. Six were World War II officers, including one aviator. The seventh was James Elliott “Willy” Williams – considered the most decorated enlisted man in the history of the Navy.


Williams, a Cherokee Indian, was born November 13, 1930, in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Two months later he moved with his parents to Darlington, South Carolina where he spent his early childhood and youth. He attended the local schools and graduated from St. John’s High School.
In August 1947, at the age of 16, Williams enlisted in the United States Navy with a fraudulent birth certificate. He completed basic training at Naval Training Center San Diego. He served for almost twenty years, retiring on April 26, 1967, as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class (BM1). During those years, he served in both the Korean War and Vietnam War.
During the Korean War, was stationed aboard the Destroyer USS Douglas H Fox (DD-779) from November 1950 to June 1952. He was detached off the Destroyer and operated off the coast of Korea by taking raiding parties into North Korea on small boats. From 1953 to 1965 he served tours on a variety of naval vessels.
In 1966, with only a year before he was to retire from the Navy, the burly man, 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds Williams volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam.
Williams arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 as a BM1. He was assigned in May to the River Patrol Force, River Squadron Five, in command of River Patrol Boat 105 (PBR-105). The force’s mission was to intercept Viet Cong and North Vietnamese arms shipments, supplies, and personnel on the waterways of South Vietnam’s swampy Mekong Delta and to keep innocent boat traffic on the river and canals safe.
On July 1, 1966, Williams led a patrol that came under fire from the Vietcong sampan. His deft maneuvers and accurate fire killed five VC and resulted in the capture of the enemy boat, earning Williams a Bronze Star Medal with a V for Valor. Twenty-two days later his crew captured another sampan, earning Williams a second Bronze Star Medal for Valor. Less than a month later, he received his Silver Star and the first of three Purple Hearts he would eventually receive.
On the night of October 31, 1966, Williams was commanding PBR 105 alongside another PBR searching for Viet Cong guerrillas operating in an isolated area of the Mekong Delta. Suddenly, Viet Cong manning two sampans opened fire on the Americans. While Williams and his men neutralized one sampan, the other one escaped into a nearby canal. The PBRs gave chase and soon found themselves in a beehive of enemy activity as the VC opened fire on them with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms from fortified river bank positions.
Williams, who knew the area well from months of patrols, directed his two boats in a high-speed detour to a spot he knew the fleeing sampan would eventually emerge. Both threaded an alternative channel too narrow for the boats to reverse course. At nearly 35 knots they roared up the twisting passage, the heavily jungled bank passing in a green blur. Then as they rounded a bend to an area of more open water, to the surprise of all aboard, they stumbled into a major staging area for the North Vietnamese Army. Thirty to forty sampans were crossing the channel, each loaded to the gunwales with NVA troops and supplies. The enemy was equally surprised and sprang to their guns. Along the shore, the familiar “thonk” of mortars could be heard. Williams had no choice but to gun his engines straight at the enemy! Tracers streaked across the water. Williams ran his boat directly at several sampans, splitting them in half under the sharp bow of his rocketing speedboat. The PBR’s twisted and jinked blazed their weapons and spilled hundreds of dead and dying NVA troops into the water. The speed and maneuverability of the Americans kept them ahead of the enemy return fire. They blasted through the enemy formation and back into the narrow channel beyond.
Momentarily safe, the PBR’s sped onward. Williams called in heavily armed UH-1B Huey helicopters from the Navy Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 “Seawolves” for air support, but as his speedboats rounded another bend they found themselves smack in the middle of a second staging area as big as the first. Again, the narrow channel determined their fate, and both PBR’s sped boldly at the enemy. For a second time, their machine guns blazed and splinters flew from enemy sampans and NVA soldiers spilled into the water. And for a second time, the two American gunboats sliced through the enemy, blasting and ramming as they went. Secondary explosions from several of the larger junks confirmed Williams’ suspicion that they were ammunition and supply vessels.
Despite three hours of intense combat, Williams’ crew received only two casualties–one gunner was shot through the wrist, and Williams himself was wounded by shrapnel. For his conspicuous bravery above and beyond the call of duty he was put in for the Medal of Honor – which he received from President Lyndon B. Johnson on May 14, 1968, during the dedication ceremony of the Pentagon’s “Hall of Heroes.”
On January 9, 1967, the Navy dredge Jamaica Bay was blown up by mines and PVR-105 arrived to pick up seven of the survivor. Another man was wrapped in the rapidly sinking dredge. Williams dove into the water and, with a rope attached to a nearby tree, pulled clear and obstruction, then swim through a hatch to recover the Sailor. For this, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
Six days later Williams was wounded while leading a three-boat patrol that interdicted a crossing attempt by three VC heavy weapons companies and 400 fighters. He and his boat accounted for 16 VC killed, 20 wounded in the destruction of nine sampans and junks. Williams was awarded the Navy Cross and his third Purple Heart.
Williams transferred to the Fleet Reserve in April 1967 and returned to his native South Carolina with a list of awards unmatched by any enlisted man in Navy history. His awards included the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars and the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal. He also received three Purple Hearts and was twice awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescue operations under fire.
He retired after 20 years of service and was appointed in 1969 by President Richard M. Nixon as United States Marshal, serving more than a decade in the Marshals Service. His initial assignment was U.S. Marshal for the District of South Carolina where he served until May 1977. He then transferred to Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia as an instructor and National Armorer. He was called back to South Carolina in July 1979 to resume his appointment as U.S. Marshal and functioned in that position until April 1980. His next assignment was with the U.S. Marshal service Headquarters, Washington, D.C. as Program Manager, Health and Safety and In-District Training Officer where he performed his assigned duties until his retirement from the U.S. Marshal Service.
In the fall of 1999, he was in Florence, South Carolina where he suffered a heart attack and died on the Navy’s birthday, October 13th. He was buried with full military honors at the Florence National Cemetery in Florence, South Carolina. The procession of dignitaries at his funeral included seven Medal of Honor recipients and state and national legislators.
In addition to his wife Elaine, he was survived by three sons, James Jr., of Darlington, S.C.; Steven, of Dorchester, S.C., and Charles, of Charlotte, N.C.; two daughters, Debbie Clark of Palm Coast and Gail Patterson of Florence, and seven grandchildren.
Navy Guided Missile Destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) was named and christened in his honor on June 28, 2003, at Pascagoula, Mississippi. His widow Elaine was present at the ceremony.

Korean War Wall of Remembrance

The Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) and the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMFB) have been trying for some time to get Congress to enact legislation that would allow The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) to be constructed at the site of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D. C. The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) would have the names of the 37,000 plus Korean War KIA’s/MIA’s engraved in it, much like the Viet Nam Wall

The enacted legislation states that “no federal funds can be used in the construction of The Wall of Remembrance. The Foothills Chapter #301 of The Korean War Veterans Association located in Greenville, SC passed a resolution and named a “Fund-Raising” committee to raise the money for the 547 plus South Carolinians who paid the ultimate price to stop the spread of communism in Asia and to keep South Korea a free nation. South Korea, in a relatively short time, became one of the largest economies in the world, and instead of being a receiver of foreign aid became a provider of foreign aid.

The Korean War was first dubbed a “Police Action.” It was not covered very much by the news media and became known as “The Forgotten War.” But since the founding of the Korean War Veterans Association in the mid-1980’s, it has been working hard to make America knowledgeable of the Korean War, and they are having much success.

Instead of being thought of as “The Forgotten War,” it is now being billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” Just contrast North Korea to South Korea today and it’s easy to understand why it should be billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” While South Korea is wildly successful, North Korea can’t feed their own people or even keep their lights on.

For that, and many other reasons, we not only need to but we “MUST” build this wall to honor America’s the 37,000 plus heroes who sacrificed their lives in this now “The Forgotten Victory.” And we MUST do it now if we want any Korean War Veterans to be around to attend the dedication of the Wall.

The average age of Korean War Veterans today is eighty- five years. The average of men (a few women) fighting in the “Korean War” was nineteen (19) years. If the average age was nineteen (19), there must have been many sixteen (16), seventeen (17), and eighteen (18) year olds on the frontline. The draft had ended after WW II so all of the military in the first few months of the hostilities were volunteers. And yes, they were heroes, every single one of them. All who served in Korea, in my view, were heroes.

As I said, we are raising money for the South Carolina KIA’s/POW’s. But let me hasten to say, every name will be on the Wall, no matter where the money comes from. We are requesting that contributors from South Carolina make checks payable to: KWVA Foothills Chapter #301. In the “FOR” area write “Wall of Remembrance.”

Mail them to: Lewis Vaughn, 623 Ashley Commons Ct., Greer, SC 29651.

If the contributor is not from South Carolina, go to the KWVMF website to make a contribution. Of course, we in South Carolina will accept and appreciate contributions originating anywhere in or outside the U.S.

Thank you!


VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims

VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs expects a surge of compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., but nothing compared to the “tidal wave” of cases that came out of the Agent Orange class-action suit.

After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions.

A final hurdle to the compensation process emerged with the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his order blocking new federal regulations, which appeared to override rules approved in the last days of President Barack Obama’s administration.

However, the office of Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said last week, “The White House has granted an exemption. This means the Camp Lejeune regulation will go into effect on March 14, 2017, as scheduled.”

All of the Lejeune claims initially will be handled by the VA’s Louisville, Ky., Regional Office (RO), Thomas Murphy, VA’s acting undersecretary for benefits, said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) subcommittee hearing last week.

“Ideally, we want to keep them in the one RO” in Louisville, where a Center of Excellence has been set up to deal with presumptive claims, Murphy said. “But if they can’t handle the volume, we’re going to have to train another and expand it, so we’ll have to keep a very close eye on that.”

The full article can be found at:


Remains of Marine shot down during Vietnam War heading home after 48 years

A Marine radar intercept officer missing nearly 48 years after he was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War has been accounted for after his remains were found last year, the Bergen Record reports.

The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J. (left in photo) were identified through DNA tests conducted by the Defense Pow/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, the paper reported Friday.

Ryan’s plane crashed on a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border on May 11, 1969, the day before his son’s first birthday.

“I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that’s what my mom told me,” Michael Ryan, 48 told the paper. “What she didn’t tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she’d see his face again.”

His aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued.

Ryan was also shot down in 1968 over the Gulf of Tonkin but he survived that crash.

According to the Record, military investigators went to the Laos crash site in 1990 and found his plane seat.

Investigators visited the site on six other occasions from May 2012 to January 2016 to look for remains.

A lab identified the remains as Ryan’s and notified Michael last month.
The next day Ryan’s widow Judith was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.

“I don’t know, it’s strange to me,” Michael told the paper. “We’ve waited 48 years for this. And now I’m looking up at God and saying, ‘Can you give this woman a week to celebrate?'”

Billy Ryan will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, the eve of the crash anniversary.

Much more about Ryan and his family can be found at the site below:


1stSgt Jack Moritz U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1954-1975)

Read the service reflections of Airman:

profile1stSgt Jack Moritz

U.S. Air Force (Ret)


Shadow Box:


This from my perspective, being Jacks son, I found out a lot about my dad mostly from family and friends who served with him not from him. He was a very private man about his service. My dad joined the Marines in 1950, mostly to get off of the farm. He was 17 and didn’t want to miss out on going to Korea as he missed out on WWII. Well he went. From what I’ve heard, he was a wild man back then. Did a little whiskey running out of Kentucky. Got shot at by the law several times. He told me many times though how scared he was in Korea.

When it came time for reenlistment he was ready. He loved military life, but the Marines refused to allow him to reenlist because his teeth were so bad it would cost a mint to get them in shape. Ah peace time Marines.

The Air Force was really just getting started and was changing from the Army Air Corps. He decided to go there. They didn’t even have their own Good Conduct Medal yet, that is why he has an Army Good Conduct Medal is on his profile. He hung with the Air Force until he retired in 1975. He achieved the rank of 1stSgt.


USAF 1954-1975, he became a flight engineer. He loved flying. He gave up several promotions to keep flying. You’d think it being the Air Force they would like it if you were flying, but he couldn’t make E-9 because he continued to fly up until 1973. He was made a 1stSgt at McGuire AFB. He really didn’t like it much. Admin was not his thing. He did his first tour in Vietnam early in the war, from 1963 to 1964. He was stationed at Norton AFB for the next 3 years with an interruption of 6 months back in Vietnam.

Had a choice to go to Panama or Alaska. Asked the family which one. If Panama we would have to get rid of all of our pets, so it was Alaska. Great duty there.

Went to Vietnam on short TDY’s, Temporary Assigned Duty. Left Alaska in early 1973.

I joined the Marines a year earlier. I took after the ole man.

He transferred to McGuire AFB NJ. Worst duty station of his career he told me. They wouldn’t let him fly anymore. That was alwasy his first love.


Yes several operations in Korea several operations in Vietnam. He received 19 Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his aerial shenanigans in Vietnam. He was a real war hero. That’s me saying that not him.

I have all of the citations but as most of these missions were covert they don’t give many details. Most of them or I should say all of them just list the award and date. Nothing about what happened.


Probably Elmendorf Air Force Base. Good duty. as the flight engineer for the Dall Sheep squadron on board with a general flying a C-123. Flew all over the world on this bird. The general would want to go somewhere and Jack would be ready to go at a moments notice. He flew with this general in Vietnam when the general was a Lt Col. in 1964. The general had box seats at arrow head stadium and would go to every home game. Jack went along with him. Why not, free beer. misappropriation of funds I would say but hey, maybe he had legitimate business there. Jack was given a clothing allowance to buy civilian clothes when on outings with the general.

I remember as a kid he’d bring my mother something from wherever he went. On occasion he’d bring us kids a little something. He brought me a florescent switchblade knife he said he got off a Coastie. It was really cool. After I went in the Marines, I left it at home. I think my little sister got it but won’t admit it. He also brought me a piggy bank after his first trip to ‘Nam. Not sure why but I still have it today. Man, I miss him.


This is a story my Brother in law, Bob, told me recently about my father. Dad really liked Bob as he was there around the family when I was not and dad thought of Bob as a son. Dad would have never told me this story. I’m not hurt that my dad wouldn’t tell me, I’m just glad that he felt comfortable enough with someone to tell it. I’m just glad he had the proper training and where with all to come home.

I’ve heard several stories about my dad and other strange occurrences in his life like this.

October 22, 2012

Dear Scott,

This story is the account of the C-123 Provider military airplane that crashed in Vietnam as told to me by your Dad shortly before his death in 1997. What had started as a simple conversation in the back yard turned into note taking because I was so interested in the story he told me. Now, years later at your request I am looking over these aging notes and I will attempt to give a reasonable account of the events as told to me. I will tell you the story as best I can remember. I will leave further research of facts and actualities to you or anyone else who wants to delve deeper into the incident.

As you know, your Dad was an Air Force Tech Sergeant serving as a Flight Engineer aboard a C-123 in Vietnam. During this time the U.S. military attachment to South Vietnam, as Jack remembered, was about 15,000 troops. They were designated as advisers. It was January or February of 1964 which would have made Jack a 31 year old 13 year military veteran. There were covert operations taking place in Vietnam at this time and the mission that Jack was on was to deliver food and supplies from Saigon to a French owned rubber plantation (probably Michelin). On board were four men; the pilot who was a Captain, the co-pilot who was a First Lieutenant, the flight engineer (Jack), and a buck Sergeant who was the loadmaster. The names of these men I do not know. It was the rainy season so the pilot was flying at 2500 feet due to the weather.

This was a night flight about 9:30 PM. The mountains they were flying over reminded Jack of the Alleghenies. At an air speed of 200 mph and not long into the flight the right engine went out and the plane descended quickly and went down in the jungle. They may have taken a hit because your Dad said there were North Vietnamese in the jungle with 50 caliber or maybe even 20 millimeter guns. There was radio communication up until the crash. The pilot and co-pilot were killed on impact. Jack and the loadmaster survived the crash. I have no details of the wreckage nor of what, if anything, was done or even could be done for the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot.

As Jack told the next part of this story he emphasized the disorientation and haste the two survivors were dealing with along with the feelings of being pumped with adrenaline. That, combined with the intensity of the situation left certain details sketchy. He said he believed it was within minutes that the two of them were separated as they left the crash scene knowing that possible enemy combatants could find the twisted wreckage first. He remembered running through the jungle stopping occasionally to try to get his bearings. He guessed that the loadmaster surrendered. After several bearing checks and trying to think through his heavy breathing and extreme emotions Jack reckoned a course that would hopefully take him near the rubber plantation which was the only place he was sure there were Americans. He proceeded through the jungle to near exhaustion. Jack said at one point he could hear people faintly jabbering in Vietnamese and so took cover in some underbrush and hunkered down there to assess the situation. No sleep came that night and he didn’t dare light a cigarette in the darkness as it could easily give away his position. So he stayed put. Thinking. Breathing. Wanting a smoke. Thinking again. Thinking of survival training. Thinking of mother and the kids. Catching his breath, he listened. He could see shanty lights. At least he thought they were shanty lights. He couldn’t chance contact because he didn’t know who was being friendly toward Americans. His adrenalin pumped again. Fear again. No sleep.

Morning came. Jack wondered what to do next. He tried to reestablish his bearings. He could still faintly hear Vietnamese. He would continue toward the rubber plantation.

Scott, this next part is strange but I’m telling you it’s real close to how your Dad told it to me. At this point Jack heard a voice in English and saw what he called a human-like image. It was dressed in a black kind of jump suit, I think he said. It said to him something like, If you have your passport we can get out of here. Jack didn’t know if he was hallucinating or not but he did tell me he did not like the thing as he called it. He drank some rain water and started moving from his night spot. He would move and hide and would see the thing again. The thing was smoking a cigarette and was luring Jack to have a smoke. Jack told the thing to put the cigarette out or they would find him. At one point as Jack was hiding he said that a few Vietnamese (he didn’t say if they were soldiers or not) came within a few feet of him as the “thing”, the image, stood nearby. He said the Vietnamese could not see the thing. Throughout this first day of moving and hiding the thing appeared to Jack four or five times, once or twice offering cigarettes and food. Whether there was real food and cigarettes Jack did not know. He did tell me he felt that it was an evil presence whether real, imagined, or conjured up by hallucination. I will tell you that it gave me chills on the back of my neck as your Dad talked of it. He told me he never told anyone else about this part of the story.

Night two came and Jack hunkered down as best he could. He did not know how many miles he had come but he had made some progress. He ate nothing; only drank rain water. The temperature was chilly and damp in the low to mid-fifties so he sought some slight comfort under the brush. He was chilled to the bone. In the distance a dog barked endlessly and there was some sound of Vietnamese music. No sleep came. A nod maybe, but no sleep. Jack wondered if the creepy image from the day before was lurking and if it was going to appear again. It did not. Then some miles off there was the rat-tat-tat of fire-fights and the sound of aircraft delivering rounds of ammunition. Through the jungle brush Jack could see ground to air tracers piercing the night sky. He stayed put. Another night. Hiding from the unknown. Alone. Again.

Daylight came again and Jack continued his weary path and as he told me the story of this second day I sensed that he had gained a determination to exit this predicament. Concerning this second day Jack did not talk of his fear or of lost comrades. He did not talk of jungle noises or shanties in the distance and there was no mention of strange images. He said he walked and hid and walked again and made more progress. He heard voices and hid again. But these voices were American and Vietnamese mixed. Considering his condition he carefully peered through the brush toward a rough road and saw a patrol of four U.S. Marines with about forty South Vietnamese. Your Dad decided to emerge. As tattered as he must have looked he stood in plain view of those combat ready ground troops. With his hands up as if to surrender and to avoid being shot by friendly fire he identified himself as Technical Sergeant Jack P. Moritz; flight Engineer from the C-123.

We crashed! he told them in his exhaustion.

He heard a Marine say, We know. You’re okay now. The troops lowered their rifles.
The patrol took care of your Dad’s initial needs and then transported him to the rubber plantation which was about thirty five miles away. He washed, was given clean fatigues, ate, smoked, was debriefed, smoked again, and slept. That night he slept again on the relative comfort of a cot within the confines of a well-guarded business interest.

As your Dad waited for the next air supply shuttle back to Saigon the officer in charge asked him if he needed anything else. Jack said, Sir, I’d like a cold beer and I’d like to have that American flag flying over this compound. The officer accommodated him. Such was the story as told to me. It was certainly an adventure revisiting this memoir and I am happy to have finally written it for you and, I guess, for your Dad also. May God be always in your heart. These are things my dad confided in me over the years My wife’s fear of flying.

We drove from every duty station to the next even though we could have flown for free. She saw me crash land at Griffith Air Force base early in my career and it scared her so much that she refused to fly ever. We drove the car hauling a trailer, 5 kids, 2 dogs, and a cat from Norton Air force base in Southern California to Elmendorf in Alaska. Took about a month. I was there. Lost the cat. We drove the Alcan (Alaskan highway) in the dead of winter. Very few hotels or restaurants where open during the winter. I remember cooking cans of beans on top of the warm engine of the car. Also Canadians pour vinegar on their potatoes to keep them fresh in the winter. Gives them a disgusting flavor though. At least for kids it does. The trip from Otis AFB in MA to Norton AFB Calif was a long one but welcomed as it was right after my first tour of Vietnam. It was great to see the country. My wife lost her fear of flying when we were stationed at McQuire AFB in NJ, our oldest daughter was pregnant and had our first grandchild. She flew back to Alaska to see him.

My wife never drank but we poured her onto the plane full of liquor and tranquilizers. I know they won’t let you fly any longer in this condition but this was in 1974.


Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals. I was there at the ceremony at Norton when he received the awards. There was a major also receiving awards but my dad got so many I was getting tired of hearing his name. It took several hours. It made the local paper. I have the citations. Also the Airman’s Medal for flying where he had no business flying as I was told. I always figured it was for missions flown over China. He neither confirmed or denied my assumption.


Distinguished Flying Cross. I asked him that same question once. His response was, ” Damn boy, I’m in the Air Force. That’s top dog right there don’t you know.” What a dumb ass. That’s how he talked.


Several Generals come to mind. I don’t have their names yet. I do however have several pictures from the early years I will post. I know Jack and MSgt Dick Braun where very close. Dick always was a very serious man or so it seemed to me. Dick had a wife that he’d met in Germany named Inge. She was quite a beauty.


These are things my dad confided in me over the years. In Alaska at Elmendorf AFB. Good friend Ssgt John Rollins his wife and mine went out in town. (Anchorage). Now the entertainment at the time was slim but they were advertising a 500lbs stripper at some joint downtown. Jack had to see this so he brought along John his wife and Jacks wife. Well when they got to the place, John who drank pretty heavily anyway opened the door and we followed him in. The place was filled with nothing but black people as the jumbo lady happened to be black. John says in a loud booming voice” where in the hell did all of theses n(word)s come from. Jack laughed and they felt obliged to leave immediately. Never saw the stripper.

John use to get so drunk he’d call my son who was only 12 or 13 at the time with no drivers license to come drive him home from the club. We lived in walking distance from the club. Good thing his mother never found out. She’d have killed me and John. Scottie drove better than John even when John was sober. I didn’t have much to teach him about driving when it came his time other than slowing down. Boy that man was crazy. Good times though.


He got out in 1975. The economy sucked so bad Jack could not find employment so he went to college and studied electronics. He graduated with an Associates degree and went to work for Hobart brothers as an electrical tech in 1978. Retired from there in 1993. He loved working there but really missed the military life and being in charge. He still rarely told me of his exploits other than a few drunks he was on.


VFW; AMVETS; Eagles; Benifits: camaraderie with fellow service men and of course cheap beer; Loved his beer.

Every time Jack would visit the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC he would come back and not be worth a damn for about 3 or 4 weeks. I’d beg him not to go back but him and his buddies from the AMVETs or VFW would plan a trip to go see it He lost many friends there. When he saw the Korean memorial, I was told he cried. I’d only seen my father cry once and that was when his father died in 1966.


My dad was a very serious man when it came to his career. He loved the military and this country more than his life. He would have given it up for the asking for his country I’m sure of that. Be better than I was he always told me. While I was in the Marines, I must have forgotten that. In civilian life I’ve always striven to be as good or better than he. In many areas I have fallen short of this goal.

During the Gulf War when we were attacking, at the age of almost 62, he wanted to go back and join the military. He said he’d go in any capacity that he still could do things and had a lot to offer. I believed him. They told him, let the young ‘uns handle this one Jack. He was crushed though.


Always do better than what you think you can and expect more from your children than you do of yourself. At least make them want to be better and have better than you did. Jack was a tough act to follow.


Thanks for allowing me to post this tribute to my dad. Most of these stories I’m handing down as they were told to me. His accomplishments were many. He died at home and got to say goodbye to all of his children and his wife Darlyn who would go anywhere he went. I remember the last time I saw him I shook his hand and hugged him. I said I’d see him. He said not too soon I hope. Always lighthearted to the end. Tough ole bird. The world is less interesting without him in it.

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Free State of Jones

By LtCol Mike Christy

“Free State of Jones,” released into theaters on June 24, 2016, tells the real-life story of defiant Southern farmer, Newton Knight and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, distinguishing him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.

Knight is excitingly portrayed by actor Matthew McConaughey. His first wife, Serena, is played by Keri Russell and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as his Negro wife Rachel. Several photographs from the movie appear in this presentation.

Newton Knight was born in November 1837, near the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi, a region romantically described in 1841 by the historian J.F.H. Claiborne as a “land of milk and honey.” The landscape was dominated by virgin longleaf pines. Wolves and panthers still roamed the land. He married Serena Turner in 1858, and the two established a small farm just across the county line in Jasper County.

Knight, an American farmer, soldier and southern Unionist, was best known as the leader of the Knight Company, a band of Confederate army deserters that turned against the Confederacy during the Civil War. Local legends state that Knight and his men attempted to form the “Free State of Jones” in the area around Jones County, Mississippi, at the height of the war, though the exact nature of the Knight Company’s opposition to the Confederate government is disputed. After the war, Knight aided Mississippi’s Reconstruction government.

Knight has long been a controversial figure. Historians and descendants disagree over his motives and actions, with some arguing he was a noble and pious individual who refused to fight for a cause in which he did not believe, while others have portrayed him as a manipulative outlaw. This controversy was fueled in part by Knight’s postwar marriage to a freed slave, which effectively established a small mixed-race community in southeastern Mississippi. The marriage would have been considered illegal as Mississippi banned interracial marriages except from 1870 to 1880 during the Reconstruction era.

Newton was a grandson of John “Jackie” Knight (1773-1861), one of Jones County’s largest slaveholders. Newton’s father, Albert (1799-1862), however, did not own any slaves, and was the only child of Jackie Knight who did not inherit any slaves. Newton, likewise, did not own any slaves. Some say he was morally opposed to the institution due to his Primitive Baptist beliefs. As a staunch Primitive Baptist, Newton also forswore alcohol, unlike his father and grandfather. He was probably taught to read and write by his mother.

Knight, like many Jones Countians, was opposed to secession. The county elected John H. Powell, the “cooperation” (anti-secession) candidate, to represent them at Mississippi’s secession convention in January 1861. Powell voted against secession on the first ballot, but under pressure, switched his vote on the second ballot, joining the majority in voting to secede from the Union. In an interview many years later, Knight suggested many Jones Countians, unaware of how few options they had, felt betrayed by Powell.

Knight enlisted in the Confederate Army in July, 1861. He was given a furlough in January 1862, however, to return home and tend to his ailing father. In May 1862, Knight, along with a number of friends and neighbors, enlisted in Company F of the 7th Battalion, as they preferred to serve together in the same company, rather than with strangers.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1862, a number of factors prompted desertions by Jones Countians serving in the Confederate Army. One factor was the lack of food and supplies in the aftermath of the Siege of Corinth. Another involved reports of poor conditions back home, as small farms deteriorated from neglect. Knight was enraged when he received word that Confederate authorities had seized his family’s horse. However, many believe Knight’s principal reason for desertion was his outrage over the Confederate government’s passing of the Twenty Negro Law. This act allowed wealthy plantation owners to avoid military service if they owned twenty slaves or more. An additional family member was exempted from service for each additional twenty slaves owned. Knight had also received word that his brother-in-law, Morgan, who had become the head of the family in Knight’s absence, was abusing Knight’s children. Morgan’s identity has since been lost, but he is thought to be Morgan Lines, a day laborer and convicted murderer.

Knight was reported AWOL in October 1862. He later defended his desertion, arguing, “If they had a right to conscript me when I didn’t want to fight the Union, I had a right to quit when I got ready.” After returning home having deserted in the retreat following the defeat at Corinth, Knight, according to relatives, shot and killed Morgan.

In early 1863, Knight was arrested and jailed, and possibly tortured, by Confederate authorities for desertion. His homestead and farm were destroyed, leaving his family destitute.

As the ranks of deserters swelled in the aftermath of the Siege of Vicksburg, Confederate authorities began receiving reports that deserters in the Jones County area were looting and burning houses. A local quartermaster, Capt. W. J. Bryant, reported that “The deserters have overrun and taken possession of the country, in many cases exiling the good and loyal citizens or shooting them in cold blood on their own door-sills.”

Gen. Braxton Bragg dispatched Maj. Amos McLemore to Jones County to investigate and round up deserters and stragglers. On October 5, 1863, McLemore was shot and killed in the Ellisville home of Amos Deason, and Knight was believed to have pulled the trigger.

On October 13, 1863, the Knight Company, as it was called, a band of guerillas from Jones County and the adjacent counties of Jasper, Covington, Perry and Smith, was organized to protect the area from Confederate authorities. Knight was elected “Captain” of the company, which included many of his relatives and neighbors. The company’s main hideout, known as “Devils Den,” was located along the Leaf River at the Jones-Covington county line. Local women and slaves provided food and other aid to the men. Women blew cattle horns to signal the approach of Confederate authorities. From late 1863 to early 1865, the Knight Company allegedly fought fourteen skirmishes with Confederate forces. One skirmish took place on December 23, 1863, at the home of Sally Parker, a Knight Company supporter, leaving one Confederate soldier dead and two badly wounded.

During this same period, Knight led a raid into Paulding, where he and his men captured five wagonloads of corn, which they distributed among the local population. The company harassed Confederate officials, with numerous tax collectors, conscript officers, and other officials being reported killed in early 1864. In March 1864, the Jones County court clerk notified the governor that guerillas had made tax collections in the county all but impossible. A letter dated February 13, 1864 from a Union scout addressed to Maj. Gen. John M. Palmer of the Union Army was discovered in 2016 by a historian working in the National Archives. It estimates the Knight Company’s numbers to be as high as 600 and confirms their intention to join up with the Union Army. The exact number is still a matter of debate, in light of an interview Knight gave after the war stating, “There was about 125 of us, never any more.”

By the spring of 1864, the Confederate government in the county had been effectively overthrown. Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk wrote Confederate President Jefferson Davis on March 21, 1864, describing the conditions in Jones County. Polk stated that the band of deserters were “in open rebellion, defiant at the outset, proclaiming themselves ‘Southern Yankees,’ and resolved to resist by force of arms all efforts to capture them.” On March 29, 1864, Confederate Capt. Wirt Thomson wrote James Seddon, Confederate Secretary of War, claiming the Knight Company had captured Ellisville and raised the U.S. flag over the courthouse in Jones County. He further reported, “The country is entirely at their mercy.” Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman received a letter from a local group declaring its independence from the Confederacy. In July 1864, the Natchez Courier reported that Jones County had seceded from the Confederacy.

Gen. Polk initially responded to the actions of the Knight Company by sending a contingent under Col. Henry Maury into the area in February 1864. Maury reported he had cleared the area, but noted the deserters had threatened to obtain “Yankee aid” and return. Shortly afterward, Polk dispatched a veteran contingent of soldiers led by Col. Robert Lowry, a future governor who would later describe Knight as an “ignorant and uneducated man.” Using bloodhounds to track down guerillas in the swamps, Lowry rounded up and executed ten members of the Knight Company, including Newton’s cousins, Benjamin Franklin Knight and Sil Coleman. Newton Knight, however, evaded capture. He later stated his company had unsuccessfully attempted to break through Confederate lines to join the Union Army.

By April 1865 the Confederate rebellion had been crushed and the American Civil War was finally over. Mississippi was occupied by Federal troops sent to maintain order and to protect the civil rights of former slaves. Capt. Newton Knight was called into service by the United States Army as a commissioner in charge of distributing thousands of pounds of food to the poor and starving people in the Jones County area. Knight also led a raid that liberated several children who were still being held in slavery in a nearby county. Like many Southern Unionists, he supported the Republican Party, namely the Reconstruction administration of Governor Adelbert Ames. As conflict mounted between white neo-Confederate resistance (the Ku Klux Klan) and the Republican Reconstruction government, Ames appointed Knight as Colonel of the First Infantry Regiment of Jasper County, an otherwise all black regiment defending against Klan activity.

In 1870, Knight petitioned the federal government for compensation for several members of the Knight Company, including the ten who had been executed by Lowry in 1864. He provided sworn statements from several individuals attesting to his loyalty to the Union, including a local judge and a state senate candidate. But the federal Court of Claims ruled that “the evidence fails to support the allegation of the petition that the Jones County Scouts were organized for military service in behalf of United States or that they were in sentiment and feeling throughout the war loyal to the Government of the United States.”

At great personal danger, Knight became a strong supporter of the Republican Party. In 1872, he was appointed as a deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District to help maintain the fragile democracy.

In the statewide elections of 1875, however, violence and election fraud kept most blacks and Republicans from voting. Democratic candidates committed to “white rule” were swept into office. White terrorists shot out the windows of the Governor’s Mansion to intimidate Republican Gov. Adelbert Ames, Ames pleaded for federal troops to help keep order, but President Ulysses S. Grant refused. Ames tried organizing a state militia to protect the voting process. But the tide had already turned against Republican rule in Mississippi, and Ames was forced to resign. He lamented that blacks “are to be returned to a condition of serfdom – an era of second slavery.” Blacks could not vote freely in Mississippi again for nearly 100 years.

By the mid-1870s, Knight had separated from his wife, Serena, and married Rachel, a woman formerly enslaved by his grandfather. During the same period, Knight’s son, Mat, married Rachel’s daughter, Fannie, and Knight’s daughter, Molly, married Rachel’s son, Jeff. Newton and Rachel Knight had several children before her death in 1889. Newton Knight died on February 16, 1922 at the age of 84. Under the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, it was a crime for whites and blacks to be buried in the same cemetery. Yet even in death, Knight was defiant. He left careful instructions for his funeral and was buried on a high ridge overlooking his old farmstead in a simple pine box beside Rachel, who had died in 1889. The inscription on his tombstone reads, “He Lived for Others.”

Much has been written about Newton Knight-some pro, others con, a few balanced. In 1935, Knight’s son, Thomas Jefferson “Tom” Knight, published a book about his father, “The Life and Activities of Captain Newton Knight.” Tom Knight portrayed his father as a Civil War – era Robin Hood who refused to fight for a cause with which he did not agree. The book noticeably omits Newton Knight’s post-war marriage to Rachel.

The 1942 James H. Street novel, “Tap Roots,” is loosely based on the Knight Company’s actions. Though the book is a work of fiction, the novel’s protagonist, Hoab Dabney, was inspired by Newton Knight. The book was the basis of the 1948 film, “Tap Roots,” which was directed by George Marshall, and starred Van Heflin and Susan Hayward.

In 1951, Knight’s grandniece, Ethel Knight, published “The Echo of the Black Horn,” a scathing denunciation of Knight and the Knight Company. Dedicating the book to the Confederate veterans of Jones County, Ethel Knight portrayed Newton as a backward, ignorant, murderous traitor. She argued that most members of the Knight Company were not Unionists, but had been manipulated by Knight into joining his cause.

In 2003, historian Victoria Bynum’s book “The Free State of Jones” was published by the University of North Carolina Press. This book provides a broader view of the Knight Company, taking into account the economic, religious and genealogical factors that helped shape the views of Civil War-era residents of the Jones County area. Bynum provides numerous examples of Knight stating his pro-Union sentiments after the war, and notes the influence of the staunchly pro-Union Collins family, many of whom were members of the Knight Company. She also brings to light the many women and slaves who provided assistance to Knight and his men.

In 2009, Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer published “The State of Jones,” which elaborates on Knight’s pro-Union sympathies and presents evidence that his views on race played a significant role in his actions during and after the war.


Battle Chronicles: Nez Perce War

Shortly after purchasing the Louisiana territory from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered an expedition to explore and map the newly acquired territory and establish an American presence before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it. The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Native American tribes. To lead the expedition of U.S. Army volunteers, Jefferson chose his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, an intelligent and literate man who also possessed skills as a frontiersman. Lewis in turn solicited the help of Second Lieutenant William Clark, whose abilities as draftsman and frontiersman were even stronger.

Lewis and Clark’s expedition began on May 21, 1804 when they and 33 soldiers and others departed from their camp near St. Louis, Missouri. The first portion of the expedition followed the route of the Missouri River during which they passed through places such as present-day Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska.

As the expedition crossed the Bitterroot Mountains along the border of Montana and Idaho, a party of six hunters led by Clark went ahead of the main body searching for wild game and other foodstuff. Near the western end of the Lolo Trail, the group came across a small camp of Nez Perce. Having a long association with French trappers and missionaries, the Nez Perce – many who had converted to Catholicism – welcomed the American explorers, treating then with generosity and respect. They also resupplied and aided the Army expedition.

After staying with the friendly Indians for days, the explorers continued their journey by boat to the Pacific. Horses were left with the friendly Indians to care for until the explorers returned. Faithful to the trust, the Indians returned the horses to the Americans without serious difficulty.

Unfortunately, like many other western tribes, this original goodwill would change due to westward movement of European Americans and the discovery of gold on traditional Indian lands.

For the Nez Perce tribes, it was when prospectors found gold on their reservation in 1860. This discovery led to a rush of settlement on the tribe’s ancestral lands. Tensions inevitable grew as the settlers appropriated traditional native lands and prospectors searched for gold with no regards toward their nomadic lifestyle.

Realizing a serious problem was growing between the friendly Nez Perce and the European Americanbelieving it was their Manifest Destiny (which held that the U.S. was destined to expand from coast to coast), the U.S. government took the same action they had done repeatedly when it came to relationships with the Indians: instead of forcing the white settlers to leave, the government’s solution was to reduce the land on which the Indians could live, forcing them into smaller and smaller reservations.

Like Indian tribes throughout America, the Nez Perce did not have one chief in charge of the entire tribe. Instead there were many Chiefs who were each leaders of small bands of Indians.

When the United States tried to reduce the Nez Perce tribe’s land, they negotiated mostly with the Chiefs that were on their side. This led to the Nez Perce spitting into two groups: one side – the farmers and livestock herders – accepted the coerced relocation to a reservation. The non-treaty group refused to give up their ancestral homeland in Idaho and Oregon and continued living in the tradition they had been doing for hundreds of years.

The non-treaty Nez Perce suffered many injustices at the hands of settlers and prospectors, but out of fear of reprisal from the militarily superior Americans, Chief Joseph of the Wallowa band never allowed any violence against them, instead making many concessions in hopes of securing peace.

In 1873, Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to ensure his people could stay on their land in the Wallowa Valley. But in 1877, the government reversed its policy, and Brig. General Oliver Howard threatened to attack if the Wallowa band did not relocate to the Idaho Reservation with the other Nez Perce. Joseph reluctantly agreed.

The day following the council, Chiefs Joseph, White Bird, and Looking Glass all accompanied Howard to look at different areas. Howard offered them a plot of land that was inhabited by whites and Native Americans, promising to clear out the current residents. Joseph and his chieftains refused, adhering to their tribal tradition of not taking what did not belong to them.

Unable to find any suitable uninhabited land on the reservation, Howard informed Joseph that his people had 30 days to collect their livestock and move to the reservation or face a war they could not win.

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Profiles in Courage: Heroines Under Fire

On July 29, 1918, field nurse Linnie Leckrone jumped on a truck headed for the front as part of Gas and Shock Team 134 in the battle of Chateau-Thierry northeast of Paris during the Great War. As German artillery rained down, she tended the wounded. For her “conspicuous gallantry in action,” Leckrone was awarded what was then called the Citation Star in a certificate signed by Gen. John (Black Jack) Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

She was one of only three women to earn the Citation Star in World War I, but she left the service before she received the award. She was also unaware that the Army in 1932 made recipients of the Citation Star eligible for the new Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor.

Her courageous service was finally recognized posthumously on July 31, 2007 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va. when her daughter Mary Jane Bolles Reed accepted a Silver Star in her place.

An unknown number of women received the Silver Star in World War II. In 1944, four Army nurses serving in Italy – First Lieutenant Mary Roberts, Second Lieutenant Elaine Roe, Second Lieutenant Rita Virginia Rourke, and Second Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous) – became the first women recipients of the Silver Star since World War I. All were cited for their bravery in evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio, Italy on February 10, 1944.

The first woman soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star – and the first ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat – was Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester.

Hester’s military career began in April 2001 when the 19 year old from Bowling Green, Kentucky enlisted in the Army Nation Guard. As she was awaiting notification on where and when she would to go to basic training, the 9/11 terrorists crashed commercial airliners in the Trade Center and the Pentagon. When she was at basic training, she and the other recruits were told by the drill sergeants that they would be the ones to go to war. That happened in July 2004 when she received orders for Iraq.

After arriving in Iraq, her unit – the 617th Military Police Company Kentucky Army National Guard unit out of Richmond, Kentucky – took up the task of providing security to truck convoys.

On Mar. 20, 2005 just south of Baghdad, the squad was shadowing a 30-truck supply convoy. As convoy slid by Salman Pak, Iraq, the squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein, came on the phone to report the insurgents had attacked one of the vehicles ahead. The Humvees immediately sped up and raced down the length of the convoy on the shoulder of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route.

As Raven-42 swung into action, the gunners on each Humvee started laying down suppressing fire with an M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, a Mk. 19 40 mm grenade launcher, and an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The insurgents were using a pair of dry irrigation ditches parallel to the road as an expedient trench line. From behind effective cover, they began directing fire at the MPs using Kalashnikov automatic rifles, belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

One of the Humvees was struck by an RPG, wounding the three soldiers inside. In the rear vehicle, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein dismounted and dashed toward a nearby berm as the enemy’s bullets sliced the air around him. Five-foot-four Hester followed him. From the cover of the berm, the two opened fire with their Colt M4s. Hester also had an M203 Grenade Launcher and pumped out several 40 mm high explosive rounds. Other team members were either treating the wounded, or firing one of the mounted crew-served weapons. The two MPs treating the wounded on the ground behind the rear Humvee then came under sniper fire as the skirmish continued to escalate. Both soldiers responded by firing toward the farmhouse where the sniper was hiding.

With the fire of the .50-cal. machine gun and the SAW beginning to thump away at the enemy’s flank, Nein and Hester laid down a continuous volume of fire at the 10 insurgents in the closest ditch. Since their ammunition supply would run out long before a relief force could get to them, the two had only one real option: attack.

Vehicle-mounted weapons forced the enemy to keep down their heads while Nein and Hester rushed forward tossing grenades and firing their M4s. Swiftly moving down ditch, the two MPs overwhelmed the enemy. In that assault, Hester killed three insurgents.

At the end of the 30-minute long engagement, the battlefield was found littered with 24 dead and six wounded insurgents. One unwounded Iraqi was taken prisoner after apparently feigning injury in order to avoid the battle. In addition to that, the MPs collected an impressive haul of weapons and ammunition: 22 Kalashnikov rifles, six rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 16 rockets, 13 RPK-type light machine guns, insurgents with her M4 Carbine and a fourth with a 40 mm HE round from her M203 three PKM belt-fed machine guns, 40 hand grenades, and a mountain of small arms ammunition – 123 loaded AK magazines and 25,000 rounds of belted 7.62x54r for the PKMs.

Sergeants Hester and Nein were both awarded the Silver Star. Sgt. Nein’s was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.

Also awarded the Silver Star in this ambush was platoon combat medic Specialist Jason Mike, who took up and simultaneously fired an M4 carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun in defense of his comrades.

Hester took a brief break from the U.S. Army in 2009, and worked as a civilian law enforcement officer in a Nashville, Tennessee suburb. However, she returned to the military a short while later, in late 2010.

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