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December 04, 2004

Okay, time for a funny story.

Besides, I owe ya something more than just Spirit of America stuff (thanks to those readers who have kindly donated, btw). That, and this cellulitis I'm suffering from is kinda slowing me down. So, lets go into obscure Ordnance and funny story related thereto.

The United States wasn't always a military super-power. It wasn't until we found ourselves mired in the Cold War that we maintained a relatively large standing force and a robust R&D capability. Prior to that, we were like most second-tier military states, just getting by, and stretching out the service life of things like cannon as long as we could. Heck, some first tier states, like Britain, did that too.

Such was the life of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.

Developed just prior to the Civil War, it was the second most common, and probably the most favored, field piece. Well made (at least the Union examples), tough, and accurate, it provided good service during the war.

After the war, they remained in service for decades. In the 1870-90s the world was shifting over to breech-loaded cannon, and the Army decided we needed to follow suit.

The last gasp of glory for the 3-inch Ordnance rifle was the Spanish-American war, where it served as a training gun, after which it retired to garrison... as a salute gun. Therein lies our tale. After many accidents in using the guns in the muzzle-loading configuration, they were converted to breech-loaders. The gun was converted to breech-loading by extending the bore all the way through, making it a tube open at both ends, and then cutting through from the side a square hole to take a sliding breech block. Voilà! Instant cartridge loaded gun. Several hundred of these guns went through this process between 1901 and 1907.

The guns were spread all over the country, and had a specific mount built for them. Some were maintained on carriages and used as salute batteries for visiting dignitaries, 4th of July "Salutes to the Nation" and such, but most common were the fixed guns on the Main Parade, by the flagpole. While they could be fired for reveille (morning wake up) they were most often fired at noon and at 5PM, when the flag was lowered during a ceremony called Retreat. Many military installations still fire a gun at Retreat, it's one of those things I like about working on-post - Call To Colors and Retreat played at 5PM, and people will stop their cars and get out and stand at Attention and salute as appropriate. Living off post, I miss Taps being played at 10PM, too.

Anyway, at Fort Sill, in the 20's and 30's, the salute gun was on the Main Parade (it's now in front of Post Headquarters). The actual gun we're talking about is by the Field Artillery Museum buildings. Main Parade is surrounded by stately Victorian quarters, characteristic of all Army posts that existed prior to WWI.

The kids played on the Main Parade field all the time (and still do). During that era, croquet was a popular game, played by children and adults. And the Civil War was the last 'romantic' war - especially in comparison to the recently ended WWI. And the kids used to play around the salute gun all the time. And a croquet ball is... 3 inches in diameter. And it's the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle...

One of the things any cannoneer has drummed into them when approaching a gun you haven't been actively servicing - and that you are supposed to do with separate-loading guns after every shot - is check the bore, to make sure it is clear of obstructions, in the case of a 'cold gun' not recently fired, and to ensure that the bore is clear of burning matter after firing before you go tossing more powder bags in.

Well, one fine day, the crew for the salute gun failed to check the bore. And the kids had been playing croquet. And apparently they'd been playing a little Army, too. And a croquet ball, rammed partially down the muzzle, when helped along with a 1-pound charge of black powder, will do a pretty good job of smashing brickwork on a house, even if it wasn't enough to penetrate.

The 3-inch Ordnance Rifle (76.2 millimeters) was replaced with a 75mm gun the next day.

For your next vacation...

...consider Tora Bora! The clash of capitalism in Afghanistan. The Afghans want to open up Tora Bora as a tourist attraction for Americans. The locals and the Pakistani scrap merchants are frustrating this by hauling off all the junk military hardware and ordnance to sell as scrap.

Dr Hassamuddin Hamrah, the man in charge, believes that the caves which once housed bin Laden and his fighters, together with the remains of mangled Russian tanks and crashed helicopter gunships from the 1980s, will prove a tourist magnet.

Read all about it here, via the Telegraph.

I dunno about you, while I wouldn't mind visiting, right now I still think I'd like an escort of some 'rough men' in US uniform. Sounds like a long-term project to me, Dr. Hamrah.

December 02, 2004

Sanger_M's rant is too good to waste in the comments.

Frequent commenter and sometime contributor SangerM has a pretty good rant buried in the comments to this post.

I thought it worthy of the light of day.

SangerM briefed on December 1, 2004 10:45 PM You know.....

Some days, the rage is barely containable.

Anymore, every time I look at yet another picture of a man, woman, or child who has lost a loved one to a terrorist act, I feel ever more keenly the unbridled, fetid rage that has been growing and rumbling around in my soul for decades.

It has always lurked there. I have been aware of it since I was a boy, a keen and righteous hatred of bullies and bad men, of Nazis and Nips (whatever they were), of mean girls and venal teachers. Of injustice and hate.

Of course, I was raised in Philadelphia, where I was weaned on Mad Anthony Wayne and George Washington and Mom Rinker and Valley Forge and Trenton and Germantown. A house near ours had been an underground railroad station, Gettysburg was only a few hours away, and on weekends and in the summer, we'd go downtown and visit Independence Hall, where you used to be able to climb on the Liberty Bell until the Park Rangers ran you off.

I was spoon-fed John Wayne and Vic Morrow and Ben Hur and Spartacus and weekly episodes of 12 O'clock High and later Rat Patrol and Branded and Johnny Yuma and even Sea Hunt, and in real life I overheard stories of men I knew doing things that were to me bigger than life. When I started reading Marvel Comics, they were new, and my favorites were Sgt. Fury and Captain America. I never did like the unbelievable Superman or Green Lantern; I was drawn more to good stories about gifted people doing great things. I was the kid on the trike in The Incredibles, just waiting around hoping to see something amazing. And I thought fighting evil to the last was the most glorious and noble thing a man could do....

In fact, when I was young, one of my favorite books was "These Men Shall Never Die," by Lowell J. Thomas. It was a book of stories about WWII folks who were real heroes, not just the been there, done that kind, but the sacrificing their lives for others kind. I lusted after that sort of thing, and as I grew, I found myself drawn to Medal of Honor displays, like those at the Confederate Air Museum in Harlingen Texas, and to military museums of all types, like the Airborne Museum at Bragg, the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, or the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, TX (a very nice one, that).

I still am drawn to Military Museums and memorials, and I have visited them from Hawaii to Germany and all points between. I never cease to be impressed, awed, humbled and uplifted. And of course, whenever I get back to Washington, I make the time to revisit Arlington and The Tomb, and the Wall, and last time, the very haunting Korean War memorial. And I always end my visits at the Lincoln Memorial, where I like to revisit the words of my favorite hero. And the older I get, and the more I learn, the more easily that place and those words bring tears to my eyes.

Also, as I've aged, I've gained a man's understanding of the real cost of our Freedom. Fighting evil is still the only option as far as I am concerned, but now, the pain in other people eyes becomes my pain. Having lost loved ones, I know what I am looking at--what I am seeing in the faces of people like Captain Sims' wife. I know how confused and how hurt and how numb she feels. And I know how sometimes our puny little bodies just don't seem capable of containing the pain and the upwelling of grief.

And THAT, right there, is what I rage at. I HATE the people who caused that pain I see and feel. And I hate the people who have inflicted this war on us, and who have sent so many of our country's best to the grave. I hate the kind of people who could kill children in Russia, or who could fly planes full of innocent people into buildings full of other unsuspecting people, or who could take such joy in the suicidal deaths of their own children. I hate that I can't stop it. That I can't DO something!

Mostly, though, I hate that I can't look at pictures like that anymore without feeling such unbridled hatred. And it's times like that when I am glad I am not the Commander in Chief, because in my mind, the hardest thing George Bush must do every day is resist using ALL the power at his command to show the bad guys who they are REALLY screwing with.

I am not sure I could resist that urge. I am not sure I would even try.

-SangerM

Iraq Index.


Sgt. Rick Abner, a tactical psychological team chief with the 350th Psyop Co., attached to TF 1-27 Inf., hands out coloring books to Hawija children during a slow part of Operation Wolfhound Power on Nov. 14. (Sgt. Sean Kimmons)

If you are of the analytic bent, and like to see lots of numbers, charts, tables, and just general geeky data - have I got a present for you.

The Brookings Institution Iraq Index.

Some grim numbers, pretty much consistent with typical phasing for this kind of conflict - but the polling data in the back (not completely through it myself) shows some surprising (to me, who's had his head down in the tactical weeds for a while) optimism on the part of Iraqis.

It's all open source data, collected by Brookings. Perhaps more important - the website for your bookmarks, if this isn't something you guys already have.


If that whets your appetite - it's on the web, updated regularly.

It's interesting reading.

by John on Dec 02, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Airborne Combat Engineer links with: Brookings releases 55-page Iraq report

December 01, 2004

The Price.

It's not only insurgents who are dying in Iraq. And this ties in with this article in USA Today - about those who are left behind, the hidden walking wounded.

Subject: My Son

From Col. Tom Sims (US Army Retired):

My son, the soldier, comes home for good.

At last report, he had left Iraq and was waiting a flight in Kuwait. With luck he will be in Germany today and then on to Texas. By the way, he is called "remains" but I know better. He is my son.

I want to tell you about him. Not because he is so great a guy _ although I think so, but because he represents the thousands of sons and daughters America is sending to far away places to secure our peace and our liberties at home.

Captain Sean Patrick Sims, commanding officer of A Company, 2-2 BN, 1st Infantry Division, was killed in action Nov. 13 in Fallujah, Iraq while clearing insurgent occupied buildings. A tough assignment, clearing an urban area. Dirty, dangerous work. Sean lost his executive officer the day before and I read of the deaths of two Marine Captains who were similarly killed in Fallujah.

It is sad when a father must write his own son's obituary. I don't know what to say. My son, like others falling in that conflict, was a hero who believed in his mission, his unit, and his men. He also believed leaders should be in the front, leading, not following. And that is how he died. He was well liked and respected by his superiors and the men in his company, who sensed his concern for their well being. He was also concerned about the well being of the Iraqi people and did his utmost to guard them from harm.

Sean was a devout Catholic, who lived the tenets of his faith on a daily basis. There is no doubt in our minds that Sean is now in heaven and in the hands of our Lord. We grieve for his loss, which is our loss, but not for his soul. If anything, we ask his intercession on our behalf as he is now much better placed for that effort.

I don't know what to say or how to describe the sacrifice of your blood for this country. Having served in Vietnam, twice, having a father who spent 36 years as a soldier through two wars, and a brother who served in Vietnam twice and is now 100% disabled from his injuries there, I am encouraged by the awareness of our countrymen for the sacrifices of our children. I am thankful for the realization by our citizenry that freedom is not free.

My son was not a rampant political supporter for any party, although he was probably more Republican by instinct. But he did have an abiding trust and belief in the United States of America. He felt we are a moral nation, steadfast in our principles; this nation does not take its commitment of its sons and daughters to war lightly. But unlike many nations in the world, we do not shirk our duties to commit our blood to just and necessary causes. Because that is what keeps us free.

I think he understood something which seems to have been lost in the debates over weapons of mass destruction and poor intelligence estimates in this particular war. That is that sovereign nations must be held accountable for their actions. We cannot tolerate nations that hide behind borders and provide support to enemies who are intent on our destruction. We can debate on how this war developed and was executed. It can not be debated that nations now look carefully at their responsibility and accountability before providing such support. America has made its statement. If you support terrorism, we will find you and destroy you, whatever the cost.

My son understood this and believed what he was doing was right. But he also believed that you can't go in and destroy a country and walk away. He was anxious for the insurgents to be quickly defeated so we could start the nation building that Iraq so sorely needs. He chafed at the delays and the debates in implementing aid. He was not a romantic. He understood well the backwardness of the country, the strangle hold of its religion and more challengingly, the social and political pressure of the tribal system. They all looked insurmountable when you add them up. But he had been raised in a tradition of grit and putting one foot forward at a time, so he was not deterred by the challenge. He was faced with a difficult, dirty and seemingly impossible task, but his response was not how do I get out of it but how do I get it done.

I think his sacrifice to his nation can best be summed up in a message I received from a friend expressing condolences for his loss: His sacrifice was made to keep my family, my sons and my grandchildren as well as all Americans safe and free and for that we will eternally be grateful. That's nice. My son would agree. That's what he thought he was doing.

In retrospect, the true hero here is his wife, who is left a young widow with a young son to raise. She is a woman of grace, and grit. She will do well by her son and her warrior husband.


Regards, Tom Sims (Col. US Army Retired)

For more on Captain Sims check out

The Miami Herald
The Bryan-College Station Eagle
And what is possibly the source for the email I received, Texas Bug.

Hat tip to AFSister for the links in her comment, below.


Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam.

If you want an idea of what this family is going through, I would point you to my Memorial Day Post. Start at the bottom post, move up.

Letter from Fallujah.

This is a letter that could have been written from the ETO (European Theater of Operations) in WWII. Posted as received.

Subject: From a buddy in Iraq

Hi everyone,

I just spent about 24 hours up in Falluja taking a look at where we will be working. When we leave here, email will come to a halt, and we probably won't get much mail. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a little...

Two words about Falluja. Completely devestated. In fact, I think they should have just gone a head and leveled the town, WWII-style. That way they could just start over from scratch AND send a very powerful message to the Sunnis. However, now the government will have to rebuild houses, and neighborhoods. Waste of money. There were few if any "innocents" in that town.

The Battle. We got a pretty good briefing on the battle before going up. Basically, the days prior, a propaganda campaign was conducted. Leaflets were dropped which read, "when the lights go out, its time for you to leave." The night before the battle, we took out the power plant. The next day the city was empty except for a few old folks who refused to leave and a lot of foreign terrorists. (mostly Syrian and a few others including some from Sudan) The terrorists plan was for us to come in and fight house to house, thus creating huge casualties. They were expecting us to come in from the east, and spent the last year building up their defenses (in civilian houses). Our forces acted in ways that would reinforce this belief. However, all the while the Marines and Army were massing to attack from the North and surrounding the south and west of the city. (Falluja is small, but very dense. About 4km x 6km)

Once the attack began, the insurgents got a big surprise. Rather than fight house to house, the Americans just blew up the house. They went in with tanks and other armored vehicles. Thus, the battle was relatively short. Now, both the US and Iraqi forces are moping up the remaining insurgents. This is a difficult process, as they had a year to prepare their defenses. Our guys are finding HUGE caches of weapons and munitions of all kinds indicating they were prepared for a long fight. Again, if the cache is too big to move, they simply blow up the house. (and because of the urban density, it takes a few others with it) Every house has a stock pile of food, too. So, the few remaining, hardcore insurgents have been able to move from house to house, get a little chow, stock up on ammo, and take shots at our guys. Our guys are trying to either use or destroy the food to deny the bad guys resources. They still won't fight us in the street. They make our guys go in after them. That can get dicey. Our mission, once we get our guys up there, will be more of this and then to maintain order once the residents are allowed back into town. Needless to say, the locals will
not be happy. TOUGH. That is what you get for supporting terror and oppressing others.

We know that this defeat hurt them. The Sunnis are now trying to get into the political process. Only problem is, negotiation is considered to be weakness. That is how Falluja got so out of hand in the first place. So whether PM Allawi gives them any quarter now is anyone's guess.

Cats and Dogs. As most of you know, I am a pretty much a pet guy, especially cats. In this regard, Falluja was a tough place to visit. Homeless/ownerless dogs and cats are everywhere. The house I slept in had several dogs and cats hanging around. I think the cats have is the worst. In fact, I wound up having one curled up next to my feet all night on the couch I slept on. I didn't mind. I couldn't help but wonder if I was on "his" or "her" couch and they were just trying to sleep where they normally sleep. Poor things. Out of desparation, the dogs have begun to pack-up and hunt at night. The big ones prey on the small ones. Its not a pretty sound. There is a puppy living next door to the house I stayed in. He had a little buddy who was carried off during an attack by bigger dogs. He was pretty traumatized by that. Now if you walk by the house at night, you can hear him growling from his hiding place. Tough little guy... I hope he makes it. I have way more sympathy for them than I do for their owners.

Apparently, some of the Iraqi soldiers who are up there now uncovered a location used to behead hostages. Lots of pictures of the proud terrorists and their evil work. These people know nothing of the God they aledge to fight for.

Falluja is not a nice place. Again, we should have just leveled it, and the rest of Iraq would not have so much as batted an eyelash. Most would have been happy to be rid of it.

I hope to be able to check email about once a week up there, but I doubt it. I may be heading up sometime next week as part of our advance group, but no later than the 10th. I will let everyone know what our new mailing address is if and when we get one.

Until next time,

Steven

by John on Dec 01, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Sworn Enemy links with: Another Letter From Fallujah
» Flight Pundit links with: Leter from Steven in Falluja

November 30, 2004

More tales from Fallujah Vets.

Many of you military types have probably seen this already - it's flowing through the email stream. It also is the kernel of what Dusty referred to below in latest post.

Email from Dave - Nov 19, 04

Dear Dad -

Just came out of the city and I honestly do not know where to start. I am afraid that whatever I send you will not do sufficient honor to the men who fought and took Fallujah.

Shortly before the attack, Task Force Fallujah was built. It consisted of Regimental Combat Team 1 built around 1st MarineRegiment and Regimental Combat Team 7 built around 7th Marine Regiment. Each Regiment consisted of two Marine Rifle Battalions reinforced and one Army mechanized infantry battalion.

Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) consisted of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (3rd LAR), 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5); 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1)and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry (2/7). RCT-7 was slightly less weighted but still a formidable force.

And a joint force, leveraging the strengths of each of the services to cover the weak spots - and melded into a cohesive whole from a command and control perspective. This level of cooperation and integration was unheard of in my company grade days, and only during the latter part of the field grade days were we moving to this. Make no mistake, though, it took the war to finally make this happen.

And I suspect there was still some kludging going on regarding integration of C4ISR (military command and control computer systems) - and that becomes an even greater problem when you go combined - adding the non-US elements. Very few nations have sophisticated, much less pervasive C2 computer systems, and those that do are not usually compatible with our stuff - a real planning consideration when planning combined operations anymore. Some armies literally cannot safely play with ours, absent a huge infusion of US liaison teams, it's own logistical problem.

Cutting a swath around the city was an Army Brigade known as Blackjack. The Marine RCT's were to assault the city while Blackjack kept the enemy off of the backs of the assault force.

The night prior to the actual invasion, we all moved out into the desert just north of the city. It was something to see. You could just feel the intensity in the Marines and Soldiers. It was all business. As the day cleared, the Task Force began striking targets and moving into final attack positions. As the invasion force commenced its movement into attack positions, 3rd LAR led off RCT-1's offensive with an attack up a peninsula formed by the Euphrates River on the west side of the city. Their mission was to secure the Fallujah Hospital and the two bridges leading out of the city. They executed there [sic] tasks like clockwork and smashed the enemy resistance holding the bridges. Simultaneous to all of this, Blackjack sealed the escape routes to the south of the city. As invasion day dawned, the net was around the city and the Marines and Soldiers knew that the enemy that failed to escape was now sealed.

3/5 began the actual attack on the city by taking an apartment complex on the northwest corner of the city. It was key terrain as the elevated positions allowed the command to look down into the attack lanes. The Marines took the apartments quickly and moved to the rooftops and began engaging enemy that were trying to move into their fighting positions. The scene on the rooftop was surreal. Machine gun teams were running boxes of ammo up 8 flights of stairs in full body armor and carrying up machine guns while snipers engaged enemy shooters. The whole time the enemy was firing mortars and rockets at the apartments. Honest to God, I don't think I saw a single Marine even distracted by the enemy fire. Their squad leaders, and platoon commanders had them prepared and they were executing their assigned tasks.

That's discipline, folks, pure and simple. And PT (physical fitness training) is another element of discipline. Which the Marines excel at. The Army, well, some of us do, some of us don't...

As mentioned, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry joined the Regiment just prior to the fight. In fact, they started showing up for planning a couple of weeks in advance. There is always a professional rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps but it was obvious from the outset that these guys were the real deal. They had fought in Najaf and were eager to fight with the Regiment in Fallujah. They are exceptionally well led and supremely confident.

Coming from a Marine, that's real praise. I have no doubt it is merited, and was earned. And I'm sure it's reciprocated, too. Even if they are Jarheads.

2/7 became our wedge. In short, they worked with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. We were limited in the amount of prep fires that we were allowed to fire on the city prior to the invasion. This was a point of some consternation to the forces actually taking the city. Our compensation was to turn to 2/7 and ask them to slash into the city and create as much turbulence as possible for 3/1 to follow. Because of the political reality, the Marine Corps was also under pressure to "get it done quickly."

For this reason, 2/7 and 3/1 became the penetration force into the city.

And this time, the sons of Custer fought as their namesake fought in the Civil War, and not as he did in the Indian Wars.

Immediately following 3/5's attack on the apartment buildings, 3/1 took the train station on the north end of the city. While the engineers blew a breach through the train trestle, the Cavalry soldiers poured through with their tanks and Bradley's and chewed an opening in the enemy defense. 3/1 followed them through until they reached a phaseline deep into the northern half of the city. The Marine infantry along with a few tanks then turned to the right and attacked the heart of the enemy defense. The fighting was tough as the enemy had the area dialed in with mortars. 3/5 then attacked into the northwest corner of the city. This fight continued as both Marine rifle battalions clawed their way into the city on different axes.

There is an image burned into my brain that I hope I never forget. We came up behind 3/5 one day as the lead squads were working down the Byzantine streets of the Jolan area. An assault team of two Marines ran out from behind cover and put a rocket into a wall of an enemy strongpoint. Before the smoke cleared the squad behind them was up and moving through the hole and clearing the house. Just down the block another squad was doing the same thing. The house was cleared quickly and the Marines were running down the street to the next contact. Even in the midst of that mayhem, it was an awesome site.

Survivors of Stalingrad, Berlin, and Hue are nodding their heads approvingly.

The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city. The enemy is willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the eyes of the Marines before they open up. Just two days ago, as a firefight raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the house to surrender. The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go to heaven than to surrender to infidels. This exchange is a graphic window into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these last 10 days.

It's also a graphic window into why that Marine shot the man in the mosque. The muji's set the conditions. From a cold, military perspective, it also means that you are going to end up killing the die-hards, which may well aid in the reconstruction and perhaps reconciliation after the war finally ends.

I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians during the battle. Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of their homes. They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out of the city. At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we attacked.

If you read the memoirs of Germans, Russians, British, and American soldiers talking about fighting in the cities during WWII, the same sort of pattern emerges. The civilians (the smart ones anyway) who couldn't get away, get very, very good at hiding, and staying quiet, not attracting attention to themselves. The movie Enemy At The Gates kind of hints at it, as well.


I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.

The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader. He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl Mitchell told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

I don't want to hear another word about John Kerry's Purple Hearts. The paragraph above simply confirms my whole position on the subject. If you are a leader, you lead. You don't use piddling wounds as an excuse to leave combat. John Kerry is not fit to shake that man's hand in that regard. And Kerry was a commissioned officer, whom I would hold to the absolute highest standard. No one besides doctors were ever drafted into commissioned status. Not that it matters now - but too bad this story wasn't out there before the election.

It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men. They fought as hard as any Marines in history and deserve to be remembered as such. The enemy they fought burrowed into houses and fired through mouse holes cut in walls, lured them into houses rigged with explosives and detonated the houses on pursuing Marines, and actually hid behind surrender flags only to engage the Marines with small arms fire once they perceived that the Marines had let their guard down. I know of several instances where near dead enemy rolled grenades out on Marines who were preparing to render them aid. It was a fight to the finish in every sense and the Marines delivered.

I have called the enemy cowards many times in the past because they have never really held their ground and fought but these guys in the city did. We can call them many things but they were not cowards.

My whole life I have read about the greatest generation and sat in wonder at their accomplishments. For the first time, as I watch these Marines and Soldiers, I am eager for the future as this is just the beginning for them. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of all is that the morale of the men is sky high. They hurt for the wounded and the dead but they are eager to continue to attack. Further, not one of them would be comfortable with being called a hero even though they clearly are.

By now the Marines and Soldiers have killed well over a thousand enemy. These were not peasants or rabble. They were reasonably well trained and entirely fanatical. Most of the enemy we have seen have chest rigs full of ammunition and are well armed are willing to fight to the death. The Marines and Soldiers are eager to close with them and the fighting at the end is inevitably close.

I will write you more the next time I come in about what we have found inside the city. All I can say is that even with everything that I knew and expected from the last nine months, the brutality and fanaticism of the enemy surprised me. The beheadings were even more common place than we thought but so were torture and summary executions. Even though it is an exaggeration, it seems as though every block in the northern part of the city has a torture chamber or execution site. There are hundreds of tons of munitions and tens of thousands of weapons that our Regiment alone has recovered. The Marines and Soldiers of the Regiment have also found over 400 IEDs already wired and ready to detonate. No doubt these numbers will grow in the days ahead.

In closing, I want to share with you a vignette about when the Marines secured the Old Bridge (the one where the Americans were mutilated and hung on March 31) this week. After the Marines had done all the work and secured the bridge, we walked across to meet up with 3rd LAR on the other side.

On the Fallujah side of the bridge where the Americans were hung there is some Arabic writing on the bridge. An interpreter translated it for me as we walked through. It read: "Long Live the Mujahadeen. Fallujah is the Graveyard for Americans and the end of the Marine Corps."

As I came back across the bridge there was a squad sitting in their Amtrac smoking and watching the show. The Marines had written their own message below the enemy's. It is not something that Mom would appreciate but it fit the moment to a T. Not far from the vehicle were two dead enemy laying where they died. The Marines were sick of watching the "Dog and Pony
show" and wanted to get back to work.

Dave

I don't deny that I wish I could have been there.

And where do we find these men? Look around you - they just got out of high school. In Red States and Blue States. In Red Counties and Blue Counties. Keep that in the back of your mind when you grumble about the kids. They have steel in them, it just needs a forge.

Hat tip to Rich B and Mike L.

Happy Birthday! (A Day Late)

To Israel.

May there be many more, eventually in peace.

Via NoOilForPacifists.

Big Balls Run in the Family...

This young man comes from a rather well-known Air Force blood line..."Hero in the Making" my a**...he's one already.

Yeah, this has been on the web for awhile, but it is so friggin' cool that it deserves re-posting on Argghhh!

May God watch over Joel and his buddies.

Instapilot

(HT: B5)

November 29, 2004

Obligatory Swipe O' the Day...

No day would be complete without at least one frog gigging session (those of you who grew up in the South know what I mean)...

From one of the more well-known Iraqi bloggers, we have this on life in Baghdad:

It seems that the French are not afraid of the terrorists. Were they excluded from the terrorists' targets list for some reason? Is there a peace truce between them? Did we miss something here? Because the French are moving freely and saying for the terrorists:

"Hey, it's us, so don't mistake us for your enemies, the other foreigners! And we are not just ordinary French. We are the French government! And we are certainly not doing something good for Iraq, so relax!"

This may explain why no one is anymore worried about the two French journalists; they're in friendly hands!

Good point. Heh.

(HT: Iraq the Model)

P.S. If you haven't donated to Spirit of America yet, you're a wuss.
P.P.S. John: Can I say that?

P.P.P.S - Not only can you say that - but I add this - from Iowahawk. The Armorer

A little more Fallujah news.

Know someone who fought at Fallujah? Know someone who didn't, but is in awe of the fight and fighters? Know someone who likes to collect comparatively rare t-shirts?

Look no farther! The wife of a deploying National Guardsman has designed a shirt to fit your needs!

LollaFallujah 2004

Her eBay store can be accessed here.

Hat tip to Myron for the pointer!

Regular visitors to the Castle know about the Arsenal. And the fact that the Armorer generally eschews new firearms for those that have a firmly established history.

The Armorer is pleased to see that US troops serving in Fallujah share his tastes, and are making use of an oldy-but-goodie, the PPSh 41, the Russian 'burp gun.' Although, given the source of most Iraqi weapons, this one is probably actually chinese, the Type 50.

Hat tip to Chris C. for the pics.

Next, Strategy Page has two interesting bits on Fallujah:

1. Some analysis of how we went about it. Fallujah, the Plan Survived Contact with the Enemy.

and,

2. Jim Dunnigan's thoughts on how Iraq may represent a tipping point in how Muslims are forced to view the world.

Update: Doug MacGregor continues his habit of not making friends. In the last link, he continues to show that truth-telling to power never is a very popular job that gets you promoted - just like John Boyd found out. Interesting views expressed herein - and I'm not in a position to strongly agree or disagree, but I find the viewpoint, well, interesting, and I freely admit I'm always having to fight with myself to keep an open mind and *not* get locked into a "Waterloo Mentality."

November 28, 2004

Fallujah, a soldiers story.

I've been giving you the jounalist's portrayal of the fighting in Fallujah. Now that many of the troops are back in their camps...

Let's hear their side. Truth-telling here - this is 2Slick's story, already linked to elsewhere by other people, but one more link can't hurt!

by John on Nov 28, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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