November 2011

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Written by Lawrence P. Grayson   

On Easter morning, March 25, 1951, the Catholic priest mounted the steps of a partially destroyed church, and turned to face his congregation, some 60 men–gaunt, foul-smelling, in tattered clothing. Fr. Emil Kapaun raised a small, homemade, wooden cross to begin a prayer service, led the men in the Rosary, heard the confessions of the Catholics, and performed a Baptism. Then, he wept because there was no bread or wine to consecrate so that the men could receive the Eucharist. The U.S. Army chaplain, with a patch covering his injured eye and supported by a crudely-made cane, may have been broken in body, but was strong in spirit.

The following Sunday, Father Kapaun collapsed. His condition was serious–a blood clot, severe vein inflammation, malnutrition–but the Chinese guards in the North Korean prison camp would allow no medical treatment, not even painkillers. After languishing for several weeks, he died on May 23 and was buried in a mass grave.

Emil Kapaun was born on April 16, 1916 to a poor, but faith-filled farm family on the prairies of eastern Kansas. Life was hard and even children had to learn to be resourceful as mechanics and carpenters and to care for the animals during bitter winters and brutally hot summers. With a strong desire to become a priest, he attended Benedictine Conception Abbey to complete high school and college, continued his studies at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, and was ordained in 1940.

Fr. Emil Kapaun celebrating a field Mass on the hood of a jeep.

Heroic Chaplain

When the United States entered World War II, he asked to become a military chaplain. His bishop initially refused, but later relented. Father Kapaun enlisted in 1944 in the Army, served for two years in Burma and India, then returned to civilian life. Two years later, he reenlisted and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan.

In June 1950, a North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel, and advanced quickly toward Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. intervened militarily, with the 1st Cavalry Division executing an amphibious landing to block the advancing army. The enemy onslaught was severe and the U.S. units soon were in retreat. Fighting was intense. Father Kapaun, with his soldier-parishioners in danger, was tireless. He moved among the GIs, ignoring enemy fire, comforting the wounded, administering the last rites, burying the dead, and offering Mass whenever and wherever he could. On one occasion, he went in front of the U.S. lines, in spite of intense fire, to rescue a wounded soldier.

By August, the U.S. troops had been pushed to the southern end of Korea, near the port of Pusan. Then, on September 15, 1950, the war took a radical turn when U.S. troops landed at Inchon behind the invading army. The North Korean forces fled northward, with the Americans in pursuit. Within a few weeks, the 1st Cavalry Division had crossed the 38th parallel. Unknown to them, China, which had secretly moved a huge army into North Korea, was about to enter the war.

Fearless in Danger
The night of November 1 was quiet. Father Kapaun’s battalion, having suffered some 400 casualties among its roster of 700 soldiers, was placed in a reserve position. Chinese troops, however, had infiltrated to within a short distance of them. Suddenly, just before midnight, there was a cacophony of bugles, horns and whistles, as the enemy attacked from all sides.

Father Kapaun showing his pipe after it was shot out of his mouth by an enemy sniper.

Fr. Emil Kapaun scrambled among foxholes, sharing a prayer with one soldier, saying a comforting word to another. He assembled many wounded in an abandoned log dugout. All the next day, he scanned the battlefield and, some 15 times, when he spotted a wounded soldier would crawl out and drag the man back to the battalion’s position. By day’s end, the defensive perimeter was drawn so tightly that the log hut and the wounded it contained were outside of it. As evening came and another attack was imminent, the chaplain left the main force for the shelter so that he could be with the wounded. It was soon overrun, and Father Kapaun pleaded for the safety of the injured. Approximately three-quarters of the men in the battalion had been killed or captured.

Admirable Self-Sacrifice
Hundreds of U.S. prisoners were marched northward over snow-covered crests. Whenever the column paused, Father Kapaun hurried up and down the line, encouraging the men to pray, exhorting them not to give up. When a man had to be carried or be left to die, Father Kapaun, although suffering from frostbite himself, set the example by helping to carry a makeshift stretcher. Finally, they reached their destination, a frigid, mountainous area near the Chinese border. The poorly dressed prisoners were given so little to eat that they were starving to death.

For the men to survive they would have to steal food from their captors. So, praying to Saint Dismas, the “Good Thief,” Father Kapaun would sneak out of his hut in the middle of the night, often coming back with a sack of grain, potatoes or corn. He volunteered for details to gather wood because the route passed the compound where the enlisted men were kept, and he could encourage them with a prayer, and sometimes slip out of line to visit the sick and wounded. He also undertook tasks that repulsed others, such as cleaning latrines and washing the soiled clothing of men with dysentery.

Unwavering Faith
Father Kapaun’s faith never wavered. While he was willing to forgive the failings of prisoners toward their captors, he allowed no leeway in regard to the doctrines of the Church. He continually reminded prisoners to pray, assuring them that in spite of their difficulties, Our Lord would take care of them. As a result of his example, some 15 of his fellow prisoners converted to the Catholic Faith.

Fr. Emil Kapaun (second from right–note cross on helmet) helping a wounded soldier.

Fr. Emil Kapaun’s practice of sharing his meager rations with others who were weaker, lowered his resistance to disease, and eventually led to his death. For his heroic behavior, he received many posthumous honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Legion of Merit, had buildings, chapels, a high school, and several Knights of Columbus councils named in his honor, and is currently being considered for the Medal of Honor. In 1993, the Pope declared Father Kapaun a “Servant of God,” and his cause for canonization is pending.

About the Author: Lawrence P. Grayson is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. He also serves as State Director for Pro-Life Activities, Knights of Columbus, Maryland.

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Fr._Capodanno.jpgby:  Lawrence P. Grayson 

September 4, 1967, Quong Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam. A routine, pre-dawn, sweeping operation by a Marine company was turning into a major battle with a large force of the North Vietnamese Army. Three additional companies of Marines were committed. Fr. Vincent Capodanno, M.M. was granted permission to accompany the reinforcements, as he knew there would be many wounded and killed.

At 2:45 p.m., two platoons came under heavy fire on one side of a hill. The chaplain, left his relatively safe position on the other side, and raced across an open area

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Father Capodanno praying with the troops.

raked by fire to be near the men. To repel the enemy, tear gas was dropped on the U.S. position. The Marines had gas masks, but Father Capodanno, seeing that a chocking Marine was without one, gave him his. He continued to go to wounded Marines and help them back to the defensive perimeter or administer last rites.

As he ran toward a mortally wounded man, shrapnel from an exploding mortar inflicted multiple wounds to his right arm and leg. Fr. Capodanno, his arm held stiffly at his side, reached the Marine, and prayed with him until he died. Refusing medical aid, the chaplain worked his way over to several other wounded Marines to comfort them.

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Fr. Capodanno (right) comforting a wounded Marine.

A sergeant, who had been wounded five times, lay dazed on an exposed slope. The chaplain reached him and dragged him into a depression to save his life. As the fighting raged, Father Capodanno was wounded a second time, but still refused to leave the battlefield.

About 6:30 p.m., three Marines moved to destroy an enemy machine gun; two were killed and the third wounded. Fr. Capodanno reached the injured man, and as his right hand was useless blessed him with his left. Just then a medic who had been coming to aid the wounded Marine was shot. Father ran to the medic, positioning his body between the medic and the enemy. The machine gunner opened fire killing both men.

Father Capodanno suffered 27 bullet wounds, from his head to his spine. Immediately, news of his death circulated throughout the battlefield, and was radioed to the command center as: “Number 21 is KIA.” Twenty-one is the code for the chaplain.

Fr. Vincent Capodanno had come a long way from his birth on February 13, 1929 to an Italian immigrant family on Staten Island, NY. He was the youngest of ten

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Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M.

children born to the devout, Catholic family. Although he never spoke of an interest in the priesthood during his early years, he frequently attended daily Mass on his way to a local, public high school. When he graduated, he continued the practice, as he took a job as a clerk in an insurance company and attended night classes at Fordham University. At the age of 20, he decided to become a Maryknoll missioner, and after nine years of study and preparation was ordained.

Two months later, Father and five other Maryknollers were sent to Taiwan. For the next year, he studied the Hakka-Chinese dialect to prepare him for his ministry to this minority group in the mountains of western Taiwan. He spent the remainder of his initial six-year assignment undertaking a variety of responsibilities. Then, after a traditional six-month furlough, he was assigned to Hong Kong. Father Capodanno expressed a desire to return to Taiwan, but was refused. He then requested permission to join the Navy Chaplain Corps and serve with the Marines in Vietnam. This was approved and, in late 1965, he was commissioned a lieutenant. In April 1966, he was assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment, south of Da Nang. As the only Catholic chaplain in the regiment, he had to see to the spiritual needs of the men in three battalions, spread over a wide area.

Father Capodanno lived as close to the combat Marines as possible, spending more time at combat bases, where he knew he was needed, than at the battalion command post. He marched with them, carried the same loads, went on patrol with them, shared his rations, and made himself fully accessible to them. On Sundays, he said Mass at each of the battalions, often traveling from one to the other by helicopter. In 1966, he participated in six combat operations, and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Normally, chaplains are transferred from field combat units after six months. Fr. Vincent Capodanno served eight months before being attached to a medical battalion to serve the hospitalized. He longed to be with the field unit again, and often visited his old battalion during its operations. When his year-long tour of duty was coming to an end, he requested a six month extension. It was approved, and he was assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment in the Que Son Valley, where some of the fiercest fighting was going on. He voluntarily joined the officers who “walked the line” at night to visit the forward posts and assure that the defenses were ready. Fr. Capodanno stayed close to the fighting men, comforting them, saying Mass, hearing Confessions, listening to their problems, writing to their families. Then came the fateful day in September.

Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno received the Medal of Honor from his country for his heroism, and has been made a “Servant of God” by his Church for his selflessness towards others. His cause for canonization is being considered.

About the Author: Lawrence P. Grayson is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. He also serves as State Director for Pro-Life Activities, Knights of Columbus, Maryland.

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Who do they represent? The 99% or the .99%?

The statement below will be published by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) in the Ledger-Enquirer Newspaper this weekend and distributed in the city of Fort Benning, Georgia by TFP Members.

 

For over twenty years, pacifist protesters have gathered at Fort Benning in mid-November to oppose the activities of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas) and demand its closure.

The protesters are even invited to break the law and trespass upon the military base as a symbolic act.

The annual event is organized by the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). This year, the organization has admitted that they will be attracting a dwindling mix of protesters since many activists are “busy” in the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide.  These socialist advocates surprisingly claim to represent “99%” of the American people.

In fact, this year’s march is also being called Occupy Fort Benning. Like their comrades in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the activists say they speak in the name of the “99%.” We ask: Who do they really represent?

They do not represent the American people
The American soldier represents 100% of Americans, not “the 99%” or “the 1%.” The American soldier does not use idle

The American Soldier is more representative of the 99% than is the anarchist.

words, illegal actions, and Marxist jargon to do so.  Rather, he defends the nation with his service, sacrifice and even his life. He represents the best of America and we should honor and be proud of our brave military heroes.

Not only does the American soldier wish to defend our nation, but he also extends an invitation to those in other countries, to learn from his experiences, and come to Fort Benning to better defend their countries against brutal Marxist movements.

To insinuate that a three or six-month course (where the curriculum is no secret) can turn South American soldiers into assassins is an insult to all these brave soldiers and their instructors. The whole school cannot be judged by deplorable acts of some of its graduates. It would be the equivalent of saying the Occupy Wall Street movement turns all its squatting occupants into criminals because of the increasing number of criminal opportunists who are appearing at “occupy” sites nationwide and committing crimes and sexual assaults that have led to a number of arrests.

By defending the whole nation, the American soldier represents 100% of all Americans. By dividing the nation, Occupy Fort Benning seeks to represent only those Americans sympathetic to its radical view.

Thus we must ask: Who do they really represent?

Looking at all the groups that usually attend the protest, we see scattered fringes of the religious, political and cultural left.  The event is used as a platform to push ideas that range from communism to socialism, drug legalization to abortion, homosexual vice to women’s ordination, Liberation Theology to anarchy. Realistically, even the most optimistic observer is forced to admit that such views represent at best only 0.99% of Americans rather than 99%.

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the SOA Watch, was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 2008 for his unorthodox opinions.

They do not represent the Church
Although participants may appear in habits and collars, it would be wrong to conclude that these protesters represent the authentic position of the Catholic Church. The strident socialist tone of the arguments presented by the protesters remind us of the words of Pope Pius XI who warned, “No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

The praising of Marxist guerrillas and despots like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro who promoted violent revolution in Latin America obviously does not represent Church teaching. Indeed, while the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation opens its doors to all democratically elected governments in the hemisphere, the protesters have the dubious distinction of favoring the oldest communist dictatorship in Latin America – the Castro dictatorship which has held sway for over fifty years and persecuted the Church.

The idea that protesters somehow represent Church teaching is refuted by the excommunication of Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois who has led the gathering for over two decades. His public support of women’s ordination and persistent dissent has set him at loggerheads with both the Vatican and his religious order.

Indeed, the Fathers and great saints of the Church consistently defend the mission of the soldier to establish order through just war. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, for example, that the military profession must have as its goal the defense of the public good, the poor and oppressed. Soldiers are therefore guardians of legitimate authority.

Yet again, in his role of upholding the Church’s teaching on just war, the soldier represents the full 100% while the Occupy Fort Benning activists represent at best a dissenting 0.99 % element that does not reflect the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

TFP Members, pictured here in front of the Iwo Jima memorial, are the only opposition voice to the distortions spread by SOA Watch each year in Fort Benning, Georgia.

A Call to Gratitude
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) calls upon the public to thank our heroes.  Let us thank them for defending the 100%.

Indeed, we need to thank – not protest – these heroes who put their lives on the line – and represent us all. These heroes guarantee the peace. We live freely because they made the greatest of sacrifices – even that of life itself.

We cannot agree with those who protest against the soldier and see his role as one buttressing “structures of oppression and power.” We do not agree with those who unfairly label those who fight against Marxism as murderers and assassins. We cannot turn a blind eye to a ruthless enemy who breaks all rules and conventions as Marxists have always done.

While we censure any abuses, of course, we will not stand silent while systemic and widespread abuses come from Castro’s Cuba, the FARC guerillas and other leftist movements that still cling to the outdated and iniquitous Marxist ideologies that so ravaged Latin America.

As Americans, let us be proud of these heroes who represent us all as they continue to fight and train others to defend their nations against those who threaten the peace.

May God protect them and their families in their daily battles around the world.

 

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The SR-71 BlackBird

powerball


In April 1986, following an attack on American

soldiers in a  Berlin disco, President Reagan

ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi’s

terrorist camps in  Libya .

My duty was to fly over Libya , and take

photographs recording the damage our F-111’s

had inflicted.

Qaddafi had established a ‘line of death,’

a territorial marking across the  Gulf of Sidra ,

swearing to shoot down any intruder, that crossed

the boundary.

On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.

I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world’s

fastest jet, accompanied by a Marine Major (Walt),

the aircraft’s reconnaissance systems officer (RSO).

We had crossed into Libya , and were approaching

our final turn over the bleak desert landscape, when

Walt informed me, that he was receiving missile

launch signals.

I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time

it would take for the weapons, most likely SA-2 and SA-4

surface-to-air missiles, capable of Mach 5 – to reach

our altitude.

I estimated, that we could beat the rocket-powered

missiles to the turn, and stayed our course, betting

our lives on the plane’s performance.

After several agonizingly long seconds, we made

the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean .

‘You might want to pull it back,’ Walt suggested.

It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles

full forward.

The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well

above our Mach 3.2 limit.

It was the fastest we would ever fly.

I pulled the throttles to idle, just south of  Sicily ,

but we still overran the refueling tanker, awaiting us

over  Gibraltar …

Scores of significant aircraft have been produced,

in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements

of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in

December.

Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre Jet,

and the P-51 Mustang, are among the important machines,

that have flown our skies.

But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone

as a significant contributor to Cold War victory, and as the

fastest plane ever, and only 93 Air Force pilots, ever steered

the ‘sled,’ as we called our aircraft.

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by: Norman Fulkerson

“For those who fought for it,” said an unknown soldier, “freedom has a meaning the protected will never know.”

A collection of military giants who fought for freedom convened in Washington for the 14th Annual Veterans Conference, put on by the American Veterans Center. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen from the greatest to the latest generation were on hand to tell their stories and be honored for their service.

These men from conflicts beginning with WWII up to the current war in Afghanistan have contributed to the demise of the cruelest tyrants and the most despotic regimes of the twentieth and twenty-first Century. It is appropriate for us to take a moment this Veterans Day to reflect on their sacrifices.

SSgt. Jeremiah Workman

Wounded Warriors

Among those who spoke were wounded warriors like SSgt. Jeremiah Workman. He earned a Navy Cross during the battle for Fallujah when he entered a house to save some Marines who were pinned down by terrorists on the upper floor. Sgt. Workman charged into the house, and ran up the stairs firing on the enemy, dodging bullets as he went. When he realized that the rest of his squad was not with him, Workman was forced to retreat, but only long enough to regroup his men and make a second charge up the staircase with guns blazing. Running low on ammunition the Marines went back down the steps to reload when a terrorist lobbed a grenade in their direction. In spite of the painful shrapnel wounds to his legs and the intensity of the fight he was now engaged in Sgt. Workman was undeterred. He led a third and final assault up the stairs where he was able to secure the house. He was credited with killing 20 enemy combatants.

While he survived the hellish battle, other Marines did not. This was the most difficult thing for him to endure and led to a painful struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Navy Cross, he says, has allowed him to bring attention to many great Marines who did not survive that day.

Steve Maguire, former President of the Ranger association and author of Jungle in Black was also on hand to tell his story. He lost his eyesight during a battle in Vietnam where he stumbled upon an area where 30 Vietcong had just been. He saw their impressions in the grass and realized he hit “pay dirt.” Because of his keen military training he also perceived a booby trap awaiting them. One of the members of his recon platoon inadvertently tripped the wire that set off an explosion which left Mr. Maguire blind. For 42 years he has not seen a speck of light but remains upbeat, even philosophical about his experiences.

“I thought I was invincible,” he told a rapt audience, but with a smile on his face he added, “I was forced to admit, that they could actually kill me.” There is a future for those wounded in battle, he told the audience. “The story of our life is not just about our life, but what we did with it.” Mr. Maguire is now a director for the Army at the Soldier Family Assistance Center in the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Col. Glenn Frazier, survivor of the Bataan Death March.

Hell’s Guest[1]

One of the most colorful personages at the Conference was Col. Glenn Frazier. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March and was quick to admit, had he known what was in store for him, he would have preferred death to the march.

He joined the Army when only sixteen and did so under amusing circumstances. He was in a bar having a Coca Cola one day when the bartender rudely told him to leave.

“You boys from Lowndes County are always beating up the boys from Montgomery County,” he said. Although he was only sixteen he took his Harley Davidson, drove it through the front doors of the saloon with such violence it ripped the doors off their hinges, sending them into the air and on top of the bar. He then did a figure eight on the dance floor, with is motorcycle, before leaving.

Frustrated with life he went straight to the Army recruiter to join the military. Since his mother had refused to sign for him he lied about his age and said he was twenty one. After giving him the list of options of where he could go, the recruiter told him that the Philippines were a paradise. He would find out, all too soon, another side of that “paradise.”

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor his unit endured a savage fight against Japanese forces in the Battle of the Points. It was predicted by the enemy that the Americans would be destroyed in 10 days, but when the dust settled, Allied forces were victorious. But the worst was yet to come when he and 15,000 other soldiers were taken prisoner and forced to endure one of the most grueling tortures in our nation’s history, The Bataan Death March. 3000 died during the march and only 4000 came home after the war.

Although he survived the March he then had to endure three years in a POW camp where he was continually told by his captors that he was merely a “guest of the Emperor.” Col. Frazier thought otherwise and wrote about his struggles in a bestselling book titled Hell’s Guest. Living on merely two bowls of rice a day, he said they were treated like animals in the most inhumane conditions.

One day he suffered a severe cut on his hand which went to the bone. It was so cold and he was so emaciated that the wound did not bleed. Some days later he was walking across the camp with his hands in his pocket, to keep warm, and quickly found out that this was against the rules. He was taken before a judge and sentenced to death, but was saved by a miracle of God. With a gun to his back and a saber to his throat, his assassin asked Col. Frazier if he had anything to say before his head was cut off. He was then given, as he recalled “a mouth and wisdom.”[2]

“You can kill me but not my spirit,” he told the stunned Japanese soldier, “and my spirit is going to lodge in your body and haunt you the rest of your life.” A frown came over the face of his would be assassin who took three steps backwards and lowered his sword. Whether it was fear of God or pagan superstition he decided it might not be a good idea to kill this American serviceman. Instead Col. Frazier was forced to endure seven days of solitary confinement and more brutal beatings.

However, his spirit lived on and continues to inspire young Americans across the country. Colonel Frazier can be seen daily at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama signing his books and talking to tourists.

Gen. Jimmy Doolittle aboard the USS Hornet with the Raiders.

The Doolittle Raiders

One of the highlights of the conference events was the panel that included four of the last five living members of the legendary Doolittle Raiders, named after their founder and Medal of Honor Recipient, the late Gen. Jimmy Doolittle.

These men earned a place in history books for their participation in one of the most heroic actions of World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Gen. Doolittle was handed the task of conducting the first retaliatory air raid on the Japanese homeland. The eighty men asked to participate were told that it was a very dangerous mission and would entail low altitude bombings on targets that were to remain top secret. Everyone in the room volunteered.

In the weeks leading up to the raid, the pilots practiced for the mission by flying tree-top-level over the wheat fields and barns across America. In the earlier days of April 1942 they made their way to the USS Hornet where 16 B-25s awaited them. Because the planes could not fit below deck they had to be stored at the end of the runway top side. This meant that an already short 2000 foot runway was made shorter still at 500 feet, especially for those like Gen. Doolittle who took off first.

One can only imagine their surprise on that bright sunshiny day, April 18, 1942, when the Raiders were finally told that Tokyo, Japan was their intended target.

The original plan was for the planes to take off when the carrier got within 450 miles of the Japanese mainland. This was scientifically calculated by Gen. Doolittle as the distance which would allow them enough fuel to hit their targets and make it to mainland China where they would land at pre-designated air strips. An already complicated mission was made more so when the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese fishing boat 600 miles off the Japanese mainland. Not wanting to risk the possibility that Japan might have already been warned by that boat, Gen. Doolittle ordered to planes airborne, 150 miles ahead of what had been planned. The pilots knew they would have barely enough fuel to make it to China much less to the pre-designated air strips.

Major Ed Saylor who flew aboard Plane #15 with bowed head during a commemoration ceremony for deceased Raiders held on April 14,2011 at Calvary Cemetery in Lincoln Nebraska.

Major Edward Saylor, an engineer for plane #15 said he “Didn’t expect to survive the mission.” But the element of surprise was something he found delicious.

Major Thomas Griffin, the navigator aboard plane #9, described how he flew right over Emperor Hirohito’s palace. They were ordered not to bomb it “but the fly over was the least we could do,” he said with a smile. He made it safely to China but only because of a favorable tail wind. During his flight he described with a bit of humor how he was forced to think of a contingency plan in the case he would have to ditch it in the sea.

“I would try to land near a friendly ship,” he said, and if it were an unfriendly he added with bravado, “we would take it over with our 45’s.” One of the fellow Raiders sitting close by laughed and said, “Optimistic thinking.”

Of the sixteen original B-25s on the mission, three crash landed on the coast of China, while twelve flew until they ran out of fuel before the airmen bailed out. The last plane was forced to land in Russia.

The value of the raid can only be truly appreciated when one considers that the Japanese did not think their land would be bombed. Besides giving the enemy what one Raider referred to as a “black eye,” the Doolittle Raid changed the whole course of the war because it required the Japanese to change their mindset. They were forced to retain soldiers for the defense of the home islands which had been intended for the Solomons, but they also had to expand the Pacific perimeter of defense well beyond what they had formally thought to be adequate.[3]

Sterling Goblets presented to Gen. Jimmy Doolittle with the Bottle of Cognac to be opened by the last two Raiders Left Standing.

Goblet Ceremony

At the 1959 Raider Reunion in Tucson, Arizona, the Chamber of Commerce presented a set of eighty sterling goblets to General Doolittle with the name of each Raider engraved on the side. The Raiders who had already died had their names engraved upside down. At every reunion since then the raiders keep up the tradition started on that day. They turn the goblets of those who have died over and then toast their heroism.

The eighty goblets are preserved in an elegant glass trophy case[4] along with a bottle of 1896 Cognac donated by Hennessy to honor the year of Gen. Doolittle’s birth. The tradition of the yearly toast will end with the last two remaining Raiders still standing. Only then will the bottle of Cognac be opened and a final toast offered by the last two men of this historic group.[5]

Gen. Stephen Ritchie, the only "Ace" Pilot of the Vietnam who shot down 5 Russian Mig-21s.

Only “Ace” [6] Pilot in the Vietnam War

Another piece of living history and a highlight of the conference as well, was the presence of Gen. Steve Ritchie, one of the most highly decorated pilots of the Vietnam War. After distinguishing himself on his first tour of duty in Vietnam, Gen Ritchie volunteered for a second tour in 1972 and earned a place in aviation record books that will likely never be equaled.

On May 10 of that year he shot down a Russian MIG 21 and then another on May 31. Weeks later he engaged and destroyed two more MIGs in a classic low altitude dog fight which lasted just 89 seconds. On August 28 he shot down a fifth MIG during his 339th combat mission making him the Air Forces only “Ace” pilot since the Korean War and the only American pilot in history to down five of the most sophisticated air craft in the North Vietnamese fleet.

His list of accolades is simply astounding. Besides receiving the Air Forces highest award –the Air Force Cross– he went on to earn four Silver Stars, ten Distinguished Flying Crosses and 25 Air Medals. Before his career ended in 1974 he had logged more than 800 flying hours.[7]

During his talk he illustrated all to well that he knows the enemy at home as well as the enemy he fought abroad.

“Never have we, in America, faced such a dangerous threat,” he said, “which is determined as never before to either convert us or eliminate us and we are not even allowed to say the name of our enemies.”

“They can saw off our heads and put it on television all over the world,” he said, quoting the conservative radio commentator Paul Harvey, “yet we have to tiptoe around their sensitivities.”

“Whether we like it or not,” he finished, “we are in combat and it is a war of good vs evil, right vs wrong, freedom vs slavery, civilization vs chaos.”

Mariana Ritchie describing the hope she derived from a picture of the American Flag at the 14th Annual Veterans Conference, Washington DC. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Graham.)

The Little American Flag: Hope of a Romanian Girl

After thrilling the audience with his adventurous war stories and inspiring them with his perspectives, he turned the microphone over to his Romanian born wife Mariana. She briefly described what it was like, as a little girl, living under Communism in her homeland. As a five-year-old she remembered having to wait hours in line for such basic things as bread or even water. The word God was not allowed and although her grandfather was a priest, she was threatened for going to church.

The number one enemy of the Communist, she told the audience, was America. It is for this reason that she had hopes of one day being rescued by someone from the United States. One day she saw a picture of an American flag inside a magazine that had been smuggled into the country. She cut that picture out and drew enormous comfort just looking at it.

“I used to take it out and stare at it for a long time,” she said, “sometimes for hours. I was dreaming about America and what it must be like to be free.”

One day she decided to take her flag to school, where children were subjected to Communist indoctrination, and got caught. Although the teacher was furious and threatened to punish Mariana for having the flag, they could not find where she hid it.

“I could afford to lose my life,” she continued, “I could care less. But one thing I could not do is go on living without hope and that little American flag was all I had that kept me going.”

Her dream was that American pilots would go to Romania and blow it up, level it.

“Whatever they needed to do in order to free us: even if I were to die in the process, so be it. It was a price we [Romanians] would have gladly paid in exchange for freedom. We would have given the Americans anything; the oil in southern Romania; the Gold in the mountains; our life and soul in exchange for freedom.”

She finished her words by thanking America for everything, including a “second chance at life,” but also for “giving me a home and teaching me new words like happiness, honor and kindness.”

Whereas most little girls dream of a knight in shining armor, riding a white horse this Romanian girl’s ideal was clearly a twentieth century version. “I dreamed of an American fighter pilot who would rescue me with his fighter jet,” she said, “and take me to America.”

Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira, founder of the Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP)

Those Who Fight for Freedom

This burning desire for freedom of a little Romanian girl, left unheeded for years, reminded me of a favorite phrase from a stirring manifesto written by the “Twentieth Century Crusader,”[8] Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira titled, Communism and Anticommunism on the Threshold of the Millenium’s Last Decade.[9] It was a scathing denunciation against those in the west who remained silent about the millions of souls languishing behind the former Iron Curtain.

In it, Prof. de Oliveira described the discontent of those people in countries like Romania and what they would say when it came their time to time to speak. He imagined them questioning Western Historians who “wrote optimistically and superficially about what was happening in the Communist world,” yet chose to say so little about the immense misery. Or the wealthy public figures of the West who did so little to free them from the “dark and endless night of Soviet Slavery.”

“We needed a Crusade to free us,” Prof. de Oliveira imagined the discontent saying, “and you merely sent us some bread to help us endure indefinitely our captivity. Perchance were you ignorant that the best solution for captivity is not merely bread, but freedom?”

That is the reason why, on this Veterans Day, we should remember all those American servicemen who, like modern day crusaders, fought and continue to fight for the defenseless. They do not remain with crossed arms in the face of so much infamy but put their lives on the line, time and time again, for those who are often abandoned by the rest of the world.

This no doubt is what led Mariana Ritchie to finish her discourse with something that seldom makes it into print, but needs to be plastered on the walls of every newspaper office in the country.

“You are not hated, like some people like to say. You are loved by millions of people who are hoping that someday you will go and rescue them next.”

 

 


[1] http://hellsguest.com/

[2] From the gospel of St. Matthew.

[4] Today the goblets can be seen at the National Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio located at Wright-Patterson Air Force base.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ace designates a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy planes

[8] Title of the first biography about Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira written by Prof. Roberto de Mattei

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Reluctant Warrior

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When asked if he felt like a hero his response was “No, I just did my job.”

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Fr. Charles Joseph Watters

by:  Lawrence P. Grayson

In the early morning hours of November 9, 1967, as American artillery and aircraft pounded an 875-meter-high hill near Dak To, Vietnam, Fr. Charles Watters offered Mass at its base. Many Protestants joined the Catholics for the well-attended service. Soon, the chaplain would accompany these paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade as they moved against a North Vietnam Army (NVA) unit occupying the hill. The commanding general of the 173rd thought the objective was held by a depleted enemy force that suffered heavy casualties in recent fighting. The occupiers, however, were a fresh NVA regiment of 2,000 soldiers.

At 9:43 am, 330 men in three companies moved out. Companies C and D advanced abreast, while CompVany A was behind to protect the rear. The weather was clear and warm. The advance was slow through the thick, tangled foliage of scrub brush, bamboo and tall trees. Unknown to the Americans, the enemy had been preparing the site for several months, constructing camouflaged bunkers interconnected with trenches and tunnels and storing extensive quantities of supplies. At 10:30 am, with the first troopers a few hundred meters from the crest of the hill, a well-concealed NVA force opened fire with recoilless rifles, automatic weapons, small arms, rockets and hand grenades.

Father Watters moved to the line of contact. When a wounded trooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting forces, Father raced forward, picked the man up and carried him to safety. Soon after, he ran through intense enemy fire to aid a fallen soldier. The chaplain moved wherever he was needed.

When the fighting began, Company A, which was to the rear, began constructing a landing zone that could be used for resupply and evacuation of the wounded. The work was slow as the company was under occasional fire. Then, at 2:30 pm, enemy troops launched a massive assault from lower on the hill, driving the company upwards toward the other American units. The paratroopers had walked into a carefully prepared ambush, with enemy units above and below them.

With their advance halted, the Americans formed a defensive perimeter, bringing in their injured. As the men pulled back, the chaplain went into “no man’s land,” between the two forces, exposing himself to friendly as well as enemy fire to recover two wounded soldiers.

Celebrating Mass during the war in Vietnam. Father Watters believed his place was always with the fighting men — in the combat zone.

The NVA were now striking from all sides in a well-coordinated attack. The paratroopers were firing intensely, but the NVA continued to come. When the American defensive zone was forced to contract, Father Watters saw several wounded men lying outside of it. Ignoring attempts to restrain him, he left the perimeter three times in the face of automatic weapons and mortar fire to carry and assist injured troopers to safety. Then he moved about, aiding the medics, distributing food and water, speaking words of encouragement, and giving last rites to the dying.

With the three companies now in a common defensive area, the several command posts and the wounded were placed in the middle. For several hours, the Americans fought off the enemy. The high expenditure of ammunition and lack of water made resupply essential, but heavy enemy fire made it difficult. Six helicopters were hit and driven away before one finally dropped needed supplies at 5:50 pm.

As the enemy assault intensified, U.S. air strikes and artillery were called in, but they had little effect because of the dense foliage. Then, just after dark, at 6:58 pm, a Marine Corps fighter-bomber released two 500-pound bombs destined for the edge of the American perimeter. One of them struck the upper part of a tree located near the center of the American position and exploded. Fragments of the bomb were showered over the area which contained the combined command group, the wounded, and the medics. It killed 42 men, including the chaplain, and wounded 45 others. This was one of the worst friendly-fire incidents of the Vietnam War.

Charles Joseph Watters was born in Jersey City, N.J., on January 17, 1927. After attending Seton Hall University, he went to Immaculate Conception Seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1953. While serving in several parishes in New Jersey, he earned a commercial pilot’s license, and then in 1962 joined the Air Force National Guard. Three years later, Father enlisted in the Army as a chaplain, successfully completed airborne training and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, nicknamed the Sky Soldiers.

In June 1966, Father Watters, now a major, began a twelve-month tour of duty in Vietnam. He believed his place was with the fighting men, and so when a unit he was attached to rotated to the rear, he would join another unit in combat. He was constantly in motion, saying Mass, tending the wounded, joking with the men and giving spiritual guidance. Fr. Charles Joseph Watters celebrating Mass in the combat zone during the Vietnam War, shortly before his death. Father Watters with his chaplain’s assistant saying Mass shortly before his death.

In February 1967, he took part in Operation Junction City, which included the only combat jump of the Vietnam War. This helped endear him to the men, who knew he would risk his life with them. During this tour of duty, he was awarded an Air Medal and a Bronze Star with a V for valor.

When his tour ended, he extended for another six months. After the friendly-fire incident in which Father Watters was killed, the Americans took Hill 875, and significantly crippled the fighting effectiveness of the North Vietnam units they fought. Fr. Charles Joseph Watters was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and has had schools, a bridge, a Knights of Columbus council, and the Army Chaplain’s School named after him.

 

 

About the Author: Lawrence P. Grayson is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. He also serves as State Director for Pro-Life Activities, Knights of Columbus, Maryland.

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