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Four days before Christmas 1943, in the darkest hours of WWII, a miracle took place. Two enemies—an American bomber pilot and a German fighter ace—met in combat over Germany and did the unexpected: They decided not to kill one another. Even more incredibly, as old men, they found one another and became best friends.
Below is a segment of the 2010 Veterans Day Speech given by Gen. John Kelly where he describes, in eloquent terms, the final seconds of two great Marines: Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. After hearing their story he took the time to find out the heroic details of what they did, then made sure these Marines got the medals they deserved. Both were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. This speech went viral on the internet, but I figured some readers of Modern American Heroes might not have seen it. This speech was given merely weeks after Gen. Kelly tragically lost his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly. The younger Kelly was on his third combat deployment since 9/11 when he stepped on an IED and was killed instantly. On November 19th Gen. John Kelly received his 4th Star and was named the new Commander of Southern Command.
Six Seconds to Live
“I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are…about the quality of the steel in their backs…about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.
Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
“Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way-perhaps 60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
“No sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured…some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They [didn’t] run like any normal man would to save his life.” “What he didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.” Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. No sane man. They saved us all.”
Last Six Seconds in the Life of Two Heroes
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “…let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were-some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
With One Second to Live They “Leaned into the Danger”
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the [driver] who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers -American and Iraqi- bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe…because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty…into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight-for you.
We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth-freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious-our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines-to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can every steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.
God Bless America, and….SEMPER FIDELIS!
…Told by Ace Vietnam Pilot Gen. Steve Ritchie
THIS IS ONE OF THOSE GESTURES FOR WHICH THERE ARE FEW WORDS.
Billie D. Harris was an American WWII Pilot who disappeared in July of 1944. It took 62 years for his wife Peggy to find out what happened to him. She not only found out where he was buried but also found out that the townspeople of Les Ventes, France, consider him a hero. The main street which runs through the city is named “Place Billie D. Harris”. The word “place” in French is generally used in conjunction with a very well known landmark and designates a very specific geographic location or section of street. It is usually the area or section of street in front of or encircling the landmark.
“I had to keep my promise, which was to bring my guys home,” said Sgt. Christopher Farias. “I promised my best friend’s wife that I would get him home. I could hear him screaming and I knew I had to do something.”
To read more CLICK HERE.
By Anna Mulrine
“As a barrage of bullets erupted around him during an attack by “well over” 100 enemy snipers and machine gunners, Capt. Barry Crawford Jr., then an Air Force combat air controller assigned to an Army Special Forces unit, watched as his own radio antenna was shot off “mere inches from his face.”
“…Without regard for his own life, Captain Crawford moved alone across open terrain in the kill zone to locate and engage enemy positions with his assault rifle while directing” strafe attacks. He also called in fighter jet runs “along with 500- and 2,000-pound bomb and hellfire missile strikes.”
To read more CLICK HERE.
For Fox News VIDEO Interview with Captain Crawford CLICK HERE.
Below is an article about Women in Combat with a stirring video by former Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Barrow. It is worth noting that this great man died within days of his friend, the late Colonel John Ripley. Both men testified before congress on the issue of sending our women into combat, a move which Colonel Ripley described as a “quest to neuterize all our institutions under the holy name of equality“. These great men have unfortunately been ignored. Take time to watch this stirring testimony on this issue by General Barrow. He is, like Colonel Ripley, a southern Gentlemen, a great warrior, and another example of An American Knight.
DESTROYING THE MARINE CORPS–WOMEN IN COMBAT
by Andy Weddington
There’s been rumor floating around the retired Marine community for a month or so now women will soon go through formal infantry training–officers to Infantry Officers Course and enlisted to Infantry Training Battalion. Fact or fiction? Credible nods from some senior active duty Marines suggest that’s the plan. Stunning. Is this of our commandant’s ordering or being so ordered? If true, it doesn’t matter. It’s a gargantuan mistake.
“The mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and/or repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.” For readers not familiar with the Marine Corps and fighting terminology, “close combat” includes hand-to-hand. (Note: There’s a reason women are not pitted against men in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) octagon.)
That was the mission of a Marine rifle squad long before I became a Marine. That was the mission of a Marine rifle squad taught to me at Officer Candidates School, and so it remained through three decades of service. That is the mission of a Marine rifle squad today. And the mission of a Marine rifle squad is not likely to change any time soon.
Twenty years ago there was a United States government bureaucratic undertaking (pardon the redundancy) to address the role of women in our armed forces. More directly, the agenda (of many engaged in that undertaking) was to expand the role of women in combat.
The “Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces” was a typical government operation–commissioners and information gathering panels and surveys and fact-finding visits to military installations and formal committee hearings and findings and recommendations. The effort checked every conceivable block. The Commission dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s–the paperwork was in order. It looked good. But if the truth be known, results either ignored or conveniently tailored to meet the desired end state was the modus operandi. No surprise.
But the Commission, and their work, missed the point. And the critical point they missed, probably intentionally ignored, was eloquently addressed in the thoughts of one man–a retired United States Marine–before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1991. During a 41 year career that Marine advanced from private to general. He commanded and fought, including close combat, in three wars–World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was awarded our nation’s second and third highest decorations–the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Silver Star, and others–for his leadership and heroism under combat conditions.
That infantryman, of unimpeachable credibility and authority, spoke for about 13 minutes. The succinct, sometimes emotional, and compelling sentiments of General Robert H. Barrow (1922-2008), 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, about women in combat, delivered eight years after he retired, are as germane today as when spoken. His blunt analysis is absolutely correct. So are his sobering conclusions. Time to watch the video.
Then entertain a single question…
Will the Marine Corps be destroyed?