Thursday, May 20, 2004


Bayonet Brits kill 35 rebels (Brits Go Hand To Hand 5 to 1)
The Sun ^ | 5-19-04

OUTNUMBERED British soldiers killed 35 Iraqi attackers in the Army’s first bayonet charge since the Falklands War 22 years ago. The fearless Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders stormed rebel positions after being ambushed and pinned down.

Despite being outnumbered five to one, they suffered only three minor wounds in the hand-to-hand fighting near the city of Amara.

The battle erupted after Land Rovers carrying 20 Argylls came under attack on a highway.

After radioing for back-up, they fixed bayonets and charged at 100 rebels using tactics learned in drills.

Charge ... tactics from drills

When the fighting ended bodies lay all over the highway — and more were floating in a nearby river. Nine rebels were captured.

An Army spokesman said: “This was an intense engagement.”

The last bayonet charge was by the Scots Guards and the Paras against Argentinian positions.,,2-2004223179,00.html

See Also, Post + Responses...

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.

Monday, May 17, 2004


Chicago Tribune
May 16, 2004

Marines who liberated Baghdad back in the thick of Iraq fighting


FALLUJAH, Iraq - They were the poster boys - literally - for the swift invasion of Iraq: the U.S. Marines who helped tug down a statue of Saddam Hussein in an instantly iconic image of the fall of Baghdad.

None of them could have predicted where they would end up a year later.

After nine months away from Iraq, the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment returned in February for what its members thought would be a low-key tour of security and reconstruction duty. But within weeks, the troops were urgently reassigned to help quell the uprising in Fallujah, Iraq's most rebellious city, and found themselves in tougher combat than many faced on the road to Baghdad.

"In many ways, this was the fight that we expected last year," said battalion commander Lt. Col. B.P. McCoy. "We were working civil-military operations, handing out candy and kissing babies," when the battalion was ordered to Fallujah, he said.

Their return to combat is a testament to a conflict that still flares with brutal intensity, demanding more troops and heavier armor than expected more than a year after the declared end of major fighting.

The military has already rotated more than 100,000 soldiers into Iraq since January, but the unyielding pace and toll of the conflict has prompted military planners to put off the goal of reducing troop levels by the end of this month.

Two-thirds of the roughly 800 Marines in the 3rd Battalion were in Iraq last year, making them one of the most battle-tested infantry units now in Iraq. The troops played a key role in the invasion, seizing parts of downtown Baghdad on April 9 of last year.

After arriving in Fallujah on April 7, they found themselves in round-the-clock clashes with rebels and responded with a full range of combat power, from mortars to fighter jets.

Since April 5, fighting in this Sunni-dominated city 35 miles west of Baghdad has killed hundreds of local residents and dozens of Marines.

The violence has eased up since Marines and civic leaders reached an agreement to form a local security force to police the city, allowing U.S. troops to pull back.

"It's extremely tough because you try to help these people and in the process of doing that some of our people are getting killed," said Sgt. Cornelius Blyther, 30, a father of three from Springfield, Mass.

Cpl. Tom Conroy occasionally sees himself in pictures on postcards or Web sites that commemorate that heady moment in Baghdad last year. That's Conroy, in a helmet and flak jacket, looking surprised at the foot of the falling iron statue of the ousted dictator. Last month, he was among a company of 180 Marines who weathered an ambush and a 14-hour gunfight in the town of Karmah, near Fallujah. Three Marines were wounded; commanders estimated they killed more than 100 suspected insurgents.

"We knew we were coming back but we didn't know it would be that soon," he said.

The battalion members say they are honored by the confidence shown in them and the opportunity to apply what they know. But they don't hide the confusion and uncertainty that surrounds a conflict that lies somewhere between war and peace.

"It is hard explaining to my family why I came back here again," said Lance Cpl. Zac Garland, 21, a Humvee driver with a starburst left by enemy fire a few weeks ago on the bullet-proof windshield in front of his face. "The way I say it to them is that I am here to fight so that my kids grow up exactly as I did."

Nobody ignores the strains that the time away has placed on families, but commanders say they worked hard while at home to prepare wives and children for the months ahead.

"We told them before we left, and told them that the world is watching them and that the terrorists want to see the families be fed up and all we ask them is to support us, be patient, and to share the courage," McCoy said.

After weeks in Baghdad and the southern town of Hillah, the battalion returned last year to its home base in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., at the end of May. Six months later, they left to train in Okinawa, Japan. By the third week of February, they were back in Iraq.

The battalion's troops were assigned to security and support operations in the northwestern town of Haditha, visiting schools, chatting with residents, enjoying a riverside barracks with bunk beds and a cool breeze. But when Fallujah erupted in violence last month, they were summoned to help. Mortarmen and others who had been given peacetime jobs regrouped into combat teams.

Now the battalion, after five weeks in Fallujah, has been ordered to return to Haditha. There the Marines will wait for the next trip into downtown Fallujah or the next weapons-hunting expedition in the desert.


McCoy's Marines, Chapters 1-6...


This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Carlson Raider Remembers Makin....

Local man remembers landing on Gilbert Islands during WWII

Bulletin Staff Writer

Bulletin Photo by Kevin Pieper

Duane Paulson

EDITOR'S NOTE: With this story, The Baxter Bulletin begins a series of stories featuring veterans of the Twin Lakes Area. The intent of the series is to honor the men and women who served and to expand The Bulletin's capacity as a source of information on WWII and the Korean War for future generations. The series will cover all aspects of service at home and abroad -- from mail call to the mess hall to the battle front. To suggest veteran candidates for this series, e-mail Frank Wallis at or call (870) 508-8056.

Tour of Duty

On Aug. 17, 1942, Duane Paulson, owner of Cotter Hobbies, landed with a battalion of U.S. Marines on an atoll in the Gilbert Islands in the U.S. military's first and only ground assault launched from submarines.

By day's end, the Marines had killed 83 Japanese and lost 14 to enemy fire. The victory made way for the later destruction of a Japanese airfield that had been part of a vital supply line in Japan's Pacific war plan.

By November, Col. Evan Carlson's 2nd Raider Marine Battalion, including Paulson, would become U.S. Marine legends -- America's first guerilla fighting force for 30 days behind enemy lines on Guadalcanal.

"Near as I could tell, it was the quickest way I could (confront an enemy soldier)," said Paulson of his decision to enlist. "We were at war, and it was the thing for a young man to do."

It was not unprecedented in the Paulson family. His father, Martin Paulson, fought with the Army in France during WWI.

"He got shot up," said Paulson. "I saw him cry for the first time when I left. I wondered what the hell the crying was about. Then, when my son left for Vietnam, I was crying."

During the year before Paulson's enlistment in the Marines, he accepted a football scholarship to attend George Washington University in Washington D.C. "I made a mess of that," he said. Besides being too small to play at the position of defensive tackle, he was distressed academically by "lots of women, cheap whiskey and no legal drinking age."

On the beach

Paulson, now 81, said the Makin assault made encouraging headlines in the United States, but the weather made the landing in rubber boats and retreat from the atoll a challenge that would push the Marines to their physical limits.

"We trained in 20-to-25 foot surf and thought if we can land in that we can land in anything," said Paulson. "We landed in 7- to 8-foot surf. One wave right behind the other didn't give us time to recover in between."

Eight men in each boat paddled the entire way to shore. Because of the uncooperative surf, the battalion was in disarray when it landed, but the expert guns of the Raider Marines would still shoot straight that day.

On shore, an errant discharge from a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was believed to have given away the Marines' position. Paulson said the Japanese had spied the Marines before they landed on the beach. After the shot rang out he ran as hard as he could straight into the jungle until he hit a single strand of barbed wire stretched about mid-chest high between trees.

He broke the wire, but it slammed him onto his back in the process and separated him from his rifle. As he was recovering from the fall, Paulson said, he saw a single Japanese patrol retreating from the area.

"I could have shot him. I should have shot him," said Paulson. It wasn't long before a fire fight was under way.

Twice the Japanese charged straight into the Marines and were mowed down under fire. Paulson said Col. Carlson didn't know it at the time, but most of the Japanese on the atoll had been killed by the end of the second charge. Paulson said there was a president's son on the ground during all the shooting, too -- Maj. James Roosevelt, who would later lead the 4th Battalion of Raider Marines.

Leaving the island against the surf proved impossible for some in the battalion. Col. Carlson would remain behind with a handful of men who ultimately carried boats to a bay across the island to rendezvous with the submarines out of the wind and surf.

'The Long Patrol'

After five days of "R and R" following Makin, Paulson went with the B Company in the 2nd Battalion on "The Long Patrol," believed to be the longest WWII patrol of its kind. Paulson said the Japanese believed they "had an exclusive" on guerilla warfare. The Long Patrol ended with 488 enemy killed, and 32 killed or wounded for the 2nd Raiders.

"They didn't think the soft, decadent Americans could do it," said Paulson. "We surprised them every day."

Paulson said he entered the jungle weighing about 208 pounds and was one of about 400 Marines to finish the patrol. Malnourished at the end of the patrol, Paulson said he weighed 120 pounds and was hospitalized a while in New Zealand. There, he discovered a little know fact about New Zealand.

"New Zealand sent the highest percentage of men per capita into the war than any other allied country," said Paulson. In other words, there were a lot of available women in New Zealand, he said.

Paulson said the delivery of food to Raider Marines during The Long Patrol was a problem for the military. Airplanes would drop rations -- including rice, slab bacon, raisins and sugar -- to the Marines on the ground. Cutting holes in the jungle canopy for the drops was work enough to burn up all the calories the rations provided. Paulson said he learned to fry rice and bananas in the bacon fat.

"I don't recall a day without food, but it was hard to get the calories we needed to do what we were doing," said Paulson.

Col. Carlson learned guerilla warfare from the Japanese as a U.S. emissary assisting the Chinese at war with Japan before WWII.

"He brought a lot of new ideas," said Paulson.

Carlson introduced the fire group patrol, a group of three marines armed with BARs, tommy guns and M1 rifles. The relatively complex movement of a battalion divided into companies and fire groups made for slow but efficient movement through the jungle.

Paulson said his bullets found their mark for sure twice during the patrol.

"It didn't feel very good," said Paulson of the experience of killing the enemy. "I was taught strictly against it in Sunday school.

"I never knew of anyone who liked to kill, but there were some who handled it well," Paulson said.

After the war

Carlson has been a businessman since completing his 12-year military career. His expert marksmanship once earned him a job guarding a nuclear facility. He was four times reactivated by the Marines, first as a rifle coach during the Korean War and three times during peacetime to compete with U.S. Marine Corps shooting teams in international marksmanship contests. He once shot with a team to one point shy of a world championship.

He was motivated politically once to work for the 1964 GOP presidential campaign of Sen. Barry Goldwater.

"I haven't found anyone since who was worthy of that kind of effort," said Paulson.

Email this story

Originally published Friday, May 14, 2004
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Marine Comes Home--LtCol Strobl

A Marine Comes Home--LtCol Strobl

23 April

A Marine Comes Home--LtCol Strobl

Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I did not know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.

Over a year ago, I volunteered to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq should the need arise. The military provides a uniformed escort for all casualties to ensure they are delivered safely to the next of kin and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.

Thankfully, I hadn’t been called on to be an escort since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. The first few weeks of April, however, had been a tough month for the Marines. On the Monday after Easter I was reviewing Department of Defense press releases when I saw that a Private First Class Chance Phelps was killed in action outside of Baghdad. The press release listed his hometown as the same town I am from. I notified our Battalion adjutant and told him that, should the duty to escort PFC Phelps fall to our Battalion, I would take him.

I didn’t hear back the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday until 1800. The Battalion duty NCO called my cell phone and said I needed to be ready to leave for Dover Air Force Base at 1900 in order to escort the remains of PFC Phelps.

Before leaving for Dover I called the major who had the task of informing Phelps’ parents of his death. The major said the funeral was going to be in Dubois, Wyoming. (It turned out that PFC Phelps only lived in my hometown for his senior year of high school.) I had never been to Wyoming and had never heard of Dubois.

With two other escorts from Quantico, got to Dover AFB at 2330 on Tuesday night. First thing on Wednesday we reported to the mortuary at the base. In the escort lounge there were about half a dozen Army soldiers and about an equal number of Marines waiting to meet up with their remains for departure. PFC Phelps was not ready, however, and I was told to come back on Thursday. Now, at Dover with nothing to do and a solemn mission ahead, I began to get depressed.

I was wondering about Chance Phelps. I didn’t know anything about him; not even what he looked like. I wondered about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I did pushups in my room until I couldn’t do any more.

On Thursday morning I reported back to the mortuary. This time there was a new group of Army escorts and a couple of the Marines who had been there Wednesday. There was also an Air Force captain there to escort his brother home to San Diego.

We received a brief covering our duties, the proper handling of the remains, the procedures for draping a flag over a casket, and of course, the paperwork attendant to our task. We were shown pictures of the shipping container and told that each one contained, in addition to the casket, a flag. I was given an extra flag since Phelps parents were divorced. This way they would each get one. I didn’t like the idea of stuffing the flag into my luggage but I couldn’t see carrying a large flag, folded for presentation to the next of kin, through an airport while in my Alpha uniform. It barely fit into my suitcase.

It turned out that I was the last escort to leave on Thursday. This meant that I repeatedly got to participate in the small ceremonies that mark all departures from the Dover AFB mortuary.

Most of the remains are taken from Dover AFB by hearse to the airport in Philadelphia for air transport to their final destination. When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary, there is an announcement made over the building’s intercom system. With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary, regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave.

On this day there were some civilian workers doing construction on the mortuary grounds. As each hearse passed, they would stoop working and place their hard hats over their hearts. This was my first sign that my mission with PFC Phelps was larger than the Marine Corps and that his family and friends were not grieving alone.

Eventually I was the last escort remaining in the lounge. The Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the Marine liaison there came to see me. He had Chance Phelps’s personal effects. He removed each item; a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain. Although we had been briefed that we might be carrying some personal effects of the deceased, this set me aback. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps.

Finally we were ready. I grabbed my bags and went outside. I was somewhat startled when I saw the shipping container, loaded three-quarters of the way in to the back of a black Chevy Suburban that had been modified to carry such cargo. This was the first time I saw my cargo and I was surprised at how large the shipping container was. The Master Gunnery Sergeant and I verified that the name on the container was Phelps then they pushed him the rest of the way in and we left. Now it was PFC Chance Phelps’s turn to receive the military and construction workers honors. He was finally moving towards home.

As I chatted with the driver on the hour-long trip to Philadelphia, it became clear that he considered it an honor to be able to contribute in getting Chance home. He offered his sympathy to the family. I was glad to finally be moving yet apprehensive about what things would be like at the airport. I didn’t want this package to be treated like ordinary cargo yet I knew that the simple logistics of moving around a box this large would have to overrule my preferences.

When we got to the Northwest Airlines cargo terminal at the Philadelphia airport, the cargo handler and hearse driver pulled the shipping container onto a loading bay while I stood to the side and executed a slow salute. Once Chance was safely in the cargo area, and I was satisfied that he would be treated with due care and respect, the hearse driver drove me over to the passenger terminal and dropped me off.

As I walked up to the ticketing counter in my uniform, a Northwest employee started to ask me if I knew how to use the automated boarding pass dispenser. Before she could finish another ticketing agent interrupted her. He told me to go straight to the counter then explained to the woman that I was a military escort. She seemed embarrassed. The woman behind the counter already had tears in her eyes as I was pulling out my government travel voucher. She struggled to find words but managed to express her sympathy for the family and thank me for my service. She upgraded my ticket to first class.

After clearing security, I was met by another Northwest Airline employee at the gate. She told me a representative from cargo would be up to take me down to the tarmac to observe the movement and loading of PFC Phelps. I hadn’t really told any of them what my mission was but they all knew.

When the man from the cargo crew met me, he, too, struggled for words. On the tarmac, he told me stories of his childhood as a military brat and repeatedly told me that he was sorry for my loss. I was starting to understand that, even here in Philadelphia, far away from Chance’s hometown, people were mourning with his family.

On the tarmac, the cargo crew was silent expect for occasional instructions to each other. I stood to the side and saluted as the conveyor moved Chance to the aircraft. I was relieved when he was finally settled into place. The rest of the bags were loaded and I watched them shut the cargo bay door before heading back up to board the aircraft.

One of the pilots had taken my carry-on bag himself and had it stored next to the cockpit door so he could watch it while I was on the tarmac. As I boarded the plane, I could tell immediately that the flight attendants had already been informed of my mission. They seemed a little choked up as they led me to my seat.

About 45 minutes into our flight I still hadn’t spoken to anyone expect to tell the first class flight attendant that I would prefer water. I was surprised when the flight attendant from the back of the plane suddenly appeared and leaned down to grab my hands. She said, I want you to have this as she pushed a small gold crucifix, with a relief of Jesus, into my hand. It was her lapel pin and it looked somewhat worn. I suspected it had been hers for quite some time. That was the only thing she said to me the entire flight.

When we landed in Minneapolis, I was the first one off the plane. The pilot himself escorted me straight down the side stairs of the exit tunnel to the tarmac. The cargo crew there already knew what was on this plane. They were unloading some of the luggage when an Army sergeant, a fellow escort who had left Dover earlier that day, appeared next to me. His cargo was going to be loaded onto my plane for its continuing leg. We stood side-by-side in the dark and executed a slow salute as Chance was removed from the plane. The cargo crew at Minneapolis kept Phelps’s shipping case separate from all the other luggage as they waited to take us to the cargo area. I waited with the soldier and we saluted together as his fallen comrade was loaded onto the plane.

My trip with Chance was going to be somewhat unusual in that we were going to have an overnight stopover. We had a late start out of Dover and there was just too much traveling ahead of us to continue on that day. (We still had a flight from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana, then a five-hour drive to the funeral home. That was to be followed by a 90-minute drive to Chance’s hometown.)

I was concerned about leaving him overnight in the Minneapolis cargo area. My ten-minute ride from the tarmac to the cargo holding area eased my apprehension. Just as in Philadelphia, the cargo guys in Minneapolis were extremely respectful and seemed honored to do their part. While talking with them, I learned that the cargo supervisor for Northwest Airlines at the Minneapolis airport is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. They called him for me and let me talk to him.

Once I was satisfied that all would be okay for the night, I asked one of the cargo crew if he would take me back to the terminal so that I could catch my hotel’s shuttle. Instead, he drove me straight to the hotel himself. At the hotel, the Lieutenant Colonel called me and said he would personally pick me up in the morning and bring me back to the cargo area.

Before leaving the airport, I had told the cargo crew that I wanted to come back to the cargo area in the morning rather than go straight to the passenger terminal. I felt bad for leaving Chance overnight and wanted to see the shipping container where I had left it for the night. It was fine.

The Lieutenant Colonel made a few phone calls then drove me around to the passenger terminal. I was met again by a man from the cargo crew and escorted down to the tarmac. The pilot of the plane joined me as I waited for them to bring Chance from the cargo area. The pilot and I talked of his service in the Air Force and how he missed it.

I saluted as Chance was moved up the conveyor and onto the plane. It was to be a while before the luggage was to be loaded so the pilot took me up to the board the plane where I could watch the tarmac from a window. With no other passengers yet on board, I talked with the flight attendants and one of the cargo guys. He had been in the Navy and one of the attendants had been in the Air Force. Everywhere I went, people were continuing to tell me their relationship to the military. After all the baggage was aboard, I went back down to the tarmac, inspected the cargo bay, and watched them secure the door.

When we arrived at Billings, I was again the first off the plane. This time Chance’s shipping container was the first item out of the cargo hold. The funeral director had driven five hours up from Riverton, Wyoming to meet us. He shook my hand as if I had personally lost a brother.

We moved Chance to a secluded cargo area. Now it was time for me to remove the shipping container and drape the flag over the casket. I had predicted that this would choke me up but I found I was more concerned with proper flag etiquette than the solemnity of the moment. Once the flag was in place, I stood by and saluted as Chance was loaded onto the van from the funeral home. I was thankful that we were in a small airport and the event seemed to go mostly unnoticed. I picked up my rental car and followed Chance for five hours until we reached Riverton. During the long trip I imagined how my meeting with Chance’s parents would go. I was very nervous about that.

When we finally arrived at the funeral home, I had my first face-to-face meeting with the Casualty Assistance Call Officer. It had been his duty to inform the family of Chance’s death. He was on the Inspector/Instructor staff of an infantry company in Salt Lake City, Utah and I knew he had had a difficult week.

Inside I gave the funeral director some of the paperwork from Dover and discussed the plan for the next day. The service was to be at 1400 in the high school gymnasium up in Dubois, population about 900, some 90 miles away. Eventually, we had covered everything. The CACO had some items that the family wanted to be inserted into the casket and I felt I needed to inspect Chance’s uniform to ensure everything was proper. Although it was going to be a closed casket funeral, I still wanted to ensure his uniform was squared away.

Earlier in the day I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this moment. Suddenly, the casket was open and I got my first look at Chance Phelps. His uniform was immaculate a tribute to the professionalism of the Marines at Dover. I noticed that he wore six ribbons over his marksmanship badge; the senior one was his Purple Heart. I had been in the Corps for over 17 years, including a combat tour, and was wearing eight ribbons. This Private First Class, with less than a year in the Corps, had already earned six.

The next morning, I wore my dress blues and followed the hearse for the trip up to Dubois. This was the most difficult leg of our trip for me. I was bracing for the moment when I would meet his parents and hoping I would find the right words as I presented them with Chance’s personal effects.

We got to the high school gym about four hours before the service was to begin. The gym floor was covered with folding chairs neatly lined in rows. There were a few townspeople making final preparations when I stood next to the hearse and saluted as Chance was moved out of the hearse. The sight of a flag-draped coffin was overwhelming to some of the ladies.

We moved Chance into the gym to the place of honor. A Marine sergeant, the command representative from Chance’s battalion, met me at the gym. His eyes were watery as he relieved me of watching Chance so that I could go eat lunch and find my hotel.

At the restaurant, the table had a flier announcing Chance’s service. Dubois High School gym; two o’clock. It also said that the family would be accepting donations so that they could buy flak vests to send to troops in Iraq.

I drove back to the gym at a quarter after one. I could’ve walked, you could walk to just about anywhere in Dubois in ten minutes. I had planned to find a quiet room where I could take his things out of their pouch and untangle the chain of the Saint Christopher medal from the dog tag chains and arrange everything before his parents came in. I had twice before removed the items from the pouch to ensure they were all there even though there was no chance anything could’ve fallen out. Each time, the two chains had been quite tangled. I didn’t want to be fumbling around trying to untangle them in front of his parents. Our meeting, however, didn’t go as expected.

I practically bumped into Chance’s step-mom accidentally and our introductions began in the noisy hallway outside the gym. In short order I had met Chance’s step-mom and father followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom. I didn’t know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice. Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.

I told them that I had some of Chance’s things and asked if we could try to find a quiet place. The five of us ended up in what appeared to be a computer lab not what I had envisioned for this occasion.

After we had arranged five chairs around a small table, I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines. I tried to convey how the entire Nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss.

Finally, it was time to open the pouch. The first item I happened to pull out was Chance’s large watch. It was still set to Baghdad time. Next were the lanyard and the wooden cross. Then the dog tags and the Saint Christopher medal. This time the chains were not tangled. Once all of his items were laid out on the table, I told his mom that I had one other item to give them. I retrieved the flight attendant’s crucifix from my pocket and told its story. I set that on the table and excused myself. When I next saw Chance’s mom, she was wearing the crucifix on her lapel.

By 1400 most of the seats on the gym floor were filled and people were finding seats in the fixed bleachers high above the gym floor. There were a surprising number of people in military uniform. Many Marines had come up from Salt Lake City. Men from various VFW posts and the Marine Corps League occupied multiple rows of folding chairs. We all stood as Chance’s family took their seats in the front.

It turned out the Chance’s sister, a Petty Officer in the Navy, worked for a Rear Admiral, the Chief of Naval Intelligence at the Pentagon. The Admiral had brought many of the sailors on his staff with him to Dubois pay respects to Chance and support his sister. After a few songs and some words from a Navy Chaplain, the Admiral took the microphone and told us how Chance had died.

Chance was an artillery cannoneer and his unit was acting as provisional military police outside of Baghdad. Chance had volunteered to man a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret of the leading vehicle in a convoy. The convoy came under intense fire but Chance stayed true to his post and returned fire with the big gun, covering the rest of the convoy, until he was fatally wounded.

Then the commander of the local VFW post read some of the letters Chance had written home. In letters to his mom he talked of the mosquitoes and the heat. In letters to his stepfather he told of the dangers of convoy operations and of receiving fire.

The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy.

The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles, probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.

The carriage stopped about 15 yards from the grave and the military pall bearers and the family waited until the men of the VFW and Marine Corps league were formed up and schools busses had arrived carrying many of the people from the procession route. Once the entire crowd was in place, the pallbearers came to attention and began to remove the casket from the caisson. As I had done all week, I came to attention and executed a slow ceremonial salute as Chance was being transferred from one mode of transport to another.

From Dover to Philadelphia; Philadelphia to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Billings; Billings to Riverton; and Riverton to Dubois we had been together. Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that, as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they put him down above his grave. He had stopped moving.

Although my mission had been officially complete once I turned him over to the funeral director at the Billings airport, it was his placement at his grave that really concluded it in my mind. Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved, and useless.

The chaplain said some words that I couldn’t hear and two Marines removed the flag from the casket and slowly folded it for presentation to his mother. When the ceremony was over, Chance’s father placed a ribbon from his service in Vietnam on Chance’s casket. His mother approached the casket and took something from her blouse and put it on the casket. I later saw that it was the flight attendant’s crucifix. Eventually friends of Chance’s moved closer to the grave. A young man put a can of Coppenhagen on the casket and many others left flowers.

Finally, we all went back to the gym for a reception. There was enough food to feed the entire population for a few days. In one corner of the gym there was a table set up with lots of pictures of Chance and some of his sports awards. People were continually approaching me and the other Marines to thank us for our service. Almost all of them had some story to tell about their connection to the military. About an hour into the reception, I had the impression that every man in Wyoming had, at one time or another, been in the service.

It seemed like every time I saw Chance’s mom she was hugging a different well wisher. As time passed, I began to hear people laughing. We were starting to heal.

After a few hours at the gym, I went back to the hotel to change out of my dress blues. The local VFW post had invited everyone over to celebrate Chance’s life. The Post was on the other end of town from my hotel and the drive took less than two minutes. The crowd was somewhat smaller than what had been at the gym but the Post was packed.

Marines were playing pool at the two tables near the entrance and most of the VFW members were at the bar or around the tables in the bar area. The largest room in the Post was a banquet/dinning/dancing area and it was now called The Chance Phelps Room. Above the entry were two items: a large portrait of Chance in his dress blues and the Eagle, Globe, & Anchor. In one corner of the room there was another memorial to Chance. There were candles burning around another picture of him in his blues. On the table surrounding his photo were his Purple Heart citation and his Purple Heart medal. There was also a framed copy of an excerpt from the Congressional Record. This was an elegant tribute to Chance Phelps delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado. Above it all was a television that was playing a photomontage of Chance’s life from small boy to proud Marine.

I did not buy a drink that night. As had been happening all day, indeed all week, people were thanking me for my service and for bringing Chance home. Now, in addition to words and handshakes, they were thanking me with beer. I fell in with the men who had handled the horses and horse-drawn carriage. I learned that they had worked through the night to groom and prepare the horses for Chance’s last ride. They were all very grateful that they were able to contribute.

After a while we all gathered in the Chance Phelps room for the formal dedication. The Post commander told us of how Chance had been so looking forward to becoming a Life Member of the VFW. Now, in the Chance Phelps Room of the Dubois, Wyoming post, he would be an eternal member. We all raised our beers and the Chance Phelps room was christened.

Later, as I was walking toward the pool tables, a Staff Sergeant form the Reserve unit in Salt Lake grabbed me and said, Sir, you gotta hear this. There were two other Marines with him and he told the younger one, a Lance Corporal, to tell me his story. The Staff Sergeant said the Lance Corporal was normally too shy and modest to tell it but now he’d had enough beer to overcome his usual tendencies.

As the Lance Corporal started to talk, an older man joined our circle. He wore a baseball cap that indicated he had been with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. Earlier in the evening he had told me about one of his former commanding officers; a Colonel Puller.

So, there I was, standing in a circle with three Marines recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq and one not so recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. I, who had fought with the 1st Marine Division in Kuwait, was about to gain a new insight into our Corps.

The young Lance Corporal began to tell us his story. At that moment, in this circle of current and former Marines, the differences in our ages and ranks dissipated, we were all simply Marines.

His squad had been on a patrol through a city street. They had taken small arms fire and had literally dodged an RPG round that sailed between two Marines. At one point they received fire from behind a wall and had neutralized the sniper with a SMAW round. The back blast of the SMAW, however, kicked up a substantial rock that hammered the Lance Corporal in the thigh; only missing his groin because he had reflexively turned his body sideways at the shot.

Their squad had suffered some wounded and was receiving more sniper fire when suddenly he was hit in the head by an AK-47 round. I was stunned as he told us how he felt like a baseball bat had been slammed into his head. He had spun around and fell unconscious. When he came to, he had a severe scalp wound but his Kevlar helmet had saved his life. He continued with his unit for a few days before realizing he was suffering the effects of a severe concussion.

As I stood there in the circle with the old man and the other Marines, the Staff Sergeant finished the story. He told of how this Lance Corporal had begged and pleaded with the Battalion surgeon to let him stay with his unit. In the end, the doctor said there was just no way, he had suffered a severe and traumatic head wound and would have to be medic-evaced.

The Marine Corps is a special fraternity. There are moments when we are reminded of this. Interestingly, those moments don’t always happen at awards ceremonies or in dress blues at Birthday Balls. I have found, rather, that they occur at unexpected times and places: next to a loaded moving van at Camp Lejeune’s base housing, in a dirty CP tent in northern Saudi Arabia, and in a smoky VFW post in western Wyoming.

After the story was done, the Lance Corporal stepped over to the old man, put his arm over the man’s shoulder and told him that he, the Korean War vet, was his hero. The two of them stood there with their arms over each other’s shoulders and we were all silent for a moment. When they let go, I told the Lance Corporal that there were recruits down on the yellow footprints tonight that would soon be learning his story.

I was finished drinking beer and telling stories. I found Chance’s father and shook his hand one more time. Chance’s mom had already left and I deeply regretted not being able to tell her goodbye.

I left Dubois in the morning before sunrise for my long drive back to Billings. It had been my honor to take Chance Phelps to his final post. Now he was on the high ground overlooking his town. I miss him.


LtCol Strobl
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004



WITH THE NATION’S FAUX INTELLIGENTSIA still reeling from “shame-shock-horror,” and the Hounds of the Blathervilles in full cry for Donald Rumsfeld's head on a pike, the likelihood of the picture above being seen on the front pages of the "leading" newspapers, or at the top of the news on any of the network news shows approaches absolute zero. After all, just what is the story here? Why should it be of interest to the Americans these “news organizations” supposedly serve?

The story concerns a medal given to a Marine: Marine Receives Navy Cross. The marine in question is Capt. Brian R. Chontosh. “Chontosh” -- an unusual name, one that should be easy to search. But go to Google News and search for “Chontosh.” The hits are meager to say the least. As of this writing, there are eleven. To put this in perspective, a search for “Kerry Medals” returns 1,680 references from Google News while “Iraq Prisons” is a bonanza of reports and commentary -- 8, 660 to be precise. With such an overwhelming glut of news why should any news organization feature a story about the Navy Cross being given to a Marine? What’s that story got, anyway?

The story is this:

Chontosh, 29, from Rochester, N.Y. , received the naval service's second highest award for extraordinary heroism while serving as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 25, 2003.

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

Try to imagine, for only a moment, what those actions entail. Try to put yourself, if for only a moment, on the ground and in the boots of Capt. Chontosh. Try to envision what it is to walk down a trench filled with people whose only mission is to kill you. They number more than 20. You are one. They are all armed. You have one rifle and one pistol. When you run out of ammunition, you have to take up the arms of the enemy. You don’t know if they are loaded or to what extent. But you keep going. In time, after you have killed 20 soldiers and wounded others, the shooting finally stops. Somehow, you are still alive. Somehow, your comrades are still alive. For now.

Could you walk down that trench? I couldn’t. I know all the usual answers: training, duty, responsibility to the men under your command. None of them really answer the question, do they? Call it courage and hold your manhood cheap if you cannot begin to match it.

But you heard nothing about it, did you? You heard, instead, about the sadists until you couldn’t stand to hear any more and then you heard more. You heard about the man from an ancient war who did or did not toss medals away until you couldn’t care about it less and then you heard more.

If you were unfortunate enough to read the words of George Will, professional spinster, this morning, you read his handy guide to S&M:

Americans must not flinch from absorbing the photographs of what some Americans did in that prison. And they should not flinch from this fact: That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self-defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination.
--No Flinching From the Facts (

That’s what the Washington Post brought you this morning. Why? Because you haven’t had your nose rubbed in this enough yet. How does George Will and the Washington Post know this? Because it would seem that, as of this morning, Donald Rumsfeld still has his job. That’s what is important to the writers and editors of the Post and the other “leading” news organizations today. The prison story with its tops and bottoms and naked images that can be run in the paper with a little discrete blurring here and there is important to these organizations because it is something they can understand. It’s permissible porn and they like it, they really, really like it. Indeed, it would seem that George Will likes it a little too much.

Courage, though, real physical courage that requires a man to put the lives of his comrades above his own life, is beyond the shrunken moral scope of those who’ve spent the last week grinding out every last drop of rancid, phony outrage out of the Iraq Prison centerfolds they been displaying. Outrage and shock may have been permissible and even correct at the outset of the incident, but now doesn’t it seem as if there’s an element of perverse enjoyment creeping into the whole thing?

I began this comment thinking that it was an outrage that a report on the heroism of Capt. Brian R. Chontosh wasn’t deemed worthy of comment by the “leaders” of the “leading news organizations” of the United States.

I’ve changed my mind.

It is they who are not worthy of him.
Posted by Vanderleun at May 11, 2004 11:13 AM
SEE ALSO: Click-Here!
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.

Monday, May 10, 2004


Lawton (OK) Constitution
September 7, 2003

Time To Rethink The Military Promotion System?

By Richard Hart Sinnreich

Last week, The Washington Post reported the formal censure by the acting
Secretary of the Navy of the retiring commander of Marine Corps forces in
Central Command and the Pacific. The censure cited his "lack of judgment" in
requiring a subordinate selected for promotion to brigadier general to wear
the stars of his new rank prior to receiving the prerequisite Senate

In the military, awarding the insignia of rank in advance of actual
promotion is called "frocking." It occurs because a considerable time may
elapse between selection for promotion and the date on which the latter
legally takes effect. Meanwhile, assignment exigencies may require the
selected officer to assume the duties of his or her new rank before actually
receiving it.

Usually, such a "promotable" officer must simply operate for a time at the
lower rank. In some cases, however, and especially where interaction with
foreign military forces is involved, sporting a lower rank than the job
requires invites unnecessary complications.

In those circumstances, senior commanders may decide to frock the officer,
granting him or her the outward status of the new rank without the
associated pay and juridical authority. But the rules governing this
practice are very restrictive, especially for flag officers.

In the case in question, the officer was assigned a sensitive command in
Kuwait. Although he had been selected for promotion to brigadier general a
year earlier, the selection still had not been confirmed. In preempting that
confirmation, however well intended, the officer's superior violated an
important element of civilian control of the military, to say nothing of a
jealously guarded Congressional prerogative.

His scolding thus was justified. But the episode merely highlights a
longstanding problem with the way military rank is awarded. In most
occupations, the job determines the rank. In the military almost uniquely,
the rank at least nominally determines the job.

But today, military rank once awarded is permanent. That wasn't always the
case. Until the last century, primarily to accommodate wartime force
expansion and peacetime contraction, it was common to "brevet" an officer
temporarily to a higher rank.

Like frocking, breveting reflected assignment. Unlike frocking, however,
breveting awarded the officer all the pay and privileges of the rank.
More important, when the assignment ended, so also did the brevet. While
permanent rank, having been confirmed by Congress, could be reduced or
removed only by court-martial, a brevet could be terminated at the stroke of
a pen.

For that very reason, breveting was vulnerable to abuse. But it had the
virtue of allowing prompt and flexible matching of rank to mission
requirements. And because it conferred no permanent authority, it presented
no threat to civilian supremacy.

As American military and naval forces transform themselves to accomplish
with smaller formations tasks that formerly required much larger ones, it
may be time to resurrect the brevet in some modernized form.

Consider, for example, a contingency requiring a relatively small U.S. force
- a brigade task force, say - to deploy independently and collaborate with a
larger allied or indigenous military organization.

Today, typically, to provide the necessary senior representation, the
brigade would be subordinated to a higher headquarters, duplicating
commanders and increasing the deployed footprint. Instead, breveting the
brigade commander and augmenting his or her staff might well be cheaper and
more effective.

Or consider a current Defense Department proposal to replace component
commands in overseas theaters - each headed by a 4-star flag officer - with
standing joint task forces commanded by 3-stars. The objective, endorsed by
most military professionals, is to improve the routine integration of
multi-service forces.

But at least one senior commander in Europe has warned that reducing the
rank of a task force commander from 4 stars to 3 would seriously diminish
his or her ability to deal on an equal level with allied counterparts. In
Europe, he contends, credibility tends to be associated with rank more than
with position.

Here too, breveting might just as effectively satisfy the representational
requirement without permanently inflating general officer ranks or requiring
additional and unnecessary headquarters echelons.

Finally, it may be time to reconsider altogether the relationship between
promotion and assignment. The traditional model, in which rank is associated
with the officer rather than the job, is by no means the only one possible
and may no longer be the best.

Any alternative system must reflect the reality that military officers,
unlike civilians, lack the freedom to reassign themselves at volition. It
must assure them reasonable financial stability and career progression. And
of course, it can't be permitted to diminish the basic accountability of
military officers to civilian political authority.

Within those broad parameters, however, there remains considerable scope for
innovation. Maybe now is the time to begin exploring it.

Lawton's Richard Hart Sinnreich comments on military issues for The Sunday


Sunday, May 09, 2004


We know a lot about U. S. Marine Corps history since 1775, and even Marines prior to that. Although French sailors had been trained and organized in 1622 to fight on shore, it was not until 1664 that a true corps of Marines was formed. This was "The Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot." decreed by an order of King Charles II.' Even prior to the above examples, it could be said that there were Marines-"Marines are as old as the war at sea...',,,enkist Marines, twenty to a ship, from men between 20 and 30, and archers. (Extract from Athenian decree of June, 480 B>C>, full text in NewYork Times, 5 June 1960.).'" And there were others.

The first American Marines, however, were four colonial battalions raised in 1740 to fight the Spanish. This force of 3,00 later became known as "Gooch's Marines" between 1740 and the outbreak of the American revolution, British Marines had regularly served in North America . Marines had come to have a well-established place in the naval scheme of things, and every fighting ship had a Marine detachment.

Even before Congress had created the Continental marines, George Washington had alreadyformed a squadron of his own , including soldiers detailed as Marines.Eight colonies--Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia had their ownMarines as adjunct to state navies. All but Maryland's were in being prior to Congress; forming of the Continental Marines.
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis