Special Forces Gear Logo
Monthly Newsletter
November 2013  
In This Issue
Dave's Message
Voice of the Soldier
Word of Truth
Combat Survival
Leading Concepts
Warrior's Wisdom
Featured T-Shirts
Aesop's Fables
Embroidered Items
Special Product Coupon
Quotes & Jokes
Off Duty Apparel
Featured Watches
What Has Really Changed?
Special Product Coupon
What Has Really Changed?

Newsletter Archive
October 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012

Customer Comments
I am a Cpl. in the Army and just returned from Iraq. I carried my shotgun all year on my back in your shotgun scabbard, and it worked great! I was glad to have it around several times, and it proved to be an easy way to keep the shotgun handy for the squad. Thanks for your great product, and for your support of our troops!!

Cpl. C.R. [omitted]
36th Infantry Div.

Got the T-shirt....IT ROCKS!!!!

Thanks guys
kelly [omitted]

Dear Sir, The Falcon Chest Harness finally arrived to me at Camp Taji, Iraq. Thank You! It is now set up for fitting over my IOTV and Battle Ready!!!

[name omitted]

(already the guys are asking who to order one from, so you might be getting a few more requests!!!).

Dear SF company.

Thank-you for sending another t-shirt it looks great the boys in the unit will want one when they see it. I'll be sending them right to you.

Thanks again.

Another happy customer
Bob Miller

When I was stationed at Camp Pendleton I was in Weapons Company 3/5. The unit made us t-shirts with the 3/5 logo/emblem/crest, "Consumate Professionals". I was honorable discharged in 1999 and the t-shirt has been long-gone. I searched a couple of web site to find a shirt with the logo/emblem/crest but there was no luck. It didn't take me long to search this site before I found what I was looking for. When the shirt arrived it was better than what I expected. I love the t-shirt and wear it with pride and often. Thank you SpecialForces.com

Most Sincerely,
Bryan P.

Thank you!!!

Your Shirts are the best.


Dear SFG,

Thank you for being so prompt with my order, and the refund as well.

I thought a little constructive thoughts were in order.

The "HRT" boot knife is well constructed. I had to "hone" the edge though, both sides,to get it up to spec.

As for the "GI USMC Combat Knife"......Well, it wasn't really a K-Bar, at least not one that I've ever seen. It read "US", and above that it read "Ontario". No worries though, after I used a ceramic sharpening stone on both the small back edge and the full length edge, I'm quite pleased with them both. Oh, I almost forgot, both were very pretty well balanced.

I'll be purchasing again from you in the near future.

Ed Whiteside

Dear Special Forces

I received my order i have to say that is better than i expected! Thank you and you'll hear fom me soon.


They turned out GREAT!!!!!! Thanks. I will be back for other things.


Thanks Folks. As always you have been most polite and professional. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Jack And Melanie Edgar


OMG! That looks awesome! Is there any logo on the front? Can I buy these off the website? I'm sure a lot of SWCC guys are going to want these!

Thank you,

Amanda Van Every


We love the art work. They are awesome. I'll be ordering mine right after this. Thanks for all the work. I am recommending you guys to all the other battalions and ODA's.



Just to let you know all items have been recieved, fantastic quality as all ways.

Cheers Andrew and best wishes for the New Year.


Welcome to the new Special Forces Gear News Letter! Each month we send out a lot of information and great deals, and to make it easier to read, we've written a summary of the longer articles in this email.
Dave's Message


God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep, But sword on thigh, and brow with purpose knit! And let our Ship of State to harbor sweep, Her ports all up, her battle-lanterns lit, And her leashed thunders gathering for their leap!

The great Civil War was remarkable in many ways, but in no way more remarkable than for the extraordinary mixture of inventive mechanical genius and of resolute daring shown by the combatants. After the first year, when the contestants had settled down to real fighting, and the preliminary mob work was over, the battles were marked by their extraordinary obstinacy and heavy loss. In no European conflict since the close of the Napoleonic wars has the fighting been anything like as obstinate and as bloody as was the fighting in our own Civil War. In addition to this fierce and dogged courage, this splendid fighting capacity, the contest also brought out the skilled inventive power of engineer and mechanician in a way that few other contests have ever done.


This was especially true of the navy. The fighting under and against Farragut and his fellow-admirals revolutionized naval warfare. The Civil War marks the break between the old style and the new. Terrible encounters took place when the terrible new engines of war were brought into action for the first time; and one of these encounters has given an example which, for heroic daring combined with cool intelligence, is unsurpassed in all time.


The Confederates showed the same skill and energy in building their great ironclad rams as the men of the Union did in building the monitors which were so often pitted against them. Both sides, but especially the Confederates, also used stationary torpedoes, and, on a number of occasions, torpedo-boats likewise. These torpedo-boats were sometimes built to go under the water. One such, after repeated failures, was employed by the Confederates, with equal gallantry and success, in sinking a Union sloop of war off Charleston harbor, the torpedo-boat itself going down to the bottom with its victim, all on board being drowned. The other type of torpedo-boat was simply a swift, ordinary steam-launch, operated above water.


It was this last type of boat which Lieutenant W. B. Cushing brought down to Albemarle Sound to use against the great Confederate ram Albemarle. The ram had been built for the purpose of destroying the Union blockading forces. Steaming down river, she had twice attacked the Federal gunboats, and in each case had sunk or disabled one or more of them, with little injury to herself. She had retired up the river again to lie at her wharf and refit. The gunboats had suffered so severely as to make it a certainty that when she came out again, thoroughly fitted to renew the attack, the wooden vessels would be destroyed; and while she was in existence, the Union vessels could not reduce the forts and coast towns. Just at this time Cushing came down from the North with his swift little torpedo-boat, an open launch, with a spar-rigged out in front, the torpedo being placed at the end. The crew of the launch consisted of fifteen men, Cushing being in command. He not only guided his craft, but himself handled the torpedo by means of two small ropes, one of which put it in place, while the other exploded it. The action of the torpedo was complicated, and it could not have been operated in a time of tremendous excitement save by a man of the utmost nerve and self-command; but Cushing had both. He possessed precisely that combination of reckless courage, presence of mind, and high mental capacity necessary to the man who leads a forlorn hope under peculiarly difficult circumstances.


On the night of October 27, 1864, Cushing slipped away from the blockading fleet, and steamed up river toward the wharf, a dozen miles distant, where the great ram lay. The Confederates were watchful to guard against surprise, for they feared lest their foes should try to destroy the ram before she got a chance to come down and attack them again in the Sound. She lay under the guns of a fort, with a regiment of troops ready at a moment's notice to turn out and defend her. Her own guns were kept always clear for action, and she was protected by a great boom of logs thrown out roundabout; of which last defense the Northerners knew nothing.


Cushing went up-stream with the utmost caution, and by good luck passed, unnoticed, a Confederate lookout below the ram.


About midnight he made his assault. Steaming quietly on through the black water, and feeling his way cautiously toward where he knew the town to be, he finally made out the loom of the Albemarle through the night, and at once drove at her. He was almost upon her before he was discovered; then the crew and the soldiers on the wharf opened fire, and, at the same moment, he was brought-to by the boom, the existence of which he had not known. The rifle balls were singing round him as he stood erect, guiding his launch, and he heard the bustle of the men aboard the ram, and the noise of the great guns as they were got ready. Backing off, he again went all steam ahead, and actually surged over the slippery logs of the boom. Meanwhile, on the Albemarle the sailors were running to quarters, and the soldiers were swarming down to aid in her defense; and the droning bullets came always thicker through the dark night. Cushing still stood upright in his little craft, guiding and controlling her by voice and signal, while in his hands he kept the ropes which led to the torpedo. As the boat slid forward over the boom, he brought the torpedo full against the somber side of the huge ram, and instantly exploded it, almost at the same time that the pivot-gun of the ram, loaded with grape, was fired point-blank at him not ten yards off.



At once the ram settled, the launch sinking at the same moment, while Cushing and his men swam for their lives. Most of them sank or were captured, but Cushing reached mid-stream. Hearing something splashing in the darkness, he swam toward it, and found that it was one of his crew. He went to his rescue, and they kept together for some time, but the sailor's strength gave out, and he finally sank. In the pitch darkness Cushing could form no idea where he was; and when, chilled through, and too exhausted to rise to his feet, he finally reached shore, shortly before dawn, he found that he had swum back and landed but a few hundred feet below the sunken ram. All that day he remained within easy musket-shot of where his foes were swarming about the fort and the great drowned ironclad. He hardly dared move, and until the afternoon he lay without food, and without protection from the heat or venomous insects. Then he managed to slip unobserved into the dense swamp, and began to make his way to the fleet. Toward evening he came out on a small stream, near a camp of Confederate soldiers. They had moored to the bank a skiff, and, with equal stealth and daring, he managed to steal this and to paddle down-stream. Hour after hour he paddled on through the fading light, and then through the darkness. At last, utterly worn out, he found the squadron, and was picked up. At once the ships weighed; and they speedily captured every coast town and fort, for their dreaded enemy was no longer in the way. The fame of Cushing's deed went all over the North, and his name will stand forever among the brightest on the honor-roll of the American navy.




Click here to send Dave a private message. 


Voice of the Soldier
This section is designed to give you a voice where you can express opinions or give messages. We encourage you to speak out! Send us your commentary, stories, articles, etc...

Special Operations Warrior Foundation

Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Special Forces Gear is now hosting
a special section for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) provides college scholarship grants, along with financial aid and educational counseling, to the children of Special Operations personnel who were killed in an operational mission or training accident.

All profits from these items go to the
Special Operations Warrior Foundation


Learn More about the 

Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) >>   

Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club

   311 iran ship  

The Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club is a not-for-profit (501c3) fraternal organization. It was formed to provide a fraternal organization for qualified military veterans who have served, or are currently serving, in the Armed Forces of the United States or US Allied Nations.  They support Veterans and Active Duty Members in many different ways.  A few of the many causes projects they support are: mailing over 900lbs of care packages to Active Duty Service Members Monthly to Visiting Veterans Homes to put a smile on a Veterans Face.  Please visit them at  www.warriorbrotherhood.com


All profits from these items are donated to

Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club 


Learn More about the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans
Motorcycle Club >>

Caring for America's Quiet 311 iran shipProfessionals 


The Green Beret Foundation provides unconventional resources to facilitate the special needs of our wounded, ill and injured and imparts unique support to the Special Forces community in order to strengthen readiness and uphold Green Beret traditions and values.


Learn more about Green Beret Foundation>> 

New! Direct to Garment Printing.
DTG Printing on Performance Apparel

We are excited to announce our newest advance in Direct to Garment printing on Performance Apparel. We are now able to print direct to moisture-wicking Polyester Garments. You can now personalize and print your favorite design to Athletic Apparel, running shorts, under armor and dry release apparel.

The quality of this printing is unmatched able to hold fine details and shading screen printing can't.


Direct to Garment Printing - SpecialForces.com
Direct to Garment Printing - SpecialForces.com

Honor at Last for Roy P
Honor at Last for Roy P Benavidez

Word of Truth


The Word Of Truth - Alive and PowerfulBy Rev G.J. Rako
LTC (Ret)

We often use this word without knowledge of its meaning. The word grace, like the word love has many meanings to many people. Therefore, we must narrow the meaning to the most significant Biblical use and understanding of the word. Grace is God's policy directed toward the human race. Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind without compromising His divine essence, based upon the perfect, efficacious, substitutionary work of Christ on the cross.  Grace means favor, kindness, and mercy. Grace is free, unmerited favor and love from God alone, not from our works or because we are attractive to God.  


Bible doctrine is built on Bible doctrine. The more we know the more we can know. The more we learn the more we are able to learn. To fully understand grace we would have to know and understand the doctrines of personal and impersonal love, the essence of God, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and the justice and perfect righteousness of God, to name a few.


The grace of God for the human race is divided into three categories.

  1.  Pre-salvation grace
    This is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, being judged for our sins as our substitute. This includes three things.
    1. Common grace.  This is the work of God the Holy Spirit taking the spiritual phenomena of the gospel and presenting it to the mind of man as a reality. The unbeliever is spiritually brain dead, so that God the Holy Spirit must make spiritual information understandable to spiritually dead mankind. The unbeliever cannot understand the things of God, 1 Cor 2:9-16.
    2.  The divine call. Having understood the issue of the gospel, to believe in the person and work of Christ, God now invites the unbeliever to believe what he has heard and understood.
    3. Efficacious grace. This is the work of God the Holy Spirit taking that faith alone in Christ alone and making it effective for salvation.
  2. Salvation grace
    This includes the forty things that God gives us at the moment of salvation.
  3. Post salvation grace
    1. This is the more or greater grace of Jam 4:6. Post salvation grace is found in 1 Pet 5:12, "I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it."
    2. Grace is the means of conveying the power of God to the life of the ordinary believer. 1 Pet 5:5-6, "Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. `God makes war against the arrogant believer but gives grace to the humble believer.' Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may promote you at the proper time." 1 Cor 15:10, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." Eph 1:6, "To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."
    3. God always operates within some sphere. In the plan of God for the Church Age believer, the sphere in which grace operates is union with Christ. In Eph 2:7, this grace will continue in the eternal state, "That He might show us in the coming ages the surpassing riches of His grace in generosity toward us in Christ." Eph 6:24, "Grace be with all believers who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptibility." Loving the Lord with incorruptibility is a reference to occupation with Christ. 2 Thes

2:16, "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who has loved us and given to us for our benefit eternal comfort and good confidence in the sphere of grace, comfort your hearts and strengthen you in all production and good doctrine."


The consistency of grace. Consistent grace is the Church Age believer, saved by grace and living by grace. God is consistent. There is no legalism in salvation; therefore, there is no legalism in the Christian way of life. Sooner or later, God takes every believer and brings them to the end of their human resources, making them totally dependent upon divine provision. Acts 13:43, "Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and

Barnabas, who began speaking to them and were urging them to continue in the grace of God."

Every believer owes both the salvation plan of God and the grace of God a hearing. 2 Pet 1:2, "Grace and tranquility be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."


The Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life and demands a supernatural means of execution. After salvation what? The Christian way of life begins with the filling of the Holy Spirit, grace orientation, and truth (Bible doctrine metabolized in our soul). Anything the unbeliever can do is not the Christian way of life. So, what can an unbeliever do? Give money to the church or a Christian organization, witness to ten people a day, help the poor, sing in choir, etc...These works are not the Christian way of life because they can be accomplished by an unbeliever.


The Christian way of life is what you think, not what you do! I Corinthians 2:16 declares the Bible to be the mind of Christ. Phillip 2:5 commands us to have this thinking in us which was also in Christ Jesus. When we produce good works we are not doing great things for God. He doesn't need our help. This is an anti-grace attitude. When we fulfill the command to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ God will graciously use us to accomplish his plan and purpose on this earth.


Satan opposes grace. He is the father of lies, John 8:44. His plan and purpose for mankind is completely contrary to God's plan and purpose. In his genius Satan developed religion as a substitute for a relationship with God. Religion is always evil and seeks to enslave and deceive mankind. Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me" John 14:6. Satan's plan of slavery is opposed to God's plan of freedom. John 8:32 "...and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free", and in John 8:36, "if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!"


As we attempt to understand and apply grace in our lives we can rightly divide between Satan's influence and God's influence. Satan will always seek to regulate, control, and limit freedom. God's influence will always seek to provide freedom, and individual responsibility.

Survival and Disaster Preparedness

Teaching Youth Survival Skills

Equipping Children with the core skills of survival such as making fire, shelter and boiling water  can not only be a great family activity, but a test of their personal resolve, forcing children to come face to face with the harsh realities of making a fire without a lighter. Will they give up or will they press on- this develops their survival mindset and allows opportunity for teaching about personal awareness and survival psychology regardless of their decision. All of this information should be practiced as regularly as possible to give opportunity for growth and improvement.  

While the skills are fun, the reasons for the skills are topics that many seem to have trouble conveying to their children. I personally do not understand this. If they are your children, why is there problem conveying information? I know how to talk to my kids, I treat them as I would want to be treated now and as I would have liked when I was a child. So, I articulate my concerns with the world to them as best I can on a regular basis. When I see something in the news that alarms me, they all hear about it. When we watch a movie together and there's an important lesson in it, I pause it, talk about the lesson and how it applies to us and we move on. This is our daily routine. The Bible tells us to train up a child in the way they should go so that when they're grown, they will not depart from the path we've shown them. (Proverbs 22:6)

If you've done your part as a parent, they will share your concerns and develop an awareness of these same issues and will then begin conveying these issues back to you. Is there fear involved? It depends on your family dynamic. My kids have been raised to believe in Jesus Christ and we look at all "disaster scenarios" we may not be able to avoid as a quicker way to see the one we talk to and about daily that much faster... So for us, fear is not a factor, but all survival situations serve as a tool for making us better disciples of Jesus Christ and better ministers of his word- for the longer we can help others survive, the longer we can preach to them about the coming of the Lord and explain world events in a Biblical context. However, some of you may not have the same faith I do and are forced to leave your lives to chance. This is a fearful situation because without a greater hope for the future, what point would there be in surviving the present calamity?  To survive simply for the sake of living without a purpose beyond consuming more, is no purpose at all. To those without an eternal purpose, I fear for you and can only offer my prayers that you too will experience the type of faith relationship with God that I have, for that is the only hope worth holding on to.

So, how do we approach teaching skills to our kids? If we've never let them hold a knife before, we cannot expect them to be able to use it to strike a fire-steel the first or the fiftieth time. First we should get our kids a decent knife, for that I recommend a Mora 511. You can usually pick one up for around $7 and they are razor sharp and hold an edge very well. They come in carbon or stainless steel and have no problem striking a fire-steel off the spine. The handle design also provides added protection so little hands won't slide up onto the blade should unnatural force be applied or the knife become wet. Knife safety becomes top issue as the kids need to understand proper cutting and carving techniques, understand the "Triangle of Death" which put the lower abdomen, groin and femoral arteries in danger and the "Blood Circle" which puts people in the arch of your knife swings in danger.

Knife Safety is a class in itself and you can test them by assigning them the task of making a wooden tent stake. If they can use safe techniques and make a workable tent stake without injury or issue, they get to keep their knife.

Then we move into proper fire lays, explaining what Tinder, Kindling and Fuel is, how to find it in nature and how to find natural accelerants such as fatwood. It's also good to stress the importance of always carrying "sure fire" with you at all times in case of a survival situation. "Sure Fire" is material that has been chemically treated to burn even in wet conditions such as a makeup pad soaked in lamp oil then dipped in wax and allowed to harden. When torn open and fluffed up, this makes an excellent sure fire device that will burn even after it's been submerged in water. Once a solid foundation has been laid and proper fire lay, fire-steel striking techniques should be discussed, most people (adults included) do it wrong then alternative ignition sources ranging from lighters and solar sources to batteries and primitive techniques.

Shelter would be next on the list of priorities. The simple lean to survival shelter with knots should be taught in addition to alternative uses of the survival shelter and what to look for in natural shelter sites. The primary importance being staying warm and dry when it's cold and cool and covered when it's hot; these two sentiments will help maintain core body temperature and stave off hypothermia and hyperthermia. Last but not least, water purification should be discussed. How to pre-filter water before it's put into a container and how to boil the water are the easiest and most reliable safe practices for kids. Also teach them how to scrounge for containers such as glass bottles and jars to use for water boiling. All of these skills, once they get a handle on them should be timed. Yes, TIMED! Your goal is to have them perform each skill set- Make a fire, Build a Shelter, Boil 32oz of water in no more than 5 minutes per skill for a total of 15 minutes.

By enforcing this dynamic, situational awareness is developed, hard skills mastered and fear eliminated as they're able to perform quickly and effectively under stress.


About the author:
Jason Hunt is the President of Frontier Christian University a school that equips people in Biblical survival and preparedness ministries and he's the Chief Instructor at Hunt Survival, Inc. a survival & preparedness training company. He's also the author of The Tribulation Survival Guide.


Leading Concepts
Key to Success
Ranger TLC - 
Teamwork, Leadership 
and Communication
Chapter 9   
Harnessing Change



WHETHER IT'S ORCHESTRATED OR COMPLETELY unexpected, change arouses a great fear in most people-fear of the unknown. When a leader deliberately promotes change, the challenge is to help people on the team move smoothly through the different, normal stages that change provokes. When a leader or another member of a team encounters unexpected change, the challenge is to follow a thought process that quickly turns the unknown into the known.

Every time we bring people into the woods for the Leading Concepts four-day training program, we introduce radical change into their lives. We take purposeful actions to help them handle it, and, every time, we see a very similar progression in their behavior. At first, they think we're kidding when we tell them their "facility" is an outhouse across the field and they'll be staying up half the night to complete missions. They roll their eyes and snicker. We can count on rebellion the second day- sometimes very emotional-when people realize where they have to sleep. We can predict that, by the third day, nearly everyone will be so curious about upcoming objectives and what the MODD will do, that they become really creative in their mission planning. Finally, time after time, we see people leave the training proud and confident. They experienced change, they conquered change, and they value it.

From their perspective, the experience is one new challenge after another. The four days mean a steady flow of changes involving a high degree of unpredictability. It is like a telescoped version of a business environment in flux. One of the skills that people in the LC program learn quickly is how they can take purposeful actions to drive toward success in the face of the unexpected.

Remember when Domino's Pizza introduced "hot bags" so that pizzas would stay warm from the oven to your door? The order to use them was handed down from the franchisees and district managers to the supervisors and store managers. The store managers then notified the drivers that the hot bags were coming. "Yeah, right," said the drivers. Then one day, fancy racks showed up at the stores. They all had receptacles where the bags plugged in so the coils inside would heat up.

Corporate told the store managers that the hot bags were part of Domino's competitive advantage, and they made it clear that people would see the ad campaign and expect their pizzas to arrive in a hot bag. Hotter pizzas mean happier customers, they announced.

What did the drivers do? Grab the old bags anyway. Some of them even broke the ceramic plates in the hot bags. They weren't malicious; they didn't hate the company. They were just responding to change, and in their rebellion, rationalized why the hot bags were a bad idea: "Too heavy."
"Requires more work and more time, because you have to plug it in."
"Can't stick more than two pizzas in there." (Domino's has a policy that a driver shouldn't take more than two pizzas at a time, but some of the drivers would do it anyway to get extra tips per delivery run.)

Then a mental and operational shift occurred because the drivers- the very people who resisted so much-discovered a benefit in the new change. The drivers who used the hot bags noticed that their tips went up. A sharp rise in the number of total deliveries followed.

Domino's corporate executives responded with an even better solution. This time, many of the drivers assumed that the change would be good. The company developed a slightly different way to heat the bags to reduce the rotation time. When the new racks appeared, people were excited, and embraced the new customer service program quickly.

Harnessing Planned Change
Organizations need people who are good at driving and implementing change. Companies need employees who understand how to lead people through change and are good at handling the process of change.

The emotional cycle of change involves four main phases.  

  1. Denial-Typically, the first reaction to any change in a work environment is denial. Employees may respond to change with comments like: "That won't work. You're not serious! This can't be happening! We've always done it this way," or "We tried this before and it didn't work!"
  2. Resistance-Over time, denial moves to resistance; employees push back and their productivity plummets. They openly rebel against the change and may even start sending résumés to other companies. They refuse to use the new process or system. Employees may even make a deliberate attempt to sabotage the change initiative.
  3. Exploring benefits-The next phase in the cycle is exploration of the benefits and connections. Employees may say, "I'll try it, but I'm not convinced it's going to work." When one or more team members get to exploration, a shift in attitude occurs-not only in them, but also in people around them. The room will fill with ideas about how they can make the change work.
  4. Commitment-Finally, employees move into commitment. They embrace the change as the new and improved way of doing something.  
Each team member may be at different parts of the cycle at any given time, each affecting team productivity in differing degrees. The PL has to be good at assessing where each individual is in the cycle, and at applying the right behavior to help everyone get to the next stage.

The Emotional Cycle of Change

If you're the team leader initiating change, keep these guidelines in mind during the change cycle: 

  1.     While the team is in a state of denial, offer constant, consistent communication about the change. Questions about how the change affects goals, jobs, interaction between team members, lines of authority, resources, and so on, need clear answers. There will be unasked questions, too-listen well.  
  2.    In the resistance phase, be sure to listen actively and openly. Allow team members to express confusion or doubts without worries of retribution; they need to know you understand their issues, concerns,and pains. Change challenges or disrupts what is "known" and introduces the unknown, which is the biggest cause of fear for most people. Learning is inherent in adapting to change; if you listen to people as they express concerns regarding the change, you can do a better job of supporting that learning process.  
  3.    During the exploration phase, you'll see some effort on behalf of your employees to work with the change, or at least tolerate it. Be sure to offer direction that keeps the process moving forward. Don't let them get going in the wrong direction with good intention, because by the time you catch up with them and turn them back around, you'll have thrown yet another change at them.

    Depending on the nature of the change, aspects of each person's job could be more profoundly affected than you realize. By offering direction, you'll provide a clearer idea of your intent
    when you implemented the change.  
  4.  Celebrate when your team members demonstrate commitment to the change. Acknowledge what they accomplished. An overt sign of recognition will better prepare them for future changes, which are inevitable. 
Once while consulting on-site for DJ, Inc., which was undergoing some operational changes, I found that changes in the manufacturing shifts were causing consternation. The shifts had been 7 A.M. to 3 P.M., 3 P.M. to 11 P.M., and 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. Someone at the top had figured out that the output on the floor would feed better into the rest of the operation if the hours were changed to 6:30 to 2:30, 2:30 to 10:30, and 10:30 to 6:30. Management rolled out the announcement months in advance. DJ was a privately owned company and a nonunion shop, so management could have conceivably instituted the change with no notice at all.

The first reaction from the floor was, "Oh, sure. Every couple of years they talk about this and it never goes through. It won't happen." So the majority of the operators, and even their supervisors, were in denial.

After several weeks of denial, the production manager went out on the floor and announced that the next shift schedule would begin in three weeks. The 600-person organization went into resistance. A petition to maintain the current schedule surfaced; roughly 160 people signed it-a clear sign of resistance.

The solution to denial is constant communication, and the solution to resistance is active listening. After some coaching, the production manager went back out to the floor and asked everyone who signed the petition to share his or her concerns. The production manager then visited each of the 160 people at their job, one at a time, and asked in an open, genuine, and non-threatening manner for the employees to share their concerns.

He heard some well-founded reasons for resistance, such as, "I'm a single mom and I drop my child at day care when it opens at 6:30." Her concern, shared by others in similar situations, was that she was would be tardy repeatedly and ultimately fired for absenteeism. The production manager let those people know they were valued and committed to work with them individually to figure out a solution. Most of the employees who had signed the petition, however, had no real reason to fight the change. When they really thought about it, they could easily adjust to it.

Because of the leadership style he used, the production manager quickly moved the group into and through the final two stages of exploration and commitment. The shift change happened per the NLT stated in the time schedule. Mission success!

Harnessing Unplanned Change
Leaders sometimes find themselves instigating change "on the run" to accomplish a mission, usually because available resources have changed, the enemy didn't act as planned, the leader made a planning error, or the mission itself has changed. Sometimes it's a combination of all of these factors. As the Ranger Handbook says in describing one of the Principles of Leadership:
Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions: Leaders must exercise initiative, be resourceful, and take advantage of opportunities on the battlefield that will lead to victory. Accept just criticism and take corrective actions for mistakes.

The steps to harnessing change that you, as PL, didn't plan for are basically the same as when you plan it carefully with a shift in emphasis: Introduce the change by being clear about why it's happening now. If you misjudged a situation, admit it. If you have unexpected pressures from your CEO or board of directors, say so. If the company's new product failed in beta testing, reveal that to everyone affected by the change. Fix problems; don't affix blame.

A few years ago, I worked with a guy who was technically very competent but lacked people skills. He had been groomed in a corporate culture that was completely top-down management, and he alienated most of his employees by continuing that practice in his new position. One day, he found himself having to call a department meeting to drop a bomb. "Our mission has changed," he said. "We have to produce 25 percent more parts with the same resources in three months. And, by the way, I don't know how to accomplish this-do you?" At first, everyone was skeptical. So many times before they had heard him ask for their input (probably because some consultant like me had coached him to do that), and he had never listened.

A few people saw that the challenge this time was very serious; they jumped into the "exploration" phase. One of these people, a machine operator named Tim, stood up and said, "I'd like to tackle the issue of tool development." Tool development was a part of the manufacturing process in which the company had competitive advantage, and Tim knew that.

Every day, he had his head in the machines related to the process, and he knew how improve his corner of the operation-his part of the 360. As he outlined his plan, he relayed the message: "I know what I'm talking about. I'd like to be the team leader on that part of the project." In a heartbeat, he went from front-line wrench man to the leader of tool development for a plant of 600 people. He elevated himself because he saw the opportunity to add value and make a difference. But what gave him that opportunity? A PL who realized he needed help in making a change or he would sink. A PL ho had just been handed a mission that he couldn't do himself, no matter how great his technical competence was.

In taking on this huge responsibility, Tim knew that his pay would stay the same for at least another ten months. Everyone in the company knew that pay raises came only once a year, no matter what, and that the "informal norm" was that you don't discuss pay in between.

Tim's personal productivity-the value that he added to bottom line-increased immediately, and kept rising-and the "reborn" PL let his employees know that their change put the company on the road to achieving the mission. The leader who had never listened before couldn't help but see the effect of his new behavior-that is, his genuine openness to accept input. And because no one got a pay raise, it was clear to him that his behavior was what made the difference.

Using SITREPS to Harness Change
The SITREP, or situation report, is part of the Ranger system of informing and adapting as change occurs and the plan needs to be modified. It's a fundamental tool to help you take others, as well as yourself, through change, whether it's initiated by a leader, or foisted on you by the MODD. SITREPS can be formal or informal, but the important thing is that they communicate the current status of the team, mission, and tasks. They help individual members of the team, including the leaders, update their situation on an ongoing basis so decisions aren't tainted by old information or assumptions about "what's supposed to happen."

During the program, a SITREP might be a ten-second call from the PL to HQ: "Black6, we're on the Blue Route at RP 9. One MODD sighted at RP 7. No weapons fired. On schedule to reach supply drop by dusk. Will maintain radio silence until then." At work, a SITREP is rarely this efficient. All too often, phone conversations, memos, and e-mail meant to serve the purpose of updating the status of the team, mission, and tasks include extraneous information or exclude key points. Just answer the questions who, what, when, and where, and you should have a useful SITREP.

In Panama, I saw SITREPS save lives on the battlefield, and I issued them internally as my personal situation kept changing. The night before we moved out, I had seen photos of the landing area, but the photos only captured the area really close to the runway where the objectives were. They didn't show other features that my fellow Rangers and I would soon land on, or in, like elephant grass, thatched huts, and a bullring.

The runway was two miles long; the ocean ran perpendicular and an international highway dissected the runway at the midpoint. My rally point was near a motor pool, so the first phase of my mission was to get to that rally point from wherever I landed.

In the plan, or "op order," we were told the primary and alternate drop headings that the C-130s would fly, which meant if the pilot couldn't drop toward one location because of winds or some other reason, we would be dropped on an alternate heading. Unfortunately, when we go out the door of the plane, the pilot might not have time to let us know if it's the primary or alternate drop heading.

I was in the second aircraft dropping jumpers-"bird number two"-not on the plane with most of my teammates. It was standard operating procedure to never put the whole Ranger team on the same plane because if that plane goes down, that team's objective is lost. Another SOP is, once on the ground, as soon as two-thirds of the team assembles at the planned rally point, we move on the objective; in this case, it was the motor pool. Rangers don't wait for a total turnout; we attack with two-thirds because time is part of the mission. Everyone adjusts roles and resources based on who shows up within the designated time.

My jump began perfectly-500 feet, no line twists. Then came the landing. My rucksack was 120 pounds, my weapon and ammo totaled 70 pounds, and I weighed 180 at the time. My parachute stuck in a tree. It was like a neon sign, "Trapped below: Army Ranger! Fresh in from America! Come and get him!" My lines had fallen all over me like a spider web. I couldn't get up and run, because I was still in my harness with all my gear weighing me down. All I could do was quickly grab my 9mm pistol and put it into action. I set it down next to me so I had something to defend myself with as I cut the lines with my knife. I had a concern that someone would come up behind me and bayonet me in the back while I was stuck on the ground in my harness. There was ten-foot elephant grass to my left, which would have been great cover for someone.

To make matters worse, I thought I was dropped on the alternate compass heading. I didn't recognize any of the landmarks around me from the photos we'd been shown in the briefing.

About thirty feet to my front there was a thatched hut and I could see into the door a little. All of a sudden three silhouettes came running toward me. I took a breath: "Oh, oh here it comes." I grabbed my pistol and sat still. Thoughts blasted through my head: "Three people. Only fifteen rounds in my 9mm. I'll likely expend a fair amount-five or six rounds-to neutralize the threat. That will leave me with just a few rounds left, and I'll have given away my position while I'm still stuck. I can't reload fast enough. Better take a second and let this play out a little more." At the same time, I absorbed the fact that the silhouettes were small and they seemed scared.

 Rally Point: Reading body language is a form of active listening.

With all the shooting and explosions going on, there was enough chaos to scare just about anyone. Then they ran into the hut. I thought that they could be going in to get guns and decided, if they come out, I'm going to start shooting. I have to assume they're going in to get weapons. I sat and sat for what seemed like a lifetime and they never came out. I updated my situation again: I concluded they weren't interested in me and went back to slicing through my lines to get away and head to my assembly point.

Some people might wonder why I didn't throw a grenade in there,just to make sure they never came out again. First of all, I have no desire to kill anybody who isn't attacking me. Second, that wouldn't make sense under the circumstances. I didn't know if other Rangers might have been dropped into that elephant grass or on the other side of the hut. I found out later, in fact, that my partner Snyder had landed not to far from me, just on the other side of that hut. A thatched hut would not have stopped the shrapnel from the grenade. Thinking through these possibilities, even though it's subliminal processing, reflects the training we received. We always knew to assess everything about a situation, especially before engaging weapons.

Once I got out of my harness, I grabbed my M16 and locked and loaded it. At that point, I knew they could have heard me just outside the hut, but I felt a little better, because now I had thirty rounds of ammo. They didn't come out and I didn't go in. They were not the MODD. Had I expended rounds or taken any other aggressive action, that would have pulled me off-track from the mission. Don't fight the wrong MODD. It's a big waste of resources and emotional energy!

 Rally Point: Don't fight the wrong MODD.

Again, part of harnessing change is making choices based on current information, not assumptions on old information.

Based on the sound of the shots, I could tell where the action was happening and that gave me a sense of which way to go. I soon found other Rangers to link up with and form mini ad-hoc teams for security and movement. I carried only the basics out of my rucksack-primarily the ammo, which I had to get to Snyder when I found him because we were an interdependent machine gun team.

As other Rangers who landed in the wrong place and I struggled to get to where we needed to be, we dropped guys along the way at their destinations and picked up other guys as we moved to the next place. We instantly formed fire teams along the way. It didn't matter if a Ranger was First Battalion or Second Battalion or Third, everyone had an assembly point they needed to get to and we all needed each other to get there. You're only a real team if you're interdependent!

During our movement toward the rally points, a firefight erupted across the runway. Captain Thomas immediately realized that it was two opposing Ranger forces shooting at each other. The way we initiate a volley of fire is distinctive; it signaled to him that they were both Ranger teams. Instantly, Captain Thomas got on the radio and yelled, "Check fire!" In a heartbeat, the fire stopped. Fortunately, because all the Rangers had taken the proper defensive position, no one was hurt.

New SITREPS and ongoing internal updates are processes we relied on to stay focused on the mission, which was to have control of the airfield in eight to thirteen hours. Given the scattered landings, firefights, array of obstacles on the runway, and more, each subpart of the mission, from getting to the first rally point to taking the team objective, required both individual and team adjustments to stick to the timeline.

We created the final surprise: Rangers took the airfield in only five hours. Not only that, we found out after the fighting and just before our redeployment home, that the estimate on loss of life had been eighty. Fortunately, we lost only two as a result of the invasion on Thunder DZ. Despite all the action around us, we had everything in place to deal with the constant change that required each Ranger to update his situation almost second by second:  
  • Really knowing a job-That includes having confidence that the person on your right and your left also knows his or her job, that they have a grasp of the subject matter as well as technical competence  
  • Executing tasks with confidence and precision  
  • Staying calm and in control when the missteps happen-This is the direct result of thinking out contingency plans and detours  

In short, the ability to stay on course during times of change is 90 percent planning, 10 percent reacting. Ironically, the planning gives you understanding from the beginning how to adapt when things don't go as planned.

 Rally Point: People don't plan to fail-they fail to plan.

The Next Step: Initiative
An atmosphere of change inspires initiative if the three conditions listed earlier are present-you know your job, you can do it well, and you've thought through "what-ifs." As I mentioned in Chapter 4, initiative is one of the most powerful elements in the Ranger culture; it leads to problem-solving and decision-making by team members of every rank and responsibility, even in the face of hardship and confusion.

Through planning and communications tools such as SITREPS and Mission Briefs, a leader reinforces what information is important and what isn't, what actions would support the mission and what actions are extraneous. It's a system that supports initiative, so that at any one time, anyone can be "the leader." That doesn't mean there is an instant promotion or escalation of authority, but it does mean everyone's words have weight. If a private sees the MODD, the private takes the initiative and says, "We have a problem here." In the Rangers, that kind of contribution is pected. There is never a sense that a person's information isn't important. Because of the training, the assumption is that each person knows what's important and what isn't. When people err in judgment, that's addressed after the mission, not in the thick of a changing situation when continued initiative is vital to success.

On D-day, the Germans had everything they needed along the coast of northern France. They had more than the United States could handle. In spite of the odds, the Americans launched the famous invasion. The Rangers had their role, hit the beach, and climbed the cliffs at Pt. du Hoc to take out the big guns. They got to the top of the cliffs and guess what Ranger First Sergeant Leonard G. Lomell found in the gun bunkers? Telephone poles were painted like guns. Imagine the Rangers who had been in training all those months, with the primary mission to knock out those guns or thousands of people would die and the mission might fail. Lomell knew the guns had to be somewhere and he knew what his mission was. He went inland with Sergeant Jack Kuhn and found the guns that had been moved across the coastal road in an orchard. The Germans had assembled farther back and were in position to move toward the beach. They were waiting for orders from Hitler to move and their gunners were not guarding the guns. The Germans soldiers weren't allowed to take the initiative; they were trying to contact Hitler. By the time that decision came down, Lomell and other Rangers had outflanked and outmaneuvered them.

Lomell pushed on toward the guns and found troops drinking coffee, waiting for their orders. He grabbed some thermite grenades and dropped them on the machines. A thermite grenade is nothing but heat, so he essentially "nuked" their machines. Lomell didn't have enough on him so he went back, got some more, and made a second trip.

He didn't wait around for someone to tell him what to do. He didn't wait around to see what the intelligence brought in-his mission was to destroy the guns. He updated his situation as he went along, took initiative, and as a result, he destroyed the guns and save countless American lives.

The comparable lesson for corporate leaders would be that change-even dramatic change of strategy or tactic-seems natural when it's necessary to achieve a well-defined goal. 


Lead the way!


About the author: Dean Hohl has been leading teams and coaching individuals professionally since 1993. From '88 - '92 Dean served with 3rd Ranger Battalion during which he helped in the removal of Manuel Noriega in 1989 when he parachuted onto a hostile Panamanian airstrip.

He graduated Ranger School with honors earning one of two distinguished "Merrill's Marauders" awards; an award earned only by two each class and chosen by his peer group for demonstrating exceptional teamwork, leadership, and communication under long periods of stress and pressure - often the result of days without food or sleep - throughout the entire 72 day course. Dean completed his Ranger service with honor at the rank of Sergeant.




Warrior's Wisdom

Marschal Villers observes, that in war everything depends upon being able to deceive the enemy, and, having once gained this point, in never allowing him time to recover himself. Villars has united practice to precept. His bold and rapid marches were almost always crowned with success. It was the opinion of Frederick that all wars should be short and rapid; because a long war insensibly relaxes discipline, depopulates the state, and exhausts its resources.


 Napoleon was the master of the sudden dash designed to disconcert the enemy and morally dominate him.


A century earlier Marlborough had been adept at the same method. "If he is there then the Devil must have carried him," was Vendome's reputed reaction to the Duke's sudden advance towards Oudenarde in July 1708; "Such marching is impossible!" The celebrated ability of Erwin Rommel to "steal a march"on his opponents was as manifest when he was in command of the "Ghost" Panzer Division during the breakthrough over the Meuse at Sedan in May 1940 as when he commanded the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert in 1941 and 1942.


   The exhilaration of a rapid advance as a multiplier of battle force and troop morale has never been better epitomized than in the Red Army's dramatic offensive in August 1945 against the Japanese Imperial Army in Mongolia. In three weeks fighting some 500 miles were covered and one million Japanese defeated.  


Clearly morale is likely to rise in any force making ground (as has already been mentioned  above).  


As the Israelis demonstrated in 1967, a pre-emptive strike (in that case against the unwary Egyptian air force) followed by an all-out attack with air supported armor into Sinai (leading to a re-deployment north to meet the Syrians on the Golan Heights) had much to recommend it as a way of compensating for inferior strength.

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Aesop's Fables

     A SNAKE, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage, inflicted a mortal bite on the Cottager's infant son.

Grieving over his loss, the Father resolved to kill the Snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole for food, he cut off only the end of its tail. After some time the Cottager, afraid that the Snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some bread and salt in the hole slightly hissing, said: "There can henceforth be no peace between us, for whenever I see you I shall remember the loss of my tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your son."


No one truly forgets injuries in the presence of him who caused the injury.

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Quotes & Jokes

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys."
Thomas Jefferson

"Let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. ... Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died."
Ronald Regan

 "No party is as bad as its state and national leaders."
Will Rogers

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian." George Washington's General Orders (1775)

    "As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul."
 Franklin D. Roosevelt

    "For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it."
Patrick Henry

    "Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others."
Ayn Rand

    "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
Thomas Paine

    "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself."
James Madison

    "Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?" Thomas Jefferson

A short lesson on authority for the leaders of our Country
Abuse of Authority
  • Authority should respect the freedom and rights of others.
  • Authority should always respect the Law.
  • Authority should respect our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
  • Authority should respect the property and privacy of others.
  • Authority should always be impartial, just and fair.
  • Authority should never be hypocritical.
  • Authority should never be above the Law
  • Authority should never be self-righteous.
  • Authority should always be objective never emotional or reactionary or empathetic.
  • Authority should always have respect for authority.
  Any violation of these points represents an abuse of authority.

"The Constitution establishes the Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary, and through a deliberate allocation of authority, it defines the limits of each upon the others. It particularizes the liberties which, as free men and women, we insist upon, and it constrains both Federal and State powers to ensure that those precious liberties are faithfully protected. It is our blueprint for freedom, our commitment to ourselves and to each other. It is by choice, not by imposition, that the Constitution is the supreme law of our Land. ... [E]ach of us has a personal obligation to acquaint ourselves with it and with its central role in guiding our Nation. While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty."

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Benjamin Franklin (1776)

"We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again."
George Washington

The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the 'little' choices of years past -- by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation, [which was] whispering the lie that 'it really doesn't matter.' It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away -- the decision that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness; habits of self-sacrifice or self-indulgence; habits of duty and honor and integrity -- or dishonor and shame."
"It can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime."- American author Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945)

 "Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear."
Ayn Rand

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What Has Really Changed?
1776 - 1976  What has really changed?

If you quarrel with your Government in January blame yourself for November

"People get the government they deserve", so-


-- do you study each candidate for every office in the Primaries: go behind his words, insist on knowing his character, his principles, his intent?


--do you do the same with every candidate for election, and vote for the best man regardless of party?


--do you watch how your representatives vote, write them often on your ideas of what is best, compliment them when they do it?


--do you write your government officials, local as well as national of your beliefs?


--do you tell government how to save, not what you want?


All this is what being a free man means - the obligation as well as the privilege of being a citizen of a free country.

It's just that simple.  

 "Despite the fact that today's increasing levels of federal government spending are unsustainable, there is little evidence that Americans have the willingness to do anything about it. Any politician who'd even talk about significantly reining in unsustainable entitlement spending would be run out of town. Any politician telling the American people they must pay higher taxes to support handout spending, instead of concealing spending through deficits and running up the national debt and inflation, would also be run out of town. Can you imagine what the American people would do to a presidential candidate who'd declare, as James Madison did in a 1794 speech to the House of Representatives, 'Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government'? If we are to be able to avoid ultimate collapse, it's going to take a moral reawakening and renewed constitutional respect -- not by politicians but by the American people."
- Economist Walter E. Williams


The Open Door

Everyone has a dream or a fantasy. Mine-for many years-was to jump into Normandy as an 82d trooper. I realized mine on the 40th anniversary of D Day as the commander of troops for the 82d Airborne on their first return to Normandy since 6 June 1944. This led to all else that follows.
Our force of about 300 airborne soldiers, with the division CG, Ed Trobaugh, assembled at RAF Lynham much as the originals did on their day of days. Other than a difference in aircraft-C130's for C47's, the scene would have been very familiar to the originals which gave us all a sense of poignancy and reflection.

The aircraft were lined on the ramp, doors open with each load of soldiers sitting under the shade of the wings with their equipment and parachutes in various stages of dress. Ones and twos were lined behind the aircraft on the edge of the grass relieving themselves. Jeeps were running back and forth with crews and messages. For myself, I could close my eyes and relive what must have been and which I so ardently had wished to participate-now I was there.

Slowly with full gear and a non-historic sunny sky, we loaded through the rear ramp and found our places on the red nylon outboard and in-board seats. I was sitting in the third position on the stick and the CG at the eighth-where we guessed he would land mid-drop zone. As the airborne commander, I had on a headset connecting me with the pilot and crew. In that this event was drawing a huge population at St Mere Eglise and we had half the brass and politicos in the world engaged, we were getting constant changes, adjustments and "suggestions," much of which we ignored. I talked to my DZSO, Cpt Dave McNeil from the DZ and he indicated the largest and most significant issue was people on the DZ and that the Gendarmes were only beginning to deal with the problem.
I was called forward by the pilot just before takeoff. He was an older Colonel who shook my hand and introduced himself. He said he had a special request-If it was ok with us, he would like to fly the course with the doors open as they did on the original run. I thought it a good idea but said I had to get permission from the CG. Gen Trobaugh, overcome with an avalanche of PR issues-not his forte-nodded and said OK. I gave the pilot a thumbs up. I had no idea beyond what he stated why this was important.

Though the noise and passing images through the door were momentarily disconcerting, they brought a strange peacefulness and isolation to each of us. It was clear that this was not an ordinary trip. If anything, we were in a time machine. I looked back on the troops and each was looking out the door and immersed in their own thoughts.
Before the jump, we briefed our jump plan and that of the original drop and had a number of airborne vets-US and Brit- talk to us on the ramp-among them LTC Ben Vandervoort-my predecessor battalion commander that night. There was a consistency about all of their discussions. They displayed no bravado or ego which would have been expected and accepted in the light of history but rather joked and made matter of fact comments about the great weights they carried and the difficulty in getting into the aircraft, the problems with taking a leak once loaded, excited plt ldrs yelling orders and mass confusion as to who went on what aircraft.

One described the incident where the gammon grenade went off destroying an adjacent aircraft and killing part of a stick on the ground before takeoff. One of the survivors emerged from the aircraft, struggled toward the closest aircraft occupied by the vet and was pushed in the door by the ground crew-the vet said "He wasn't going to stay and we weren't going to leave him." Said in a quiet direct manner-it made a distinct impact on all of us. However, through the many individual recounting, there was a very clear pride in doing what they did and an even clearer conviction that they would succeed-that made the greatest impact on us all. Every participating trooper knew he was taking part in a personally important moment and having the rare gift of being able to walk with the ghosts.

Ben said the 24 hour delay wasn't wasted on much sleep-lots of poker, craps, conversation, letter writing, re-checking gear and just trying to get to the mess hall and back while eating in the pouring rain. No pub crawl which was a disappointment to many. The next day was as much an emotional drain as a break. Most of the sleep achieved was under the wing of their C47 in the early evening of 5 June. A fact which they would pay for later.

The invasion aircraft took off in almost broad daylight-around 2100 English double daylight savings time and blended into huge circles until all were airborne and then began to fly in a v of v's south and east. Ben said he looked out and could see almost no sky for the sea of black with white striped fuselages headed toward France.

I closed my eyes with those comments in mind and reflected on this shared moment with those that I had interviewed prior to this flight. Vandervoort, Gavin, Ridgeway, Murphy, Piper, Timmes and Sullivan independently had the same impression and reaction. Paraphrasing-"I looked out at the sea below and could only see the immense armada of ships below steaming for France-an unbroken line of black streaks with tiny white wakes to both horizons occasionally broken by a glimpse of the actual sea. Looking level through the door all I could see were aircraft literally blocking out the sky. I knew then that we would win. There was no power on earth that could stop this force." In later conversations with vets I always made a point to ask them what they saw on their flight and their thoughts. Universally, their impression was of the impact of the physical reality through the door of the immensity of the undertaking and their then realized absolute confidence in the outcome.

Our flight was in brilliant English color-verdant green of the pastures below, then the chalky beach and deep blue English channel with high balls of Monet-like clouds stretching to the horizon and a brilliant golden rising morning sun-the war in our minds was no longer in black and white. The wind of 250 knots coursed easily by the fuselage
enveloping each of us in a sensory canopy permitting the deepest personal reflections. Unlike all other airborne movements, I didn't see a single soldier sleeping-like me, each was in his own world taking a trip once repeated.

Just after takeoff and at level flight altitude, I was called on the headphones and asked for the second time to go to the cockpit. Somewhat bewildered, I struggled there with all my gear and the pilot got out of his chair-highly unusual-extended his hand, looked me in the eye and said-"This is my last flight. I am retiring after this mission as flight lead and from the Air Force Reserve. 40 years ago tonight I was flight lead for elements of the 82d Airborne. Thank you for making this happen. This is one of the greatest moments of my life." I was stunned speechless but returned his handshake and gave him a salute and said- Thankyou returning to my stick with a much clearer understanding of his original request. What he must have seen and carried with him to be released at this moment in time.............

The red light came on just before the channel coast. The other jump masters and I stood up, hooked up and looked at the sticks. My right foot was hooked in the open frame and the wind blew briskly by my uniform and equipment. Each soldier in line-inboard and outboard stick-General through private-looked up anxious and alert awaiting instructions as they had done 40 years before and ever since. The green verdant broken fields of Normandy swept as a blur past my eyes as we went through the timeless rituals of the jump commands-Stand Up. Hook Up. Check static lines. Check Equipment. Sound off for equipment check. Stand by. Looking at the men and their demeanor-they all knew they not only were jumping into history, they believed they were part of it. It was a moment.

At the 2 min warning, I placed both feet flush on the fuselage frame, reached out with my left hand, grasped the wind deflector and leaned out the door into the rush to check on the drop zone. I was momentarily transfixed by the warm humid air and the blurring vision and then the landmarks became crystal clear in my mind-Vandervoort had said he flew his route on the map and in his mind a hundred times so he could pick out key route features and insure his bearings. In daylight I had it easier and without ground fire. There were the three key 101st towns and their distinctive church towers, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach and the beach line itself. Then suddenly the patchwork quilt of the Norman fields and small villages and bisecting roads. Then dead ahead-St Mere Eglise-distinct on the highway with its church square. Just in front of it was a small curling stream of yellow smoke marking the drop zone. Clear spot. Thumbs up the JM's passed to each other. Stand In The Door! The load master stood to my rear with his hand in front of my face counting the last 5 seconds..........Green Light. Go! We were jumping into a time warp. The first two jumpers were away and I inserted myself in the column with the A/JM taking the door. I watched my chute deploy, straightened out the lines and then looked down.

The drop zone was a sea of humanity. Women, children, men, gendarmes, army running across the narrow fields so thick they blotted out the ground. I couldn't see an open spot to steer to and so just moved closest to the smoke. The drop zone was actually a whole series of tight
hedgerow fields designated La Londe and had been isolated hours earlier by the gendarmes. However, within a couple of hours of the jump, the French people infiltrated everywhere in their intense desire to see this return and touch the successors of those that came before and delivered them. In Normandy, the invasion has always been current events and those that participated are truly treated as gods on earth never to be forgotten. As surrogates, the first return en masse was a moment to be remembered by us but to be treasured by them.

In the air, I had this vision which I always carried of the St Mere church stained glass-of the airborne soldier suspended with the town on fire. I actually assumed that pose for a minute in homage and then went about my business of looking for a safe spot to land. If a town of 2,000 years history can redesign its entire heraldry and honor a single moment in time, so could I.

Fearing to hurt someone, I tried to twist away but simply slammed into the ground, my parachute collapsing over several milling families. While still lying on my back, I was grabbed by several small boys, a man and a woman-the man shook my hand and the boys grabbed my chute and helped me roll it up.

Pausing to catch my breath before rising, I felt that I had just returned to a place I had never been.

Written by  Keith Nightingale


Hard Luck Outfit:
The Story of the 492nd Bombardment Group
Part 1

2nd Lt. Hugh Shalvoy waits for medical attention in the wreckage of his 492nd Bombardment Group B-24 Liberator after crashing while trying to land at Bury St. Edmunds, May 11, 1944. Despite being comprised of experienced crews, the 492nd Bombardment Group earned a reputation as a hard luck outfit. National Archives photo


The story goes that Napoleon once inquired about a certain general to his staff. After listening to them go on and on about his distinguished combat record, he put up his hand and asked, "But is he lucky?" Napoleon knew, better than anyone, that great skill and bravery ultimately matter little in the face of combat if you also happen to be unlucky.

The U.S. Army Air Force's 492nd Bombardment Group was brave and highly skilled, but it was their unlucky fate to find themselves, repeatedly, at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The U.S. Army Air Force's 492nd Bombardment Group was brave and highly skilled, but it was their unlucky fate to find themselves, repeatedly, at the wrong place at the wrong time. And though they were faultless, for their sins, they got wiped out not once, but twice. The first time was by the Luftwaffe, which inflicted such heavy losses on them they had to be stood down and disbanded. The second time was by their own generals, who, rather than acknowledge their defeat, performed an act of bureaucratic legerdemain to cover it up and in essence, expunge them from history, where to some extent, they remain to this day.

A B-24 Liberator from the 859th Bombardment Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, over Saarbrücken, Germany, May 27, 1944. On that mission the 492nd lost one bomber. This was a milk run compared to what was to come. National Archives photo

The unit's own, unofficial history says that in late April 1944, when Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, the new head of the 8th Air Force, heard that the 492nd was on its way to join them, he bragged that now they were going to really show the Germans a thing or two. Even though the 492nd hadn't yet been bloodied by combat, they had a formidable reputation. By this point in the war, the spring of 1944, pilots and aircrews were given only as much training, flight time, and practice missions as was necessary to be sent out on missions to fly or die. Anything beyond that was considered a waste of resources unlikely to significantly budge their grim, basically fixed position within the actuarial tables of men flying bomber missions over Nazi-held territory. The new men shared a uniformity of inexperience.


But the 492nd was different. Its pilots already had hundreds, even thousands of flying hours under their belt, far more even than the most mission-hardened veterans being rotated back home. This is because they were former flight instructors and men from the observation squadrons that had been flying anti-submarine patrol missions up and down the Atlantic coast since right after Pearl Harbor. They were highly experienced and eager to get into the fight. The 492nd arrived in England on April 18, 1944, without losing a single aircraft, the first bomber group to do so, a further testament to their proficiency.

They were highly experienced and eager to get into the fight.

Once at their new base of North Pickenham, they flew training and practice missions until May 11, when they were sent out on their first combat mission. That morning, 30 brand new B-24 bombers flew out to attack a target at Mulhouse, near the Swiss border. But when they got there the cloud cover was too heavy, so they diverted to the marshaling yards at Auxerre. All the bombers returned safely, though two made crash-landings. The next day they went out again, this time to Zeitz in central Germany. Again, all aircraft returned safely. They attacked again the next day, this time at Siracourt in France. One crewman was killed by flak. After that they had five days off. On May 19, 26 aircraft from the 492nd  joined a nearly 1,000 strong bomber force attacking the marshaling yards in Brunswick, Germany. Protecting them were nearly 1,000 fighter escorts. But the Luftwaffe was also up in force and they must have known that the escort fighters' standing orders were to attack the Germans at all costs wherever they were, even if it meant leaving the bombers unprotected. To this end, the Germans played cat-and-mouse with the American fighters, drawing them away. And once they had, other German fighters would swarm in, attacking the undefended bomber formations. Although the 492nd's gunners managed to shoot down 10 enemy fighters, before it was over, eight of its bombers were taken out. They had performed well and stayed together. Their 10 fighter kills were a testament to their skill. But losing eight bombers like that was definitely 'hard luck."


During the next 30 days the 492nd flew 23 more missions. The vast majority of those missions were carried off without any losses. On May 27, they lost one bomber over Saarbrucken. The next mission was two days later when they attacked the oil refineries at Politz in Poland. They lost three bombers on that raid. Five days later another airplane was lost in a mid-air collision. For most of June, the 492nd supported the Allied invasion in Normandy by attacking enemy airbases and other targets in France, during which time they lost only a single aircraft. Then they were sent to targets in Germany, and that was when everything went very bad.


Hard Luck Outfit:
The Story of the 492nd Bombardment Group
Part 2

A B-24 Liberator of the 856th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bomber Group, 8th Air Force, over the the Rhenania-Ossag oil refinery near Hamburg, Germany, Aug. 6, 1944. The 492nd was disbanded due to heavy losses in early August 1944. National Archives photo

By early June, 1944, the 492nd Bombardment Group had flown twenty-four missions. Most had been easy ones, either supporting the Normandy invasion or going after V-1 launching sites in France. But whenever they'd attack targets in Germany, things usually got nasty. On their fifth mission, against the Brunswick marshalling yards, they lost eight aircraft. Bombing the refineries in Politz, 10 days later, they lost three more.

Today, a handful of 492nd veterans remain alive. They call themselves the "Happy Warriors," and hope to receive some unit commendation or at least official recognition before they're all gone. But the chances of receiving any are slim.

On June 18, they were sent to bomb the airfield at Luneburg in northern Germany. But the cloud cover was too heavy, so they diverted to Bremerhaven and went after warships in the harbor. During their approach, another B-24, painted in olive drab, but without any markings,  appeared and tried to insinuate itself into their formation. But since the 492nd aircraft were all bare-metal, they knew it wasn't one of theirs. They wondered if it might be a captured aircraft flown by a Nazi crew. It stayed 2,000 yards off, but once the bomb run was completed, it left. A few minutes later they started getting hit by very accurate flak and rocket fire. Three bombers were hit. One made it to Sweden, another back to North Pickenham, while the third ditched 12 miles off the British coast, where two members were rescued. Liberators were notoriously bad aircraft to ditch, with the sea smashing through the roll-up bomb bay doors, injuring or killing crew members, breaking the back of the aircraft and causing it to sink quickly.


The B-24 "Mojalajab" of the 492nd Bombardment Group burns after crashing in Normandy on June 15, 1944. The crew was able to bail out over the Normandy beachhead and return to combat with the 492nd Bombardment Group, only for the entire crew to be killed on a July 7, 1944 mission. National Archives photo
Two days later, they were sent back to Politz. Thirty-five aircraft would fly, first across the North Sea, then over the Danish peninsula, then across the Baltic before wheeling to attack Politz from the east. They would be protected by two successive groups of long-range fighters. Everything went well enough at first. But then, shortly after crossing over the Danish peninsula, one of the bombers from the 856thBomb Squadron lost an engine and had to drop out and head home alone. Of that squadron's 12 aircraft, it was the only one to get back.

Soon after, the first wave of escorts reached their maximum range, turned and went home. But the relief wave was several minutes late because of problems releasing their drop tanks, giving the Luftwaffe fighters a tiny window of opportunity that turned out to be all they needed. Within four minutes, 14 bombers were taken out. Two made it to Sweden. The rest went down.


For the rest of June, the group made milk runs. Then in early July, they attacked the shipyards in Kiel. The cloud cover was heavy, the visibility bad, and the flak accurate. Two aircraft were hit. One made it safely to Sweden, the other ditched in the North Sea, where all but two members of the crew were rescued.

A B-24 Liberator of the 788th Bomb Squadron, 467th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force, on a mission to bomb Schwabisch-Hall, Germany, Feb. 25, 1945. While with the 788th Bomb Squadron, the B-24 was known as "Monster," but with the 492nd Bomber Group it had been named "Irishman's Shanty," and narrowly avoided a brush with death during a mission to Halle, Germany. National Archives photo

On July 7, 23 of the 492nd's Liberators attacked Bernburg as part of a 1,000 odd bomber force sent against German industrial cities. They were short on escorts, since most were needed to support the ground fighting in France. The 8th Air Force had hoped they could make do by diverting the Luftwaffe away with B-17s pretending to attack Berlin. The Luftwaffe didn't fall for it.


The 492nd's bombers flew on the outer edge of a larger formation from the 44th and 392nd Bombardment Groups. As they started their approach, they spotted a large number of B-24s coming right at them. They'd just bombed Halle and were heading home. Seeing them coming, the 44th swung wide right to avoid them, taking the few escort fighters they had with them. Meanwhile the aircraft from the 492nd and 392nd waited for the approaching bombers to get out of their way. But it didn't happen, and in that moment of confusion, the Luftwaffe attacked with several hundred single- and twin-engine German fighters.


One of the first aircraft hit was the deputy lead ship of the approaching group. It must have killed both the pilot and copilot, because the aircraft immediately started drifting and then veered directly into the path of the 492nd. One bomber, "Irishman's Shanty," managed a sharp dive and got out of its path. The bomber behind them was not so lucky. It collided into them, tore off a wing and both aircraft went down. By then it was a melee, and within a few minutes 12 of the 492nd's 21 aircraft had been shot down. Sixty-seven men were dead, and 52 were in POW camps.

The sacrifices of the 492nd Bombardment Group are commemorated at Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio. U.S. Air Force photo
The 492nd continued flying missions for another month, losing eight more aircraft in the process. By now, only 18 of the group's 50 bombers were operational. But by early August, Bomber Command had had enough. They ordered the 492nd disbanded. But rather than have to admit what had happened to them, the 492nd unit designation was given as cover to the 801st Provisional Group, an OSS special operations unit better known as the Carpetbaggers. In this way the 492nd's loss got papered over. The official histories never mentioned what happened. Decades would pass before historians started figuring it out. Today, a handful of 492nd veterans remain alive. They call themselves the "Happy Warriors," and hope to receive some unit commendation or at least official recognition before they're all gone. But the chances of receiving any are slim.

The 492nd had lasted 89 days. They flew 67 missions and dropped 3,653 tons of bombs. Fifty-five bombers had been lost, 234 men killed in action, 26 wounded, 131 became POWs and 129 were interned in either Sweden or Switzerland.

The 492nd had lasted 89 days. They flew 67 missions and dropped 3,653 tons of bombs. Fifty-five bombers had been lost, 234 men killed in action, 26 wounded, 131 became POWs and 129 were interned in either Sweden or Switzerland. They'd fought hard and well, but ultimately, it didn't matter.


The Rescue of Danish Jews
Danish Jews arrive in Sweden. Danes made extraordinary efforts to save Danish Jews by hiding them and then smuggling them to Sweden. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo

Since its one-day conquest on April 9, 1940, Denmark had been a relatively quiet backwater among the nations conquered and occupied by Nazi Germany. Though called a "model protectorate" by the Germans, the harmony between the two nations only superficially concealed the tense reality of the relationship, one that changed at the end of August 1943 following a series of nationwide strikes and an increase in Danish resistance sabotage. Berlin ended Denmark's "model protectorate" status, forced the Danish government to resign, and replaced it with a military government. Now in control, the Nazis had a free hand to deal with the "Jewish problem" in Denmark - or so officials in Berlin thought.

"The disaster is going to take place. All details are planned. Your poor fellow citizens are going to be deported to an unknown destination."

-Georg Frederick Dückwitz to Danish Social Democratic Party chairman Hans Hedtoft

SS-Oberguppenfürher Dr. Werner Best had been Reich Plenipotentiary to Denmark since November 1942. More concerned about keeping good relations with the Danish government and its people than imposing the harsher measures of Nazi policy, up until this point he had maintained a largely hands-off approach regarding the approximately 7,800 Jews in Denmark. Upon receiving his orders to deport Danish Jews, on Sept. 11 Best told his friend Georg Ferdinand Dückwitz, maritime attaché at the German embassy in Copenhagen, of the plans to round up Denmark's Jews during Rosh Hashanah, which fell on Sept. 30.

Jewish refugees are ferried out of Denmark aboard Danish fishing boats bound for Sweden in 1943. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo

Though a member of the Nazi Party, Dückwitz did not share its anti-Semitic policy. Though it's impossible to know for certain Best's motivation in revealing his orders to Dückwitz, it's not unreasonable to think Best shared his friend's feelings. After an attempt through official channels in Berlin to stop the impending deportation failed, Dückwitz, under the guise of discussing German shipping traffic, flew to Stockholm. There he secretly secured an agreement with Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson to accept Danish Jew refugees. On Sept.28, Dückwitz told Danish Social Democratic Party chairman Hans Hedtoft of the Nazis' plan. Hedtoft in turn contacted the leaders of the Danish resistance and acting chief rabbi Dr. Marcus Melchior. Within hours what would be the most spectacular rescue of Jews during the Holocaust was put into motion.


Word spread like wildfire, and the nation - from King Christian X, civil servants, and church leaders to ordinary people - rallied to save Danish Jews from Nazi persecution. Initial efforts focused on hiding Jewish families until temporary visas and passports and boat passage to Sweden could be secured. Universities closed to allow students to help. Jewish families were hidden in homes, farms, hospitals, and other locations while the Danish underground made arrangements to organize fishing boats to smuggle them across the Kattegat and the Øresund. Money to pay for passage also came from a variety of public and private sources: according to some reports the king himself contributed one million Danish kroner.

Word spread like wildfire, and the nation - from King Christian X, civil servants, and church leaders to ordinary people - rallied to save Danish Jews from Nazi persecution.

Prior to the roundup, the Gestapo had targeted the Danish physicist Niels Bohr for arrest. Bohr and his wife escaped to Sweden, part of an Allied plan to eventually get him to the United States where he would work on the Manhattan Project. But once in Sweden, Bohr refused to leave until King Gustav V publicly announced Sweden's willingness to grant asylum to the Danish Jews. The king's announcement on Oct. 2 enabled the Danish underground to follow through with the final stage of the rescue effort.


Esther Finkler's experience was typical. A newlywed, she, her husband, and their mothers were hidden in a greenhouse while the Gestapo conducted neighborhood searches. Then one evening a member of the Danish underground arrived, hid them in a vehicle and managed to drive through Nazi checkpoints without incident on the first leg of their escape. The four were hidden in an underground shelter, then the attic of a bakery. Finally they were brought to a rendezvous site on the beach where they boarded a fishing boat that contained five other refugees. The ship's captain hid them under layers of fishing nets before starting across the strait to Sweden.


Germans soldiers patrol a harbor in Denmark to prevent the unauthorized use of Danish boats for smuggling goods and people. The Danish police force refused to help in the roundup of Jews, leaving the German to do it. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo

After three hours the nets were pulled away, and to the accompaniment of tears of joy from both sides, the refugees were escorted ashore to Sweden. "The nightmare was over," Esther said.

"The nightmare was over," Esther said.

In addition to the rescue effort itself, the Danish underground conducted a sabotage campaign to divert German troops. The Danish police force also assisted by refusing to help in the roundup, causing the Gestapo to disband it and directly assume police responsibilities in the country. The rescue took about three weeks. When it was over all but about 400 Danish Jews had reached freedom.


Jewish refugees are ferried out of Denmark aboard Danish fishing boats bound for Sweden, October 1943. Approximately 7,400 Danish Jews were smuggled out of the country ahead of a planned German roundup. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo
In recognition of their role in the rescue, Yad Vashem recognized Georg Frederick Dückwitz and, collectively, the Danish underground with the honor "Righteous Among the Nations."


Seventy Years Later, Relics of South Pacific Fighting Still Powerful


The Yamamoto Bunker was a Japanese naval command post where Imperial Japanese Navy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto supposedly spent his last night. In the background is the New Guinea Club and Rabaul Museum that displays relics of the battle. The New Guinea Club on Rabaul houses a small museum that contains relics of the World War II fighting that took place on Rabaul. Japanese maps and defense plans are still visible on the walls of the Yamamoto Bunker. Rhonda Coleman photo

As an astronaut in Earth orbit I spent every spare moment I could scrutinizing the lovely face of our planet, with an eye toward history as well as its delicate beauty. What brought the terrain to life for me were the human stories intertwined with a particular country or region. Sweeping my eyes and camera over Australia, New Guinea, and the Coral Sea, I replayed in my mind the rich, desperate history of the World War II campaigns fought there in 1942-44 between the Allies - American and Australian - and Japan.

Even a lifetime of travel back on terra firma couldn't be stretched enough for me to visit physically the places where every fascinating chapter of the saga of World War II's Pacific conflict occurred.

These awe-inspiring views of the tropical South Pacific always came with a twinge of regret: I would never have the opportunity to personally explore this vast region. Even a lifetime of travel back on terra firma couldn't be stretched enough for me to visit physically the places where every fascinating chapter of the saga of World War II's Pacific conflict occurred.

A cave on Rabaul that contains rusting Japanese cargo barges. The Japanese dug thousands of caves to shelter a force that grew to almost 110,000 by 1943. Tom Jones photo

So when the opportunity came, seventy years after the war, to visit some remote areas of New Guinea and northern Australia that saw fierce World War II combat, I jumped at it. My Travel Quest expedition was in pursuit of the Nov. 14, 2012 total solar eclipse, but encompassed much of the Japanese 1942-43 campaign to seize island airfields and choke off the U.S. supply routes into Australia.

Rabaul was the center of a whirlwind of take-no-prisoners combat between the desperate Allied and the Japanese forces expanding into the southwest Pacific.

First stop: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. From space, Rabaul is little more than a remote harbor at the northeastern tip of New Britain, surrounded by the blasted hills of an active volcanic caldera, sometimes emitting a wisp of ash. But during 1942-1944, Rabaul was the center of a whirlwind of take-no-prisoners combat between the Allies and the Japanese forces expanding into the southwest Pacific.



An entrance to one of the many tunnels on Rabaul that sheltered the Japanese garrison as well as Allied POWs, who many times were worked to death. Tom Jones photo

The Japanese took Rabaul and its magnificent natural anchorage, Simpson Harbor, from the Aussies in January 1942. Thereafter it served as their main air and naval base, a Gibraltar held by 90,000 troops and naval personnel. From Rabaul, Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto threatened to seize the eastern tip of New Guinea and its capital, Port Moresby. Australia would then be an easy jump across the Coral Sea.

Touring Rabaul, I glimpsed a few of the hundreds of caves bored by slave laborers into the soft volcanic rock.

Touring Rabaul, I glimpsed a few of the hundreds of caves bored by slave laborers into the soft volcanic rock. One enormous shelter still holds three rusting Daihatsu Japanese cargo barges; each night, they were winched down 200 meters of track to the harbor, transferring supplies ashore. At daylight, prisoners dragged them back to shelter before Allied bombers appeared overhead.


A destroyed Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" bomber at Lakunai Airfield, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Lakunai Airfield was originally built by the Royal Australian Air Force before being captured by the Japanese in 1942. It was the scene of heavy Allied bombing that neutralized the airfield. Tom Jones photo

The tunnels also housed supplies and various Japanese command posts, but some were hell-holes holding Australian and American POWs. Captured Allied fliers were herded into caves on Tunnel Hill. If they were lucky they were shipped, after interrogation, to Japan as slave laborers (a story well told in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken). Most, though, did back-breaking work on Rabaul's installations until the Japanese decided they were of no further use. Trucked out to the bleak, ash-covered slopes of Tavurvur volcano, these brave men dug their own graves under the eyes of pitiless executioners. Hundreds of Allied POWs were murdered on Rabaul. Many still lie there today.

Hundreds of Allied POWs were murdered on Rabaul. Many still lie there today.

Not far from Rabaul is Lakunai airfield, a Japanese fighter strip during the war. The airfield was visited by Yamamoto in the days before his fateful flight to Bougainville in April 1943, where Army Air Forces P-38 Lightning pilots intercepted and destroyed his plane. At Lakunai, buried in 1994 under four feet of volcanic ash, the locals have unearthed the skeletal remains of a Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" twin-engine bomber. Now a popular tourist attraction, this Sally was apparently crushed during an Allied raid under its collapsing hangar. The canopy frame of the wrecked bomber is still recognizable, as are two nacelles and a pair of corroded lumps of metal, once the Sally's radial engines. Aircraft aluminum and machined steel are no match for seventy years of exposure in a tropical climate.


Japanese maps and defense plans are still visible on the walls of the Yamamoto Bunker. Rhonda Coleman photo

In Rabaul's old center, nearly destroyed by that 1994 volcanic outburst, is the prewar New Guinea Club, now a small museum. Inside is a treasure trove of war relics: the wing and drop tank of a Japanese A6M2 Zero fighter, a P-38 Lightning forward canopy frame, and a collection of light antiaircraft and infantry weapons. Next door is the Yamamoto Bunker, a Japanese naval command post roofed by reinforced concrete; it was once the hub of the harbor's searchlight and antiaircraft defenses. Japanese defense maps and writings are still visible on the bunker's walls, where Yamamoto supposedly spent his last night. By late 1943, Allied raids, launched ever more frequently from New Guinea, and later, from bases in the Solomons, neutralized Rabaul's offensive striking power, and Gen. Douglas McArthur wisely bypassed the bristling fortress.

Japanese defense maps and writings are still visible on the bunker's walls, where Yamamoto supposedly spent his last night.

Just three months after their strategic reverses at the Coral Sea and Midway, the Japanese launched a sudden raid to capture airfields at New Guinea's eastern tip. They hoped to use them to threaten Australia and support their overland attack on Port Moresby. Alotau Town, in Milne Bay, was the scene of fierce combat in late August 1942.

The New Guinea Club on Rabaul houses a small museum that contains relics of the World War II fighting that took place on Rabaul. Rhonda Coleman photo

Landed on August 25 and 29 , the 1,900-man assault force from the Imperial Navy's Special Landing Forces encountered determined Aussie and American defenders, some 8,800 of them. Japanese failures were many: their intelligence failed to detect the defenders' heavy air and firepower, the landing force splashed ashore in the wrong spot, and Japanese light tanks bogged down in the muddy terrain. The result was a bloody repulse - banzai charges could not take Airfield #3, and after losing some 625 killed, most of the surviving attackers were withdrawn by a flotilla of Imperial Navy warships. The Australians hunted down those who remained. It was the first land defeat for Japanese troops after a nine-month string of victories ashore.

A memorial at Airfield #3, later Turnbull Field, surmounted by an aircraft propeller and Japanese mountain howitzer, honors the defenders who turned back the final, desperate Japanese assault.

Today on the beach near Alotau, visitors can see the twisted steel ribs of a Japanese landing barge, strafed and destroyed by Australian P-40 Kittyhawk fighters, flown from the very airfields the Japanese hoped to capture. A memorial at Airfield #3, later Turnbull Field, surmounted by an aircraft propeller and Japanese mountain howitzer, honors the defenders who turned back the final, desperate Japanese assault.

An Australian Memorial commemorates the Allied victory in 1942 at the Battle of Milne Bay. Tom Jones photo

From Milne Bay, the fighting shifted west to the doomed Japanese land assault on Port Moresby over the Kokoda Track, and east to the Solomons and the bitter struggles for Guadalcanal.

Trees now grow through their rusting, skeletal hulls, in peaceful contrast to the violent wartime history of this coastal strip.

On the harbor front in Alotau, an imposing black granite monolith, labeled "Milne Bay," commemorates the courage of the Allied defenders of August and September 1942. Farther east, behind the Japanese landing zone, lie the hulks of half a dozen U.S. LCVP landing craft, abandoned on the banks of a quiet jungle creek. Used as supply haulers after the battle, trees now grow through their rusting, skeletal hulls, in peaceful contrast to the violent wartime history of this coastal strip.

The rusting hulls of American LCVP landing craft rest on a quiet creek bank near Alotau, Papua New Guinea. Abandoned at war's end, these craft were used for a time as cargo lighters to and from ships in Milne Bay. Rhonda Coleman photo
The New Guinea coast offers many similar reminders, faded by time, of the conflict in the southwest Pacific. The backdrop of lush rain forest and teeming, offshore coral reefs are a naturalist's delight. Perhaps the best reason to visit New Guinea today are the peaceful Papuan villagers, who offer a colorful cultural experience to visitors: dances, traditional costumes, and "sing-sings" to the beat of hand-carved wooden drums. This beautiful and idyllic coast should be on the itinerary of any student of World War II in the South Pacific.
DDG 1000 Zumwalt Launched Without Fanfare At Bath Iron Works
The guided-missile destroyer Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard, Bath, Maine, Oct. 28, 2013. The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics

After many years in design and development, a pioneering but controversial new U.S. Navy ship has entered the water without fanfare. The first ship of the Navy's newest class of guided missile destroyers, the future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), completed the journey from keel laying to construction to launching at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine.

The future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), completed the journey from keel laying to construction to launching at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine.

Instead of the more traditional way of launching ships by sliding them down the ways into the river stern first, Zumwalt was moved from Bath Iron Works' land-level construction facility onto a floating dry dock on Friday. From there, the dock was flooded and repositioned so the ship could be taken from its cradle. By the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 28, the dock had flooded and Zumwalt floated. She is now pier side next to the shipyard in the Kennebec River.

The guided-missile destroyer Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard, Bath, Maine, Oct. 28, 2013. The Zumwalt utilizes a unique tumbledown hull design that has not been employed on a warship for a century. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics

Construction of Zumwalt began in 2009 and is already more than 87 percent complete. Delivery to the Navy is scheduled for late next year. A formal christening ceremony was scheduled for Oct. 19, but was cancelled due to the government shutdown.


"This is the largest ship Bath Iron Works has ever constructed and the Navy's largest destroyer. The launch was unprecedented in both its size and complexity," said Capt. Jim Downey, the Zumwalt-class program manager for the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships. "Due to meticulous planning and execution, the operation went very smoothly."

Everything about this ship is new, from the dramatically different tumblehome hull form, which hasn't been seen on a warship in a century, to the integrated electric propulsion systems, to the advanced gun system (AGS) and long range land attack projectile (LRLAP), to the total ship computing environment (TSCE).

Everything about this ship is new, from the dramatically different tumblehome hull form, which hasn't been seen on a warship in a century,  to the integrated electric propulsion systems, to the advanced gun system (AGS) and long range land attack projectile (LRLAP), to the total ship computing environment (TSCE).


According to Wade Knudson, Raytheon's DDG 1000 program manager, building this complex warship has been a rewarding challenge. "It's a tremendously complicated process, but the successes achieved have been made possible by the close collaboration and coordination by the Navy, Bath Iron Works, BAE Systems, Huntington Ingalls Industries and all of the other companies who have contributed.

The guided-missile destroyer Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the first of the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyers, is floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard, Bath, Maine, Oct. 28, 2013. A formal christening ceremony was planned, but was canceled due to the since ended government shutdown. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics

Thanks to the TSCE, all systems are connected and provide an unprecedented amount of automation. Knudson says Raytheon created 6.7 million lines of code to date for the integrated system that controls everything from ship and machinery control to combat management, weapons control and automated fire suppression.

Raytheon created 6.7 million lines of code to date for the integrated system that controls everything from ship and machinery control to combat management, weapons control and automated fire suppression.

The ship is named for former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., who served as CNO from 1970-1974.



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