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The Role of U.S. Navy SEALs in Vietnam


To understand the role of U.S. Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) in Vietnam, it is necessary to go back into the Naval special warfare community’s history and share what led them to deploy into Southeast Asia in 1962. The journey to Vietnam for the SEALs was long and arduous.

Navy Special Warfare 1940s

According to the U.S. Navy, the origins of naval special warfare trace its roots to scouts and raiders, naval combat demolition units, swimmers, underwater demolition teams, and motor torpedo boat squadrons of World War II. In 1942, to meet the need for a beach reconnaissance force, Navy and Army personnel trained at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, Virginia. Scouts and raiders were trained to identify and reconnoiter the objective beach, maintain a position on a designated beach prior to a landing, and guide the assault to the landing beach. 

The first group of trained operators included Capt. Phil H. Bucklew, also known as the “Father of Naval Special Warfare.” Bucklew saw action during the invasion of North Africa, Salerno, Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, and France. A second group of scouts and raiders, code-named Special Service Unit #1, was established in 1943 as a joint and combined operations force.

Their first mission was on New Guinea. Later operations included Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester and New Britain. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit was renamed the 7th Amphibious Scouts, and they conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of the war, participating in more than 40 landings. A third team was formed, and they operated mostly in China. To bolster operational ranks, a little more than 1,000 mean were trained for “Amphibious Roger” at Fort Pierce, Florida. 

During World War II, combat demolition units were formed as well. Lieutenant Commander Draper L. Kauffman, also known as the “Father of Naval Combat Demolition,” established a school to train people to eliminate obstacles on an enemy-held beach prior to an invasion. Combat demolition units operated extensively throughout the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

Some of the earliest World War II predecessors of the SEALs were operational swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services. Dressed in swimsuits, fins and facemasks, they formed underwater demolition teams (UDT) who participated in every major amphibious landing in the Pacific. At the conclusion of the war, rapid demobilization reduced the number of active-duty UDTs to two on each coast. 

Navy Special Warfare 1950s

In 1950, when the North Korean army invaded South Korea and sparked the beginning of the Korean War, one of the remaining UDTs expanded to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men. As part of a Special Operations Group, UDTs conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast. The “frogmen,” as they became to be known, also participated in the amphibious landing at Inchon, mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor, and Operation Fishnet. 

Navy SEALs Vietnam

In January 1962, in response to President John F. Kennedy’s desire for the services to develop unconventional warfare, the U.S. Navy established SEAL Teams One and Two. Their mission of the Navy SEALs Vietnam was to conduct counter guerilla warfare and clandestine operations in riverine and maritime environments. 

Navy SEALs Vietnam involvement began immediately and was advisory in nature. Navy SEALs Vietnam instructed the Vietnamese to their tactics by conducting a training course for the Biet Hai commandos.

In February 1966, a small SEAL Team One detachment arrived in Vietnam to conduct direct-action missions. Eventually, eight SEAL platoons would have a presence in the country on a continuous basis as Navy SEALs Vietnam.

In August 1966, Radarman Second Class Billy Machen, SEAL Team 1, was killed in action during a reconnaissance patrol; the first Navy SEALs Vietnam combat casualty in Vietnam.

SEALs who served as Navy SEALs Vietnam in the early years state that their missions were ordinarily short. Teams would go out in the afternoon or after dark and return by morning. Navy SEALs Vietnam would travel by helicopter, boat, or on foot. Some say they made contact and engaged the enemy 10 to 20 percent of the time.

There were normally 14 men in a SEAL platoon consisting of two officers, a chief, and a leading petty officer. For the most part, Navy SEALs Vietnam said that there was a SEAL squad out on patrol looking for the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army every night. They averaged about 100 patrols during their combat tours.

SEALs were also used to gather intelligence. Navy SEALs Vietnam did not seek traditional, conventional combat. They were more focused on surgical strikes and intelligence collection. Navy SEALs Vietnam focused on gathering intelligence on the location, resources, movement, and leadership of enemy forces.

The SEALs were good at capturing or killing enemy leaders, retrieving battle plans, political intelligence, and gathering HUMINT (human intelligence). During the Tet Offensive in 1968, a 60-man South Vietnamese Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) led by a SEAL officer killed 20 Viet Cong soldiers and captured 23. Not long after that, SEALs detained an enemy guerrilla which enabled the unit to ambush and kill the enemy guerilla’s battalion deputy commander, a company commander, and three other officers. The operation detected and prevented an enemy attack on Binh Thuy, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s River Patrol Force.

In another operation in 1968, SEALs collected information from an enemy defector and they identified more than 100 communists who had infiltrated U.S. combat units and agencies.

The most notable SEAL mission in Vietnam, however, is their involvement in the CIA’s Phoenix Program. During those years, SEALs teamed up with PRUs to capture or kill members of the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI). Those were people who were identified as enemy military leaders, political operatives, intelligence agents, tax collectors, and other key enemy personnel.

Exploiting information from a variety of sources to include prisoners, enemy soldiers, and villagers, SEALs achieved success in the counterinsurgency operations.

During the Phoenix Program, the SEALs captured nearly 30,000 VCI and Phoenix forces, which included SEALs, killed more than 20,000 communists who fought to resist capture. A notable operation from Phoenix was an attempt to capture several communist leaders located on an island.

In March 1969, Lieutenant (j.g.) Joseph “Bob” Kerrey and a squad of SEALs approached the VC camp. Detected by the enemy, a fight ensued. Kerrey was wounded, but his team killed seven enemy and captured others.

The intelligence gathered from that mission was significant and included documents that listed communist agents. Kerrey was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first of only three SEALs recognized with the Medal of Honor during the war. Kerrey later became governor of Nebraska and also a senator.

By war’s end, the Navy awarded SEAL Team One and Two five Presidential Unit Citations. The SEALs had directly killed or captured 4,000 enemy leaders and troops. Forty-eight SEALs made the ultimate sacrifice.

K9 Military Dogs: Can They Earn Service Medals?

K9 military dogs predate the United States, although it is hard to determine with precise historical accuracy when K9 military dogs were first used with military forces, we know that dogs were used thousands of years before the United States was founded.

Some historians have said that K9 military dogs were used during the Revolutionary War, but K9 military dogs did not get their official start in the U.S. military until the U.S. Army started its War Dog program during World War II. Since then, the use of K9 military dogs has been consistent and widespread in the U.S. military.

As the Global War on Terror became America’s longest war, the use of K9 military dogs on the battlefield became more widespread, especially in the areas of explosive detection and tracking. America’s enemies had honed their skill at burying and hiding explosive devices and they were causing high casualties; enter K9 military dogs.

More and more, K9 military dogs began to save lives, detecting improvised explosive devices and tracking down the enemy. Their presence on the battlefield helped bring home many military personnel unharmed.

For the brave teams that put themselves in harm’s way, detection was their mission, it was their job. Many handlers, especially those whose dogs were able to detect and find explosives on the battlefield, received decorations and commendations. Their dogs, however, received the eternal gratitude of their handlers and the warriors that they supported. Dog handlers are known to treat their dogs to a good steak or treats and they love them up, but many handlers believe that beyond dog treats, rewards and belly rubs, that K9 military dogs deserve to be decorated since they are a part of the team. The U.S. Defense Department disagrees.

In 1942, not long after the U.S. War Department started training K9 military dogs, Edward J. Wren of New York donated his dog, Chips, for enlistment and service in the U.S. military. The mixed-breed dog served in the U.S. Army and was in Sicily when he broke free of his handler and attacked an Italian machine gun nest, grabbing the enemy gunner by the throat. He was wounded in the attack, but later that night, Chips alerted his handler and his men of an approaching, attacking enemy force. For his actions, Chips was recommended for a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He participated and earned credit for eight campaigns.  

The commander of a combat wounded veterans organization lodged a complaint with the War Department when he learned that Chips was getting decorated. He claimed that presenting medals to animals was insulting to the men who had earned them in combat. The military agreed, and from that day forward, military animals, including K9 military dogs, would be ineligible for military awards or decorations.

While numerous military working dog handlers and various military working dog advocates and groups have tried to lobby for a change in the policy, the no medals for dogs directive remains in effect.

Frustrated, advocates of K9 military dogs have found a little solace from private groups. For example, several animal groups have created awards for bravery that have been presented to K9 military dogs who have served valiantly.

Lucca, an explosive detection dog serving in the U.S. Marine Corps lost a leg in Afghanistan to an IED explosion. She had completed hundreds of missions. A fellow combat wounded veteran gave the dog one of his Purple Heart medals, but it was presented to the dog unofficially. Lucca also earned a high level award from an animal group for her bravery.

Similarly, Lex, a K9 military dog injured in Iraq was presented an unofficial Purple Heart for sustaining injuries in an attack which killed his handler. Interestingly enough the unofficial award was presented by the same organization that had lodged the complaint about Chips getting a Purple Heart. Lex would get adopted by his handler’s family and he died of cancer in 2012.

It is important to note that Stubby, the famed World War I dog smuggled into the European theater by his handler, was not an official K9 military dog. However, the dog performed a variety of actions while in Europe and came home a highly decorated animal, long before dogs and other military animals were precluded from earning military awards or decorations.

K9 military dog advocates and animal groups today give out awards recognizing the bravery of animals, including K9 military dogs whose bravery and actions have been overlooked in the past. More and more, K9 military dogs are being looked upon as eligible candidates to receive military awards and decorations, but it seems as if little traction has been made since the 1940s decision to not recognize military animals with medals.

For those who have served with military animals, especially K9 military dogs, the policy is hard to understand given the sacrifice and duty of these brave dogs. Many of these animals have saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives during their tours of duty, but the Department of Defense does not seem to have a change in policy on the horizon.

Some good changes that have come in recent years is that some K9 military dogs are now allowed to be adopted instead of being euthanized when they are no longer able to perform their jobs. In addition, the K9 military dogs have been brought home unlike in the Vietnam War where hundreds of K9 military dogs were abandoned and left to die.

While K9 military dogs might not be eligible to formally and officially receive U.S. military decorations, at least strides have been made to bring them home from the battlefield and give them a good life after they are retired from the military.

Thanks to the passage of Robby’s Law in 2000, all retired K9 military dogs are now allowed to be adopted and about 90 percent are adopted by current or former handlers.

Today, the only reasons a K9 military dog may be euthanized is due to terminal illness or extreme aggression, but intense efforts are made to find them an adopted home. 

Four Legged Heroes: A K9 Veterans Day Deep Dive


While there have been a lot of educated guesses, there is little proof of when dogs were first used as a tool for military forces. Some researchers have said the Romans were the first to use them in combat, while others point to the Egyptians around the 4th Millennium. Whatever a person chooses to believe, we know that humans have relied on their canine counterparts for thousands of years to help them combat enemies by detecting enemies, detecting weapons, attacking enemy personnel, serving as couriers, serving as resupply animals, and providing numerous other ways to help man during conflict.

The use of dogs in the U.S. military is a little clearer than it is in world history. On March 13, 1942, the U.S. Army established the War Dog Program and dogs have been in military service since then. It is why March 13 is known as K9 Veterans Day. The day is set aside to honor and commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military working dogs throughout history.

The contributions of American military working dogs cannot be overstated. In just about every American war since World War I (some might argue that dogs were used in the Revolutionary War), military working dogs have helped turned the tide for American soldiers on the ground and that is a major reason why we celebrate K9 Veterans Day on March 13.

Aside from K9 Veterans Day, in 2019 the U.S. Postal Service issued stamps commemorating the service of military working dogs. The stamps included the four most common breeds used in the U.S. military — the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd and the Labrador Retriever. It should be noted, however, that no official legislation has been passed by the federal government recognizing K9 Veterans Day as an official holiday. Some states have passed legislation recognizing K9 Veterans Day as a state holiday.

All U.S. military working dogs are a part of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog program headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland since 1958. It is the world’s largest canine training center. There are approximately 900 dogs assigned to the working dog training program.

The mission of the 341st Training Squadron, a U.S. Air Force unit, is to provide trained military working dogs and handlers for the Department of Defense, other government agencies and allies through training, logistical, veterinary support and research and development for security efforts worldwide.

According to the Air Force, the first Air Force sentry dog school was activated at Showa Air Station, Japan, in 1952. In 1953, the second school was opened at Wiesbaden, West Germany. The Army continued to train and supply sentry dogs to Air Force units in the United States until the Sentry Dog Training Branch of the Department of Security Police Training was established at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in October 1958.

In 1966, four sentry dog teams from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, were given patrol dog training by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. The additional advantages and capabilities of more tolerant and controllable dogs were quickly proven, and the patrol dog training program expanded. By 1969, the Air Force adopted the patrol dog as the standard military working dog.

To combat the growing use of marijuana and other drugs in Southeast Asia, a drug detection course was added in January 1971 to the military working dog program. Based on the programs merit and success, the marijuana detector dog program expanded introducing cocaine, hashish and heroin to the program to expand the dog's capabilities. Also in 1971, the Air Force began training dogs to detect explosives.

In 2005, a new type of detector dog was introduced into the Defense Department in response the rising threat of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aptly referred to as Specialized Search Dogs (or SSDs), these highly skilled counter-terrorist search assets are trained to detect arms, ammunition, and explosives – both of the conventional and homemade varieties.

They differ from their standard Explosive Detector Dog (EDD) counterparts in the fact that they are far more independent and work primarily off-leash via voice and directional commands issued by the handler. In early 2010, the 341st began assisting the Marine Corps in training Combat Tracker Dog Teams to recognize and follow a human quarry. This is the first program of its kind since the end of the Vietnam War. Upon deployment, Combat Trackers assist commanders by tracking enemy insurgents, IED makers, and snipers. This force multiplier offers the abilities to both stop current attacks and prevent future ones.

Currently, there are about 2,500 military working dogs assigned throughout the world in the U.S. military. The cost associated with training a military working dog can be up to $150,000 and dogs undergo a very thorough assessment before being chosen. About 50 percent of those dogs that are chosen make it through training. According to the DOD, most dogs that complete the 120-day program qualify to be dual-purpose dogs, trained in patrol work and to sniff out explosives or detect drugs. Military working dog handlers attend an 11-week course to become dog handlers.

Once ready for field work, dogs work with their handlers and they are expected to deter and detect. They are trained in narcotics, explosives and intruder detection, and those duties often place them in harm’s way. It is no wonder why the country celebrates K9 Veterans Day.

If you’re in the San Antonio area or in Texas and willing to take a drive, be sure to visit the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Lackland. This is a great place to recognize K9 Veterans Day and the national monument represents all handlers, dogs and veterinary support from all military service branches.

The monument grounds include a 3,000 square foot granite plaza, granite pedestals, granite history wall, granite benches and water fountain. The granite pedestals have large bronze statues of dogs and handlers. One of the inscriptions reads: “Dedicated to all U.S. Military Working Dog Handlers and their beloved dogs who defend America from harm, defeat the enemy, and save lives.”

You can bring your pup too. There is a water fountain of a sitting military member giving water to his dog in his combat helmet and when it is running it offers fresh water to visiting dogs.

Two more ways to celebrate K9 Veterans Day are to consider adopting a former military working dog. According to the Air Force, dogs up for adoption are typically those that retired from being a dog handler’s aid, have medical conditions and couldn’t continue training; or had a lack of progression during training and couldn’t continue.

You can also celebrate K9 Veterans Day by joining the 341st foster program where families can foster a puppy from age six weeks to seven months. To foster, the family must:

  • Have a home with a secure 6-foot fence
  • No children under 5 years-old
  • No more than three dogs
  • Attend monthly socialization and training sessions
  • Lives within two hours of San Antonio

For more information regarding adoptions, email; and for more information on the foster program, email

Six Famous Military Dogs You Should Know

If there is a creature on earth that is completely selfless, it is a dog. Like most pack animals, dogs try to find their role in their packs, contributing to a group and always putting the greater good of the group over themselves.

Military dogs are no different. When coupled with a handler who is a part of a larger team, the dog comes to understand that his or her role is to sniff out bombs or drugs and protect those who are a part of his or her pack.

Using U.S. Defense Department data, we’ve narrowed down a short list of military dogs everyone should know. They contributed in U.S. war efforts over the years and the U.S. military credits them with contributing positively to their respective military campaigns.

Here are six military dogs you should know.


In December 1966, 22-year-old U.S. Air Force Airman Bob Throneburg was on patrol with his K-9 Nemo at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam. The base had been attacked by a barrage of mortar fire and more than 60 enemy were dispersed around the base trying to breach the perimeter. The military working dog team of Throneburg and Nemo were charged with finding the enemy and killing them.

About 0300 hours on Dec. 4, Nemo detected someone and almost instantly the intruder started to flee. Throneburg engaged the enemy soldier firing his M-16. It was his first time in combat after being in country for five months.

Nemo’s ears shot up a second time only this time Throneburg turned loose the 95-pound Nemo. The Viet Cong soldier fired several shots from his AK-47. Throneburg was shot in his shoulder and fell to the ground wounded and Nemo took a bullet on the nose while he was charging at the enemy. Nemo continued to engage the enemy and that allowed Throneburg time to call for backup.

As Throneburg started to fade out of consciousness, Nemo came back out of the darkness, severely wounded, and crawled on top of him. Nemo lay atop Throneburg guarding him as sentry dogs were taught to do. A former K-9 handler was finally able to get Nemo off of Throneburg so he could be medically treated and taken to the hospital.

Nemo was taken to the base veterinarian and he was in “bad shape,” according to the base vet. Nemo required skin grafts and a tracheotomy to help him breathe. His right eye was removed as a result of the gunshot wound. The K-9 team was briefly reunited at the base hospital, but the two never saw each other again. Throneburg was airlifted to Japan where he underwent multiple surgeries and recovered for seven months. Throneburg earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Nemo recovered from his wounds at Tan Son Nhut and was later retired from active duty. He was five years old when he returned from the war having spent eight months in recovery. He was credited with saving Throneburg’s life. The Air Force would later say that Throneburg and Nemo killed two from an element that had engaged them. The others were killed by forces responding to Throneburg’s call for backup.

Overall, K-9 and security forces would kill more than a dozen enemy in that engagement at Tan Son Nhut. That night, three sentry dogs, Rebel, Toby and Cubby, would die in action and one airman, George Bevich, would also be killed in action. Bevich would become the first Air Force sentry dog handler to be killed in Vietnam. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for engaging the enemy and calling in their position. He was killed by enemy mortar fire.

Nemo’s action that night propelled him to become the face of the K-9 Corps and his actions that day became the stuff of legends for those who worked military dogs. Nemo was credited with not just saving Throneburg’s life, but also preventing further destruction of life and property at Tan Son Nhut.

Air Force dog handlers in Vietnam, according to the Air Force, provided a unique and critical capability in defending air bases against attack when they patrolled base perimeters in the darkness. Military dogs were able to detect the enemy trying to infiltrate bases using the cover of night. They were used as part of Project Top Dog 145 where the Air Force sent 40 sentry dog teams to Vietnam in 1965 eventually peaking in 1967 with more than 500 military dogs in country. In all, roughly 4,000 military dogs deployed to Vietnam during the war.

Bob Throneburg died in 2020 at the age of 75. Nemo A354 (his brand number) died in 1972 at Lackland Air Force Base at the Department of Defense Dog Center where his kennel today stands as a memorial.

Most military dogs which were sent to Vietnam were not returned home to the heroes welcome that Nemo received. In fact, only 204 of the thousands of dogs sent to Vietnam returned home or were reassigned to other peacetime assignments. During the last years of the war, many of these military dogs were euthanized by the U.S. military. Viewed as surplus and unneeded equipment, they were treated accordingly. Those military dogs not killed, died of disease and starvation. Despite saving countless lives and having protected U.S. resources, these four-legged warriors were abandoned.


Stubby was a stray dog smuggled to Europe by a soldier with the 102nd Infantry Regiment during World War I. He charmed troops by learning bugle calls and how to salute with his right paw.

Eventually, he would become one of history's military dogs. He contributed in more important ways by alerting soldiers to gas attacks and even capturing a German spy dressed as a U.S. soldier.

Stubby would ultimately serve in 17 battles. His heroics earned him the distinction of being the first dog to receive a rank – sergeant – from the U.S. armed forces, according to the Smithsonian Institution. It should be noted that military dogs, as a matter of policy, are not decorated or given rank. Military dogs are normally considered one rank higher than their handlers in order to set an expectation with the handlers that the military dogs are to be treated with respect.


A Marine Corps explosives detection dog, Lucca served deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan during her six-year career, leading nearly 400 patrols and identifying about 40 improvised explosive devices, according to the Department of Defense.

Not a single Marine was injured while following the half German shepherd, half Belgian Malinois. But on March 23, 2012, Lucca was, while leading a patrol in Afghanistan with her handler. Shortly after she found an IED, another device detonated, badly injuring Lucca. Her handler applied a tourniquet and she was quickly placed on a medevac for advanced treatment.

She survived, but she lost her left front leg. Lucca was medically retired, but quickly adjusted to life with three limbs and a new home with her original handler. She died in 2018.


Not all military working dogs in recent history have fancy pedigrees. One heroic pooch from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gabe, was a pound puppy before he was adopted and trained for military service. Just weeks after completing training in 2006 with his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Chuck Shuck, the two deployed to Iraq, where Gabe sniffed out insurgent explosives, ammunition and other weapons.

He was exceptionally productive, racking up 26 finds during his 170 combat patrols. Gabe returned home laden with accolades, and Shuck adopted him when he retired. Even then, Gabe worked on behalf of the nation, visiting with kids and wounded soldiers in hospitals.

Gabe died in 2013 from cancer.


A German shepherd-collie-husky mix, Chips served overseas during World War II as one of the members of the military’s newly formed K-9 Corps. During the invasion of Sicily in 1943, Chips attacked an enemy machine gun team firing at soldiers in his platoon. He got a scalp wound and powder burns, but was credited with saving the lives of his human teammates.


Military dogs primarily detect explosives or narcotics, in addition to performing attack (patrol) work. And while most military dogs are bad ass, as you’ve read above, Cairo, is an exceptional bad ass as he was the only military dog to be a part of Operation Neptune Spear, the covert military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. A combat vet who had been combat wounded, it was no surprise Cairo was on the mission.

Cairo was a Belgian Malinois and a member of the elite Navy SEALs. Cairo was there when the SEALs raided Bin Laden’s compound in May 2011. Cairo secured the perimeter of the building and was responsible for finding anyone who tried to escape the compound.

In 2015 Cairo was put down because of failing health.

What is the Point of Presidents Day & Why We Celebrate?

George Washington’s birthday is a federal holiday on the third Monday in February. The day marks the birth of the first president of the United States. It is one of eleven permanent holidays established by the U.S. Congress.

It is important to note that federal holidays apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia; Congress has never declared a national holiday binding in all states. Each state decides its own legal holidays. But it is important to note that even though Washington’s birthday is celebrated the third Monday in February, he was actually born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington's birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, 1732.

But what is the point of Presidents Day? Well, for a very long time Americans have always celebrated Washington’s Birthday; even before Congress declared it a federal holiday. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, there were many national-level celebrations and Congress even established a committee to manage the yearly celebration.

At the recommendation of the committee, chaired by Henry Clay of the Senate and Philemon Thomas of the House, Congress adjourned on Feb. 22, 1832 to pay homage to Washington's memory and to commemorate his birth.

On the 130th anniversary of Washington’s birth, the House and Senate commemorated the event by reading aloud Washington’s farewell address. In the House Chamber, the House and Senate, along with several cabinet officials, Supreme Court Justices and military officers, gathered to listen to the Secretary of State read the address aloud. Eventually, the reading of George Washington’s farewell address became an annual event for the Senate, a tradition that is still observed to this day. So, what is the point of Presidents Day? It could be, for some, to honor the first president who turned down a third term, a move he thought was healthy for the good of the nation.

It wasn’t until Jan. 31, 1879 that Washington’s Birthday became a federal holiday. Congress made Feb. 22 a legal holiday to be observed by federal employees. However, the act did not make it a paid holiday for federal workers, so in 1885 Congress passed legislation that required federal employees to be paid for all federal holidays, making all federal holidays paid.

Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on Feb. 22 for decades, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” The hope of legislators was to create more three-day weekends with the hope that the time off would bring morale and fiscal benefits to the nation. In 1971, those long weekends began. The law also moved Columbus Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day to create additional three-day weekends. 

One of the provisions of the Monday Holiday Law changed the observance of Washington’s birthday from Feb. 22nd to the third Monday in February. Interestingly, the move guaranteed that Washington’s birthday would never be celebrated on his actual birthday since the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than Feb. 21. In addition, and contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government has never required that Washington’s birthday be officially changed to President's Day. What is the point of Presidents Day? It could be to give American workers a well needed break and to fuel the economy with small injects of fiscal energy.

The third Monday in February is known as Presidents Day and while we can ask what is the point of Presidents Day, one thing we do know is that the holiday is meant to recognize presidents, not just Washington.

Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809 and because he was president of the United States during the nation’s most tumultuous period, the Civil War, it is fitting that he is also recognized for Presidents Day. During the 19th century a dozen American states celebrated the third Monday in February as “Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday.” Other states called the combined birthday celebration “Presidents Day.”

What is the point of Presidents Day? It is likely to recognize two men who had lasting and profound impact on the United States of America unlike any other prominent American men.

Now, while there are many ceremonies throughout the country to mark Presidents Day, and many across the country enjoy a day off, since 1971, American retailers have branded their sales campaigns as Presidents Day sales and used the patriotic event to sell the products. If you ask a retailer what is the point of Presidents Day the answer is simple, to sell stuff.

However, if you ask any American, especially those who have served the nation in uniform or as a civilian, what is the point of Presidents Day, the answers might vary, but overall, they will be similar in meaning. Presidents Day is a day to recognize great patriots of our American history. Men who put country before self. Two men who had overwhelming respect for the republic they served.

According to the White House website: “We celebrate Washington’s Birthday on the third Monday of February each year—the result of the 1968 law mandating that a number of federal holidays occur on Mondays. Incidentally, the third Monday in February can never fall on the 22nd, meaning the federal holiday will never land on Washington’s actual birth date.” 

What is the point of Presidents Day, if you ask us, it is to remind you that you do not matter. It is the republic that matters. If the federal government can change the birthday of the greatest historical figure in American history, how do you think it feels about you? Kidding aside, it is the nation that matters.

12 Presidents Who Were Generals in the Military


Since its inception, the United States has been led by 31 men who have served in the U.S. military on active duty, in the reserve or National Guard, in war and during peacetime. Of the 31 men who served as the commander in chief, 12 made it to the general officer ranks before they held the highest position in the U.S. military and served as president of the United States.

Here’s our list of presidents who were generals.

Presidents Who Were Generals in the Revolutionary War

In June 1775, George Washington was selected to lead the nascent Continental Army in the War of Independence. He was commissioned in the rank of major general. Although he wasn’t a great military mind, Washington knew how to lead and he led his underequipped Army to victory.

After the war, Washington retired to his plantation in Virginia, but not long after he was called to duty once again when he was unanimously voted into the presidency. He served two terms before returning to Mount Vernon.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford promoted Washington to “General of the Armies of the United States,” out-ranking all past and present officers in the U.S. Army.

Presidents Who Were Generals in the War of 1812

Andrew Jackson was tied to the U.S. military from an early age. During the Revolutionary War, he was a teenage courier. In 1781, he and his brother were captured by the British. During his captivity, Jackson was ordered to shine the boots of a British officer. Jackson refused and in retaliation for the insubordination, the British officer cut Jackson’s hand to the bone and slashed his head, scarring him permanently. The captivity would cost Jackson’s brother his life.

Jackson was definitely a guy that loved a good fight. During his life he was in several public brawls and duels, but it was his service during the War of 1812 that gave him the most notoriety. Then a major general, he led an assault against the British at the Battle of New Orleans that would earn him the nom de guerre, “Hero of New Orleans.”

His military service, especially his wartime performance would no doubt pave the way to the White House 14 years later.

William Henry Harrison’s family had deep American roots. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, signed the Declaration of Independence. It came as no surprise that a son of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence would want to etch his name into the history books. During the War of 1812, Harrison did just that fighting against British and Native American forces. In the war, Harrison was given command of the Army in the Northwest with the rank of brigadier general. At the Battle of the Thames, north of Lake Erie, in 1813, he defeated the combined British and Indian forces, and killed Tecumseh.

In 1836, Harrison was nominated as a presidential candidate for the newly-formed Whig party, but he lost that election to Martin Van Buren. In 1840, Harrison returned to defeat Van Buren. Not long after Inauguration Day, Harrison fell ill and died about a month after becoming president.

Presidents Who Were Generals in the Mexican American War

Zachary Taylor was commissioned as an officer in 1808 and he fought in nearly every American conflict until he became president. He spent approximately four decades wearing an Army uniform.

Taylor was a major in the War of 1812, a colonel in the Black Hawk War in 1832, and a brigadier general in the Seminole War from 1836 to 1837. It was his success as a general in the Mexican-American War that made him a national hero and made him an unlikely presidential candidate.

Taylor defeated another former general, Lewis Cass, in the election. Like Harrison, Taylor did not serve as president for very long. He passed away a little more than a year after becoming president.

Franklin Pierce, like Harrison, had deep American roots in his family. His father was a militia leader in the American Revolution and that service helped him become governor of New Hampshire. Following in his father’s footsteps, Pierce entered politics and became a U.S. representative in 1833 and a U.S. senator in 1837.

When the Mexican-American War erupted in Texas, Pierce joined the army as private in 1846. Then, in what is undoubtedly the fastest ascension in rank known to the U.S. military, about a year later Pierce was commissioned as a brigadier general mostly due to his connections with President James K. Polk and other politicians.  

As a brigadier general in combat, Pierce didn’t do much in war. At the Battle of Contreras, Pierce was seriously injured in the leg after falling from his frightened horse. As a president, Pierce once again did not achieve too much. Historians have ranked Pierce as one of the worst presidents ever.

Presidents Who Were Generals in the Civil War

Not surprisingly, the Civil War produced six presidents who were formerly general officers. The problem is that in many cases, some of these “generals” commanded volunteer militias, so some might argue that technically, they were not commissioned officers in federal service.  

For example, Andrew Johnson was a U.S. senator at the onset of the Civil War. Although he was pro-slavery, he was against secession and he remained in office during the war. This political move made him popular in the north, but branded him a traitor in the south.

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Military Governor of Tennessee (brigadier general). In 1864, he became vice president and later rose to the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination.

Ulysses S. Grant was the Civil War’s greatest military hero and his military leadership as the Union general in command of all Union forces during the Civil War launched his political career.

Grant’s combat experience began in the Mexican-American War and he served in various assignments as an Army officer, steadily working his way up the ranks. However, it was his success as the general of all Union forces and his defeat of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that cemented his political appeal for Americans.

Grant served two terms as president. After serving as commander in chief, Grant was financially broke and turned to writing to earn a living. He completed his memoirs and died in 1885, providing financial security for his family thanks to the success of his books.

Rutherford B. Hayes enlisted as a volunteer in Ohio when the Civil War broke out despite being nearly 40 years old and being a Harvard-trained lawyer. Like others, his political connections paid off and he eventually rose to the rank of brevet major general.

While serving, he was wounded four times and much like the other men of his time who served with distinction, military service propelled Hayes and he was elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and he later served as the governor of Ohio.

In 1876 Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden in a highly disputed presidential election. He oversaw the end of reconstruction and served one term.

Another Ohioan, James A. Garfield, would also hear the call to duty during the Civil War. Garfield was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859 as a Republican. In 1862, when Union military victories had been few, he successfully led a brigade at Middle Creek, Kentucky, against Confederate troops. At 31, Garfield became a brigadier general, two years later a major general of volunteers. He fought bravely in battles such as Shiloh, Middle Creek, and Chickamauga.

Meanwhile, Ohioans elected him to the U.S. Congress. President Lincoln persuaded him to resign his commission and he repeatedly won reelection for 18 years. Garfield was elected as the 20th President in 1881, after nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His Presidency was impactful, but cut short after 200 days when he was assassinated.

Chester A. Arthur was appointed by the New York governor and served as the Quartermaster General of the State of New York during the Civil War. In this position, Arthur was responsible for supplying and housing New York’s troops, the state’s militia. After a few years of military service, without having seen any combat, Arthur retired from the Army and returned to his lawyer practice.

Politically connected, like many former general presidents before him, Arthur was Garfield’s vice president and upon Garfield’s assassination, Arthur succeeded him as president. Arthur died just two years after leaving office. His presidency is often overlooked.

Benjamin Harrison is the only president who is a grandson of another president. Earlier we mentioned William Henry Harrison, well, Benjamin Harrison, like others in his family before him, entered military service and later entered the political arena.

During the Civil War, Harrison rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general by 1865.

Like so many others before him, after his service in the military and in the Civil War, Harrison entered politics to continue his service. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Indiana in 1876, but he won a U.S. Senate seat in 1880.

In 1888, Harrison was nominated as a presidential candidate and despite losing the nation’s popular vote, Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland. In 1892, Cleveland would return and beat Harrison.

Presidents Who Were Generals in the World Wars

Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of three career military men to become president (Taylor and Grant). Like Grant who had helped preserve the union, Eisenhower helped save the world by leading allied forces in Europe during World War II. It would be hard to overlook a guy who helped free the world of tyranny.

Eisenhower was a West Point grad and got commissioned in 1916. He and Grant are the only men on this list to earn their officer commissions and not have it bestowed because of political connections or popularity.

Eisenhower is the last on our list of presidents who were generals.

Harlem Hellfighters: Who Were They?


National Guard Beginnings

The 369th Infantry Regiment was formed in 1913 as the 15th Infantry Regiment. It was a New York Army National Guard infantry unit and one of the first few U.S. Army regiments to have African American officers in addition to an all-African American enlisted corps. Known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th was one of a few black American combat units during World War I.

Once the United States entered World War I, the 15th New York Infantry Regiment was called into federal service and redesignated the 369th Infantry Regiment. The 369th Infantry was assigned to the 93rd Division, which was one of two divisions comprising African Americans.

The unit reflected the racial discrimination and segregation both in American society and within the Army. U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, assigned the Harlem Hellfighters to the allied French Army in order to avoid placing African-American units alongside of white Army units.  

In March 1918, Pershing assigned the Harlem Hellfighters to the French who desperately needed combat troops and had deployed their own Black colonial troops. American leaders warned the French not to use the Harlem Hellfighters in the same manner as white troops, but the French ignored the advice and welcomed the Harlem Hellfighters into their fighting force. After training the Harlem Hellfighters on French tactics and weapons, the Harlem Hellfighters were sent to the Argonne Forest in the Champagne region.

During its service in World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters are credited with participation in the Champagne-Marne, Meuse Argonne, Champagne 1918, and Alsace 1918 campaigns. The 369th spent 191 days fighting in frontline trenches and earned a regimental French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star and Streamer embroidered Meuse-Argonne.

Henry Johnson Medal of Honor Recipient

Perhaps the most notable of the Harlem Hellfighters was Pvt. William Henry Johnson. He was an African American born in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He moved to New York as a teenager, where he worked in various jobs as a chauffeur, soda mixer, laborer in a coal yard and a porter at Albany’s Union Station.

Two months after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany, June 5, 1917, Johnson enlisted and was assigned to Company C, 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment, which would later become the 369th Infantry Regiment of the 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces. The unit would earn their nom de guerre, the Harlem Hellfighters, in combat against the Germans.

The Harlem Hellfighters deployed to France the following year. Johnson and his unit were brigaded with a French army colonial unit in front-line combat on the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France’s Champagne region.

Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts were on nocturnal sentry duty in the vicinity of the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers, northwest of Saint Menehoul, May 15, 1918.

A German raiding party of at least a dozen soldiers approached their forward position. As the Germans snipped concertina wire to breach the defensive position, Johnson and Needham fired illumination flares. When they did, the enemy opened up with intense small-arms fire and grenades.

Johnson and Needham were both shot and suffered from grenade wounds, but they both mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties, according to a 2015 White House Medal of Honor announcement for Johnson.

Although badly hurt himself, Johnson ignored the pain and bleeding to assist his fellow wounded soldier, who was in immediate danger of being taken prisoner. “Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat,” the White House announcement said.

At the time, Johnson was wielding a bolo knife, which he used to engage the Germans after firing all the rounds from his rifle. Johnson killed an enemy soldier with his knife, stabbing him in the head and saving his fellow soldier from being taken captive. He stabbed another who was nearby. Upon seeing the ferocity of Johnson’s actions, the other enemy soldiers fled back to their lines. The French and American soldiers Johnson served with on the battlefield were in awe of him following that epic struggle.

When Johnson and others from his unit returned to the United States, they rode in a victory parade in New York City. About a million people showed up to welcome the soldiers back.

Although Johnson would never live to see his Medal of Honor, he did receive an equivalent award from France, the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, that nation's highest award for valor. In 1996, Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and in 2002, the Distinguished Service Cross.

When Johnson was discharged from the Army, Feb. 24, 1919, he had attained the rank of sergeant. He returned home to Albany, but was unable to be employed at his pre-war porter position due to the severity of his combat injuries.

He died July 5, 1929, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, in Section 25, Grave 64.

Rattlers and Hellfighters?

The 369th Infantry, whose members called themselves Harlem’s Rattlers, became the most famous all-black regiment to fight during World War I. By the end of the war, 171 of the regiment’s men received individual Croix de Guerre medals for their valor. Several soldiers were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The Germans fighting against the 369th Infantry called the men “Hollenkampfer,” German for “hellfighter.” This is how the 369th received the nickname Harlem Hellfighters. Within their own ranks, however, they called themselves Harlem’s Rattlers because of their unit emblem. Some claim the snake was chosen because of the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag. Others say it was influenced by a narrative written by Frederick Douglass that likened his master to a snake. Either way, the unit symbol, a coiled snake ready to strike, became the insignia of the Harlem Hellfighters.

During World War I, approximately 380,000 African Americans served in the wartime Army. Approximately 200,000 of these men were sent to Europe. More than half of those sent abroad were assigned to labor and supply battalions, but they performed essential duties nonetheless, building roads, bridges, and trenches in support of the front-line battles. Roughly 42,000 African Americans saw combat.

It should be noted that the Harlem Hellfighters, while an all-black regiment, was under the command of mostly white officers including their commander, Col. William Hayward. In December 1917, when Col. Hayward’s men departed from New York City for the European theater, they had not been permitted to participate in the farewell parade of New York’s National Guard, the so-called Rainbow division. The reason Hayward was given was that “Black is not a color in the Rainbow.”

Upon completion of their tour of duty in Europe, Hayward fought hard and petitioned many politicians to ensure the 369th received a proper homecoming. He lobbied for inclusion and his hard-fighting men got the homecoming they deserved as returning warriors. Sadly though, many of the men would return to a nation that was still heavily segregated and many would return to the unjust and unequal American racial landscape.


Congress did not make Armistice Day an official U.S. holiday until 1938. Veterans Day would not be known officially as “Veterans Day” until 1954. However, thanks to the efforts of Hayward, the Harlem Hellfighters returned home to what has become known as the first official Veterans Day parade when the Harlem Hellfighters marched in in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919. The month of February would eventually be set aside as Black History Month.

Roughly a little more than 2 million African Americans registered for the draft during World War I. Most served in the U.S. Army because the Marine Corps would not accept African American enlistees. The U.S. Navy allowed African Americans to enlist, but the few that were allowed to join served in cleaning, cooking and other menial positions.

The contributions of the Harlem Hellfighters to the ranks of the U.S. military are enormous. They showed, as did other all-black units before them, that racial segregation was not needed and that African Americans could serve with just as much dedication to duty and bravery as their white counterparts. Moreover, the men of the 369th showed their gumption by fighting for a nation that would put them at peril for the freedom of others, but would not grant them those same freedoms at home.

The Harlem Hellfighters were also instrumental in helping jazz music spread into Europe when the regiment’s band played overseas, but they also helped usher in some of the most musically artistic periods in American music as jazz spread out from Harlem. In addition, many of the men who served in the famed unit inspired other African Americans to migrate north and find opportunity in other parts of the United States.

The Harlem Hellfighters were instrumental in not just fighting tyranny, they were key to helping African Americans begin to break free of the American societal limitations unjustifiably placed on them.

Today, the New York National Guard's 369th Sustainment Brigade has lineage honors from the Harlem Hellfighters.

Black Rosies: 3 Facts About African American Women in WWII


There are images that come to mind when one thinks of World War II. Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima, soldiers landing in France on D-Day, and Rosie the Riveter in her bandana, flexing her muscles. These are just some of the more popular images and symbols of the nation’s effort to combat tyranny in the 1940s.

The image of Rosie the Riveter was created to entice women to join the workforce. It was painted by Norman Rockwell and the image first appeared publicly on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. In it, a muscular woman enjoys a meal break and her riveting gun branded “Rosie” is nearby and she has her foot on Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. That image would be the basis for an image used later by the federal government to create the “We Can Do It!” posters.

Women, as we know, mobilized on the home front as men joined the armed forces to serve wherever they were needed during the war. As America’s involvement in the war began in two theaters, the war effort required massive amounts of munitions, weapons, ships, aircraft, supplies, tanks and vehicles. With most men entering military service, women across the United States were hired for production jobs. They helped build the hardware that men would use in World War II.

Fact 1: Not Just a Few, But Many

The term “Rosie” was first used in 1942 to refer to female factory workers who entered the workforce by the millions, leaving their domestic lives to help the nation. Often excluded and overlooked by history are women known as “Black Rosies.” Millions of women were Rosie the Riveters. Of that, more than 500,000 African American women also contributed to the effort.

Prior to becoming Black Rosies, the African American women held mostly domestic jobs as housekeepers, cooks, and cleaning ladies. Many in the south were also sharecroppers, according to academics. But joining the workforce for the Black Rosies was not easy. Because of discrimination, many weren’t hired until legislation was passed requiring all government contractors to hire a diverse workforce, including people of color and women.

By the mid-1940s, airplane manufacturers were the largest employers of women in the United States. Vehicle manufacturers came in second. Married women became the largest civilian working demographic in the United States for the first time ever. The number of working mothers increased by 400% and that included Black Rosies.

Fact 2: Discrimination Was Rampant

Black Rosies contributed to the war effort no different than anyone else at the time, but they often faced lower pay and stricter employment rules. Nonetheless, they worked tirelessly in factories, shipyards, and wherever they were needed. History has tended to overlook their contributions. 

Becoming Black Rosies was not only a patriotic opportunity for African American women to aid in the war effort, but it was also a chance for economic empowerment. Employment at these established companies gave the Black Rosies leverage to seek a better life. Serving as part of the war effort enabled the Black Rosies to earn money outside of domestic jobs. It enabled them to pursue a better life in many cases.

Black Rosies made up a large part of the African American workforce during World War II. Of the 1 million African American workers hired during the war effort, nearly 600,000 were women known as Black Rosies.

In addition to working in factories, many learned skilled trades and became experienced electricians, welders, railroad conductors and sheet metal specialists, to name a few. But industrial jobs weren’t the only jobs that Black Rosies performed, they also worked as computer scientists and clerk typists.

Women were paid much lower rates than their male counterparts, despite their important roles. Black Rosies were paid even less. On average, women were paid 10 to 15 cents an hour lower than their male counterparts, despite equal pay regulations.

Black Rosies and their African American male counterparts received fewer benefits and were barred from controlling any union activities. The shipbuilder’s union blocked African Americans from membership altogether. Black Rosies would share after the war that their white co-workers were given frequent promotions or salary increases, but Black Rosies were rarely offered a chance for advancement.

Fact 3: Their Stories Went Untold for Decades

The plight and contributions of Black Rosies have only come to light in the past couple of decades. As the country continues to reconcile the actions of some Americans in the past, many of these stories are surfacing and are being shared as part of the whole history of the United States, rather than just anecdotes of those who have ordinarily controlled the narrative.

Black Rosies are a testament to the contributions of African Americans to the growth and prosperity of this country. Like the African American men who went overseas and fought in World War II for a nation that would not grant them equality in many parts of the country, Black Rosies served their nation and often did so under less than equal conditions. Many of them simply wanted to do their part just like their white Rosie the Riveters.

And it should not be forgotten that African American women also donned the uniform during World War II and served the nation as military personnel. There were all-women African American units that served with distinction and excelled in the limited roles they were given by the government. 

African American women contributed greatly to the World War II effort. Black Rosies are people who have justifiably earned their place in American history.

Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII?


Who were the Tuskegee Airmen?

In January 1941, prior to America’s entry into World War II, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson authorized the formation of an African American pursuit squadron. The 99th Pursuit Squadron was activated just a few months later in March 1941. It would later become the 99th Fighter Squadron.

By November 1941, the unit began training in Tuskegee, Alabama, hence the reason why those who trained and served with the 99th are called “Tuskegee Airmen.” It is important to note that all personnel associated with the Tuskegee program are considered Tuskegee Airmen, including air and ground crews. The unit was originally equipped with and trained on Curtiss P-40s.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen that deployed in World War II?

The 99th Squadron was eventually sent to French Morocco in April 1943 and it conducted combat operations from bases in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy. In February 1944, the 99th Squadron was joined by three other fighter squadrons, the 100th, the 301st, and the 302nd, and all four squadrons constituted the 332nd Fighter Group, commanded by Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., an African American, who would eventually become a four-star general.

The group converted to Republic P-47s in April 1944 and to P-51s in June. Until the end of the war in Europe, it escorted 15th Air Force bombers and attacked ground targets from its bases in Italy. The group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for an escort mission to Berlin in March 1945.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen who flew bombers?

In mid-1943, realizing the success of the Tuskegee Airmen program, the U.S. Army Air Forces organized an African American bomber unit, the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium). Activated in June 1943, its pilots were supposed to be trained at Tuskegee. However, that airfield was overburdened with fighter training requirements and was unable to handle the new bomber training program.

The Army Air Force was forced to make a decision and it allowed Tuskegee Airmen to train at all-white training bases for bomber instruction. For the first time, U.S. military flight training had been desegregated. However, the Tuskegee Airmen faced discrimination and were often disrespected and as a result, their operations and training suffered. With mounting delays and difficulties, the group did not become operational until after the war. Tuskegee was the primary school for instruction of black pilots until it closed in 1946.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen who were white?

There were white members of the Tuskegee Airmen since the U.S. Army Air Force wanted white officers to provide oversight of African American airmen. Not only that, but there weren’t any seasoned African American aviators to lead the unit. Lt. Col. Noel F. Parrish led the training of African American pilots and ground crews at Tuskegee Airfield starting in 1941. It is a position he held throughout World War II and at one point he commanded approximately 14,000 personnel. His trainees would deploy to the European theater and serve with distinction.

Parrish was a career Army Air Force pilot, and he was known for providing inspiring leadership and taking a genuine interest in promoting African American involvement in military aviation. He was an ardent supporter of Tuskegee Airmen. Parrish led the training program throughout World War II. He would eventually earn the rank of brigadier general. The success of the Tuskegee program is said by military historians to have helped President Harry S. Truman decide to desegregate the military.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen in combat?

Without a doubt, one of the most famous, if not the most famous of the Tuskegee Airmen is Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Davis led the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II in air combat over North Africa and Italy and later flew long-range bomber escort missions over Nazi Germany. Davis was the son of a U.S. Army general and a 1936 graduate of West Point. He was a member of the first class of five cadets to earn their wings at Tuskegee and later he was selected to lead the new 99th Pursuit Squadron.

Davis led the 99th and later the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe during World War II. According to U.S. Air Force historical reports, the 332nd had 94 aerial victories from 1944 to 1945. In addition, the 332nd, Tuskegee Airmen, lost significantly less aircraft than other fighter groups. For example, 27 bombers protected by the 332nd were shot down by enemy aircraft. The average number of bombers shot down under the escort of the other groups of the 15th Air Force was 46.

In all, the 332nd flew 311 missions and 179 of those were bomber escorts missions. After the war, Davis continued his military career in the newly independent and integrated U.S. Air Force. He achieved the rank of lieutenant general and played a key leadership role during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He retired from the Air Force in 1970. In 1998, he was promoted to general by President Bill Clinton years after his retirement.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen who were almost aces?

Lee Andrew Archer, Edward L. Toppins, and Joseph D. Elsberry were the top three Tuskegee Airmen to shoot down the most enemy aircraft during World War II. Each man had four aerial kills.

For decades there were rumors that the U.S. military had intentionally rotated the men back to the states to prevent any African American from becoming an ace (shooting down five enemy aircraft), but Air Force research conducted in 2011 concluded that racism was not likely the reason. The aviators had simply completed their tours of duty and were rotated back to the states, having flown their requisite missions. In fact, many of the men were lauded in the ranks and decorated for their performance.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen to first down an enemy aircraft?

Hoosier Charles Hall was the first Tuskegee Airman to down an enemy aircraft while he was on an escort mission in July 1943. He shot down a Nazi FW-190.

About six months later, 10 Tuskegee Airmen would shoot down 10 enemy aircraft and usher in an era of African Americans fighting in the skies above Europe. The Tuskegee Airmen’s aircraft were marked with red tails and in recent years the U.S. Air Force announced that the T-7A, marked with a red tail, will become the Air Force’s latest trainer aircraft.

The 3rd Marine Regiment: A Look at the Marine Rifle Squad


In the past couple of years, the U.S. Marine Corps has experienced some upheaval as the Corps is recalibrated and dramatic changes are made to its ranks. Most notably, the Corps got rid of its armor assets and tanks are no longer a thing in the Marines as the force returns to its agile and light structure. Armor support for Marines will now come from the U.S. Army.

While roughly 12,000 were severed from the ranks of the sea’s premier infantry service, there was an addition with the activation of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR). Activated in 2022, the 3rd Marine Regiment, now an MLR, is a major pivot in the manner in which the Marine Corps operates in the Pacific.

A Marine squad typically consists of 13 Marines divided into three fire teams of four led by a squad leader. Under the new 3rd Marine Regiment MLR model, a squad will be 14 people, split into two fire teams of six Marines, with a squad leader and assistant squad leader. The fire teams in the 3rd Marine Regiment new MLR model will have a team leader. 

The MLR is one part of the larger force design intended to remedy challenges created by the continued evolution of the character of warfare – specifically the proliferation of the Mature Precision Strike Regime.

The 3rd Marine Regiment MLR model is now a self-deployable, multi-domain force optimized for the contact and blunt layers. It will persistently operate to support the Joint Force’s role in assuring allies and partners, deterring adversaries, conducting and enabling Joint Force contact, blunt, and surge activities.

The 3rd Marine Regiment, and other MLRs like it, are designed as a naval formation, including capabilities to enable maneuver and operations in the maritime domain. It will be a stand-in force: mobile, low-signature, persistent in the contact to blunt layers, and relatively easy to maintain and sustain as part of a naval expeditionary force.

The 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR will leverage the full ability of amphibious platforms, connectors, and boats. Significantly, the Navy and Marine Corps will field a Light Amphibious Warship to enhance MLR mobility and sustainment.

The 3rd Marine Regiment, and other MLRs, will be capable of the following missions:

  • Conduct Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations
  • Conduct Strike
  • Coordinate Air and Missile Defense Actions
  • Support Maritime Domain Awareness
  • Support Surface Warfare
  • Support Operations in the Information Environment

The 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR is the first of its kind in the Marine Corps. Subsequent MLRs will potentially be based in other Pacific theater locations.

The MLR will employ three subordinate elements: a Littoral Combat Team (LCT); a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion; and a Combat Logistics Battalion.

The LCT will be task organized around an infantry battalion along with an anti-ship missile battery. It is designed to provide the basis for employing multiple platoon-reinforced-size expeditionary advanced base sites that can host and enable a variety of missions such as long-range anti-ship fires, forward arming and refueling of aircraft, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of key maritime terrain, and air-defense and early warning.

The Littoral Anti-Air Battalion is designed to provide air defense, air surveillance and early warning, air control, and forward rearming and refueling capabilities.

The Combat Logistics Battalion provides tactical logistics support to the MLR by resupplying expeditionary advanced base sites, managing cache sites, and connecting to higher-level logistics providers. It provides expanded purchasing authorities, limited Role II medical forces, distribution of ammunition and fuel, and field level maintenance.

The MLR, like the 3rd Marine Regiment commands and controls these subordinate organizations via a robust regimental headquarters with enhanced signals and human intelligence, reconnaissance, communications, logistics planning, civil affairs, cyber, and information operations capabilities.

The approximate size of the 3rd Marine Regiment and other MLRs is anticipated to be between 1,800 – 2,000 Marines and Sailors.  By comparison, 3rd Marines (with three infantry battalions, a Combat Assault Company, and regimental headquarters) has approximately 3,400 Marine and Sailors.

The establishment of the 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR in Hawaii will give the Marine Corps an initial operational capability to conduct sea denial operations in the Indo-Pacific Theater starting in 2023. This initial MLR will also serve to test and validate concepts and inform structure refinements before subsequent MLRs are established elsewhere within III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The majority of the Hawaii-based MLR was created using units that already exist there in the 3rd Marine Regiment. The unit was activated before all the personnel and equipment flowed in.

The 3rd Marine Regiment now as an MLR is tailored to integrate with naval forces and serve as a key enabler for joint forces, allies, and partners. Its low signature in the electromagnetic spectrum will help the MLR remain difficult to detect, allowing it to function within range of the adversary’s weapons systems.

From there, the MLR will integrate communications, sensor networks, and weapons systems to strengthen joint kill webs and increase the joint force’s ability to detect and target adversary forces. These actions will complicate an adversary’s decision-making process while providing additional options for friendly forces. Further details of how the MLR will operate are still in development and will continue to be informed by experimentation.

The Marine Corps administratively redesignated the 3rd Marine Regiment to the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in a ceremony in March 2022. That occasion marked the establishment of the first MLR in the Marine Corps.

The redesignation of the storied 3rd Marine Regiment is an important chapter in Marine Corps history and builds on its reputation as a versatile, agile, and lethal warfighting organization.

“Marines on the leading edge of change is nothing new,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, commanding general of 3rd Marine Division in a Marine Corps news article. “Adapting and overcoming challenge is part of our history and a critical component of our maneuver warfare philosophy. Marines have always been at the forefront of change when required, generating innovative solutions to challenging operational problems.”

While the 3rd MLR is not envisioned to be fully operational for several years, its establishment demonstrates progress in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization effort.

The administrative redesignation to the 3rd MLR sets key personnel in place and allows the unit to manage existing facilities and equipment previously managed by the 3rd Marine Regiment. The redesignation also facilitates wargaming and experimentation to better define unit requirements and employment concepts in support of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization goals.

As designed, the 3rd MLR is comprised of a headquarters element and three subordinate commands.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was written extensively using Marine Corps press releases and Marine Corps government news stories available as public information.)