1918 – Women enlist in the United States Marine Corps for the first time. Opha May Johnson is the first woman to enlist.
The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (WR) was the World War II women’s branch of the United States Marine Corps Reserve. It was authorized by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 30 July 1942, yet the Marine Corps delayed the formation of the WR until 13 February 1943. The law provided that members of the WR may be commissioned or enlisted in such ranks and ratings equal to the regular Marine Corps, and effective for the duration of the war plus six months. Its purpose was to release officers and men for combat and to replace them with women in shore stations. Ruth Cheney Streeter was appointed the first director of the WR. She was sworn in with the rank of major and later was promoted to a full colonel. After attending Bryn Mawr College, Streeter was involved in health and welfare work. The WR did not have an official nickname as did the other World War II women’s military services although many unofficial and uncomplimentary nicknames were used to describe the women.
Young women were eager to serve in the military during WW II, and the Marine Corps wanted only the best. The overall qualifications for women who wished to volunteer for the WR were fairly stringent. The age requirement for officer candidates was between 20 and 49, and a candidate had to be a college graduate or have a combination of two years of college and two years of work experience. The age requirement for those who wished to enlist was between 20 and 35, and candidates had to have completed at least two years of high school. The WR did not accept African American or Japanese American women during World War II but did accept Native American women. The officer candidates first trained at the Navy’s Midshipmen School for women officers located at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The initial training for enlisted women was held at the Naval Training School at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York City. Soon, the Marine Corps saw the advantage of having its own training schools. Effective 1 July 1943, all WR training was to be held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Members served at shore and air stations across the continental United States, including New York, Chicago, Paris Island, South Carolina, and El Centro and San Diego, California. The territory of Hawaii was the only overseas duty station where members were assigned. They served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. Although the Marine Corps listed more than 200 available job categories, over half of the WR members labored in the clerical field.
Early in the life of the WR, members were met with some degree of resentment and crude language. They accepted these indignities by demonstrating their competence, self-assurance, and pride and soon won over most of their detractors. For her stewardship of the WR, the Marine Corps presented Ruth Cheney Streeter with the Legion of Merit. On the occasion of the first anniversary of its establishment, the WR received a message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he observed, “You have quickly and efficiently taken over scores of different kinds of duties that not long ago were considered strictly masculine assignments, and in doing so, you have freed a large number of well trained, battle ready men of the corps for action.” The one tribute that stood out more than any other was the plain words of General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the US Marine Corps, who had been so opposed to having women in the Marine Corps in the beginning. He said, “Like most Marines, when the matter first came up I didn’t believe women could serve any useful purpose in the Marine Corps … Since then I’ve changed my mind.”
At the outbreak of World War II, the notion of women serving in the Navy or Marine Corps (both under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy) was not widely supported by the Congress or by the branches of the military services. Nevertheless, there were some who believed that women would eventually be needed in the military. The most notable was Edith Nourse Rogers, Representative of Massachusetts, and Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president, who helped pave the way for its reality. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed what would become Public Law 689 on 30 July 1942, it established a Women’s Reserve as a branch of the Naval Reserve for the Navy and Marine Corps. The idea behind the law was to free up officers and men for combat, with women standing in for them at shore stations on the home front. Women could now serve in the WR as an officer or at an enlisted level, with ranks or ratings consistent with those of men. WR volunteers could only serve for the duration of the war, plus six months. The Corps delayed formation of the WR until 13 February 1943. It was the last service branch to accept women into its ranks, and “there was considerable unhappiness about making the Marine Corps anything but a club for white men”. In fact, General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the Marine Corps, was a well-known opponent of women serving in the corps. But he later reversed himself, saying, “there’s hardly any work at our Marine stations that women can’t do as well as men. They do some work far better than men. … What is more, they’re real Marines. They don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one.” Holcomb rejected all acronyms or monikers for the WR; he did not believe they were compulsory. And there were many of them, including: Femarines, WAMS, BAMS, Dainty Devil-Dogs, Glamarines, Women’s Leatherneck-Aides, MARS, and Sub-Marines. By the summer of 1943, attempts to pressure the WR into a nickname had diminished. WR was as far as Holcomb would move in that direction.
1958 – Randy Shughart, American sergeant, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1993)
Randall David “Randy” Shughart (August 13, 1958 – October 3, 1993) was a United States Army soldier of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1SFOD-D)/”Delta Force”. Shughart was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Battle of Mogadishu on October 1993.
Early life and education
Shughart was born August 13, 1958, in Lincoln, Nebraska, into a U.S. Air Force family. After his father, Herbert Shughart, left the Air Force, the Shugharts moved to Newville, Pennsylvania, to live and work on a dairy farm.
Shughart joined the Army while attending Big Spring High School in Newville, entering upon graduation in 1976. After completing basic training, he successfully completed AIT (advanced individual training), Airborne School, and in 1978 was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis, Washington. Several months later he completed a pre-ranger course (currently known as SURT, Small Unit Ranger Tactics), was granted a slot to attend Ranger School, graduated, and earned the Ranger Tab. Shughart left active duty and went into the Army Reserve in June 1980. In December 1983, Shughart returned to active duty and the following year attended Special Forces training. Shughart was assigned to “Delta Force” and was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in June 1986. As a Delta Force operator, he advanced to Assistant Team Sergeant.
Shughart was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 as part of Task Force Ranger. On October 3, 1993, during Operation Gothic Serpent, an assault mission to apprehend advisers to Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the Black Hawk helicopter with the call sign Super Six-One was shot down in the city. A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) team came to secure it. Then, a second Black Hawk helicopter, call sign Super Six-Four, was shot down.
Shughart, Gary Gordon, and Sergeant First Class Brad Hallings had been providing sniper cover from the air from Black Hawk Super Six-Two. Gordon wanted to be inserted to secure the crash site as hostile Somalis were converging on the area.
Mission commanders denied Gordon’s request twice, saying that the situation was too dangerous for the Delta snipers to protect the crew from the ground. Command’s position was that the snipers could be of more assistance by providing air cover. Gordon, however, repeated his request until he got permission. Hallings stayed behind to man a machine gun as one of the helicopter’s gunners had been wounded.
Shughart and Gordon were inserted approximately 100m from the crash site, armed with their sniper rifles and sidearms, and made their way to the downed Blackhawk. Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant was already defending the aircraft with an MP5 but was unable to move from his chair due to a crushed vertebra in his back and a compound fracture of his left femur. When they reached Super Six-Four, they extracted Durant and the crew members from the crash and defended the aircraft. It is believed that Gordon was first to be shot by the mob, which had surrounded the crash site. Shughart retrieved Gordon’s CAR-15 rifle and gave it to Durant to use. Shortly after, Shughart was killed, the site was overrun and Durant was taken hostage. According to Michael Durant’s book In the Company of Heroes, the Somalis counted 25 of their militia dead after the firefight.
There was some confusion in the aftermath of the action as to who had been killed first. The official citation states that it was Shughart, but author Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, relates an account by Sergeant Paul Howe who heard Shughart call for help on the radio and that the weapon handed to Durant was not the distinctive M14 rifle used by Shughart. Furthermore, Howe said that Gordon would not have given his weapon to someone while he could still fight. Durant later admitted that he initially misidentified which man was killed first, but did not wish to change the official record. Shughart’s body was eventually recovered and is buried in Westminster Cemetery, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
In popular culture
In the 2001 film Black Hawk Down, Shughart was portrayed by actor Johnny Strong.
Medal of Honor
On May 23, 1994, Shughart and Gordon were posthumously decorated with the Medals of Honor for protecting the crew of Super Six Four. They were the first Medal of Honor recipients since the Vietnam War.
Herbert Shughart, Randall Shughart’s father, attended the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony at the White House, where he refused to shake hands with U.S. President Bill Clinton. He then proceeded to openly criticize the president, saying, “You are not fit to be president of the United States. The blame for my son’s death rests with the White House and with you. You are not fit to command.”
Medal of Honor citation
Sergeant First Class Shughart, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Sergeant First Class Shughart provided precision sniper fires from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. While providing critical suppressive fires at the second crash site, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site. Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader were inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, while under intense fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sergeant First Class Shughart used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sergeant First Class Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Sergeant First Class Shughart’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him-self, his unit and the United States Army.
In 1997 the United States Navy named a roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Shughart in a ceremony at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, California. The ceremony was attended by a number of Naval officers and politicians including John W. Douglass, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition; Senator Bob Kerrey (D); as well as his Commanding officer at the time of his death, and others. The ship was the first “Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off (LMSR) ship” to undergo conversion from a commercial container vessel to a sealift cargo ship.
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