Sunday, September 22, 2013

The First Ranger’s Last Battle - William Orlando Darby (1945)

Colonel Bill Darby, the creator and driving spirit of “Darby’s Rangers,” a founding father of today’s Special Forces and Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, was one of the truly legendary small unit combat commanders to emerge from World War II. When the war began he was an obscure captain of artillery and a general’s aide, or ‘dog-catcher’. By its end he was a full Colonel and Assistant Division commander of the famous 10th Mountain Division.

Darby was born on February 8, 1911 at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and graduated in the middle of his West Point class (177/346) in June 1933. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery and served in a succession of field, staff and school assignments typical for a young officer during the interwar years.

While acting as an escort officer in Europe, he attracted the attention of Col. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., who was forming an American commando-type unit and looking for the right man to command it. Truscott interviewed the young artillery officer and was impressed with Darby’s credentials, especially his amphibious training. Darby was selected and immediately promoted and jumped in grade once again to Lt. Colonel. It was a breathtaking ascent in rank, even during wartime for a well-connected officer, but the job required a relatively senior field grade officer to command the necessary authority – among friends and skeptics alike.

After serious training under the direction of veteran British commandos, Darby’s men spearheaded the North African landings and subsequent invasion of Sicily. Augmented by two newly formed Ranger Battalions on September 9, 1943 Darby led the Allies onto the Italian mainland at Salerno. Four months later on 22 January 1944, Darby, now a full Colonel and regimental commander, led his Rangers onto the Anzio beaches just south of Rome hoping to outflank the German defenses at Cassino. His men quickly completed their missions in a textbook example of what the Rangers were created to do.

On the night of 30-31 January 1944, everything fell apart at Cisterna, a village just a few miles inland from bloody Anzio. The Rangers, pressed into duty as light infantry, ran into crack German troops supported by heavy tanks. The lightly armed Rangers were hopelessly overmatched; those who resisted were slaughtered. Of the almost 800 men who infiltrated the enemy lines that night only six returned. The rest were killed, captured, or simply disappeared. The Germans paraded their prisoners in front of the Coliseum to make a historical point. Darby was sent to America to a desk job.

More than a year later, in late March 1945, Darby was detailed to accompany a number of high-ranking officers to Italy. Ironies abound. Once more his contacts and being on the ground would make the difference. He told a close friend that he would soon be back in action with the 10th Mountain Division, under command of MG George Hays, under whom Darby had served who was then fighting in the Pô Valley in northern Italy as part of the US Fifth Army in the war’s closing campaign in Italy. Darby was back, General Hays was delighted to see his one time aide and receptive to having him serve in his division. The only question was in what role. Fate intervened soon afterward.

On 22 April Brig. General Robinson E. Duff, Assistant Division Commander, was seriously wounded while aggressively leading Task Force Duff “like an anxious sheep dog.” Hays was under intense pressure from IV Corps (Major General Willis D. Crittenberger) headquarters to cross the Pô River and immediately requested that Lt. General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., now CG, Fifth Army – another lucky stroke – assign Darby to replace Duff. Even before official approvals from the necessary War Department officers were secured, on 24 April, Darby took over Duff’s job, Task Force Darby was born with the mission of taking Verona

         By April 30, Darby had cleared Lake Garda and taken Torbole. He was moving to his jeep when a single German round, fired from the heights above Riva in a final gesture of defiance, smashed into the stone wharf which led to the esplanade just 30 feet from where Darby and his companions were standing. The explosion sprayed deadly shrapnel and debris all around. Darby fell without uttering a sound and was carried into the hotel where a few minutes later, he died. On May 2, 1945, all enemy forces in Italy surrendered unconditionally and less than two weeks later William Orlando Darby was promoted to Brigadier General, the only American officer posthumously promoted to general officer rank during World War II.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering Tim Maude, the “HR” Hero Who Died at His Pentagon Post - September 11, 2001

"Hi, I'm Tim Maude and I'm a U.S. Army soldier."

That’s how 35-year veteran and head of Army human resources Lt. General Timothy J. Maude began every speech, always stressing his common bond with the ordinary soldier. That bond became fixed on September 11, 2001, when Tim, 53, became the first and only US general killed-in-action in this century, the highest-ranking officer lost since World War II, and first to die on sovereign American soil since Custer at Little Big Horn. He is the top “fallen star” lost so far in the Global War on Terrorism. He died instantly at “Ground Zero” at the Pentagon while conducting a routine staff meeting in his office with top five aides. Also killed with him was Sergeant Major Larry Strickland the personnel department’s senior NCO and a soldier with almost 40 years of service.

There are several professional avenues to high command in the US Army. Tim Maude’s path is not among them. A one-time aspirant of the priesthood, the 19-year old kid from Indianapolis enlisted in 1967 just ahead of his draft notice and was commissioned out of OCS into the Adjutant General Corps, the branch responsible for administrative matters and one of the first established in the Continental Army in 1775. Tim served in Vietnam at an infantry brigade HQ running the mail – ask any vet who’s the most important guy at headquarters. Then he decided to remain in the Army, rising a quarter century later to Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel or, G-1, the top HR job in the US Army in August 2000. Tim Maude, who began his military career as a private and once considered the priesthood, received a third star - a rank usually reserved for combat generals and described by his wife as a “miracle.”
Think of Tim’s job in business terms. He was the top human resources officer of one of the largest organizations in the world, employing more than 650,000 people, “hiring” close to 80,000 new people every year, and administering thousands of medical, educational, counseling, and other benefit programs and services, while subject to a huge number of rules, regulations, and reporting responsibilities. Managing a budget of $25 billion, with a large advertising and public relations commitment, Tim faced the dawn of a new century with serious problems.
In a period of general global peace - the long-heralded Pax Americana – recruitment and retention were critical and under pressure. It had become increasingly difficult throughout the 1990’s to attract qualified, technically-competent people. The earlier advertising message, “be all that you can be” had gradually lost its appeal, as both the traditional and “new economy” (what they called social media just a decade ago) offered ever expanding opportunities for America’s young people. In response, Maude’s team crafted the very successful “Army of One" recruiting campaign in early 2001 and by September the recruiting goals for the year had already been achieved.

Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki had been very supportive of Maude’s other initiatives, including more investment in the Internet, and the addition of the beret to the regular uniform to bolster esprit d’corps. Tim also won high praise from diverse (and often conflicting) groups for the sensitive way he handled the difficult assignment to make sure the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military was implemented justly. That seems all the more insightful based on recent political and legal developments.

By the turn of the century, Tim had reached the pinnacle of his profession. His place as a competent general officer in his beloved US Army would have been secure. Destiny, however, had prepared an even more “noteworthy” place in the history books. At 9:28 A.M. on that clear, September Tuesday morning, he was at his desk in the Pentagon doing his job when that part of the building became a flaming battlefield.

Whatever else may be said, the coordinated September 11 surprise attacks on the homeland were among the most successful ever conducted by our enemies. We should never forget that, or underestimate them again. Any strategic concept that is founded on the idea that global Jihadism is a passing phase is folly. It will be a permanent element of all long-range planning from now on. As a purely military operation the 9/11 attacks were a textbook example of the staggering potential of asymmetrical tactics employed against an overwhelmingly superior, but conventionally-armed, organized, and oriented opponent. The selection of targets that day – global economic icons, national military command center, and defining political symbol – favored the technology, weapons and strategic goals of the Sunni Al Qaeda terrorists. Soft, symbolic, and difficult to protect. Only the bravery of the instant soldiers on United Flight #93 prevented the blow against the last target that day, an attack on the US Capitol or White House.

At the Pentagon, dozens of people, including those in Tim Maude’s meeting, died instantly at their posts. Many others were wounded or missing. In the days afterward, the smooth machinery of succession was engaged, a credit to the personnel practices of a strong, war-tested organization and its dedicated professional leadership. Tim’s staff moved to the Hoffman Complex in Alexandria under the deputy G-1 who survived. The enemy caused pain but did no lasting damage to America’s military or political strength. That became apparent almost immediately in Afghanistan where horse-borne Special Forces operatives were soon on the ground helping the warlords topple Mullah Omar’s regime. We struck back quickly and have inflicted grievous harm on our enemies, including the death of the Al Qaeda leader, and we continue to strike them and their allies every day. A large part of the legacy of Tim Maude was the readiness, quality, and professional performance of the US Army that went to war on 9/11 and has carried the battle since under our all-volunteer model.

After Tim’s remains were recovered, he was buried at Arlington, his grave carrying the legend, “He Took Care of Soldiers.” The team was remembered in various ways. Buildings where they served and their favorite programs were renamed in their honor. But the important inspiration and lessons to be drawn from the death of this latest “fallen star” are not in the statistics, or in a sentimental recollection. It is not a story of heroic death in battle, but is more personal, and perhaps more directly relevant to the special nature of the current war than any of the almost 225 fallen general officer stories in our history.
The long war against global Islamic Jihadism is different in at least one fundamental respect from all previous American experience, except the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century. In those cases, the ideology of our enemies defines every one of us as a target blessed by Allah; anyone can be sitting at his desk in a routine staff meeting, or on an airplane, in a school, at a wedding, in a subway - or watching a marathon - and suddenly find herself an instant soldier on a battlefield. Also a crime scene, but mainly a battlefield. Some are fated to suffer or die. Some must flee and some become instant battlefield responders, but those whose job it is to face those enemies every day, quietly and steadily, are heroes no matter how they fall. That’s exactly what happened to Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude and all the many thousands of soldiers, sailors, police, firemen, and our ordinary fellow citizens, who fell on September 11 and since.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In the Front Ranks of Gallant Men - Frederick W. Castle (1944)

BG Frederick W. Castle
Frederick Walker Castle was literally born into the U.S. Army on October 14, 1908 at Fort McKinley, Manila, Philippines, during his father’s first assignment after graduation from West Point. Already voted by his father’s classmates – including future Air Force chief Henry “Hap” Arnold - Class Boy of 1907 “Freddy” excelled at academics, graduating at the top of his West Point class (#7/241). In 1930 he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the prestigious Corps of Engineers, but soon transferred to the Air Corps. After flight training he reported for duty in October 1931 as a fighter pilot with the 1st Pursuit Group. As the full force of the depression hit the Army, funds were severely limited, flight assignments dwindled, promotions were frozen, and the young pilot found himself assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps. He grew dissatisfied and bored and on February 19, 1934 resigned from the Regular Army.

Hap Arnold, Curtis Lemay, Fred Castle
Over the next eight years, Fred Castle built a successful business career. Deeply involved in the manufacture of the Norden bombsight - the precision instrument upon which the emerging doctrine of Daylight Precision Bombing was largely based - Castle was clearly on the fast track to senior management. War changed everything and after Pearl Harbor he returned to active duty. At the beginning of 1942, BG Ira C. Eaker was assembling a small planning staff that became the nucleus of VIII Bomber Command in England and eventually Eighth Air Force, the largest ever assembled. On April 15, the headquarters, officially known as “Pinetree”, was established at the Wycombe Abbey Girls' School located near RAF Bomber Command.

Wycombe Abbey Girls School
Castle’s assignment was to prepare for the flood of airplanes and personnel that would soon begin arriving. In addition, like many others at HQ, Castle flew missions and eventually pressed Eaker for a combat assignment. An opportunity soon became available. The 94th Bombardment Group had been particularly hard hit in the early days of the air war. Eaker transferred the group commander and give the job to Castle. He flew the dangerous missions and in a bid to gain trust ate his meals with his crews. In mid April 1944, he was promoted to command of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing (CBW), the largest in the Eighth Air Force, comprising five groups, including his own 94th BG.

94th Bomb Group Control Tower
Castle, only 36 years old, was promoted to Brig. General on November 20, 1944, less than three years after returning to active duty as a 1st Lieutenant. As one of the architects of American air power, his place in the future independent Air Force was secure. In spite of his rank, however, and the risks, he continued to fly. On December 16, 1944 the Germans launched their last major offensive in the West, the “Battle of the Bulge.” By Christmas Eve, they had come pretty close to their initial objectives. That night, the 3rd Air Division, including the 4th CBW, assembled over England and dispatched 2,000 heavy bombers escorted by 900 fighters and attacked the German airfields and communications facilities west of the Rhine. Fred Castle’s B-17 was shot down. Rather than jettison his bombs over civilians, he rode the stricken bomber to his death.

The Christmas Eve Mission, 1944

That night Hap Arnold wrote a letter to his classmate and friend, Ben Castle, to tell him that his only son was missing and presumed dead. For his heroism, Castle was awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the highest-ranking officer in the Eighth Air Force to receive the honor, and the last of the unit’s seventeen recipients. For decades afterward, and until they were old men, those who formed that initial planning group at the girl’s school in England during those grim days, held a reunion and drank a toast to Castle. "Aim at the highest ... at least you will soar."

Treble Four

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Unsung Hero of Tet and the "PR General"– Keith Lincoln Ware (1968)

TET! That single word evokes strategic surprise and the beginning of a long, painful period in American history. In the opening hours of the Tet Counteroffensive (30 January 1968 - 1 April 1968), MACV Headquarters in Saigon faced a number of immediate priorities, but perhaps none was more important than ensuring the security of the capital. By the early morning of 31 January 1968 neighborhoods in the heart of the city and Tan Son Nut airbase were receiving heavy small arms and mortar fire. The well-publicized targets, like the embassy compound, weren’t the problem, in spite of the growing importance of the evening news version of the war.
Facing the Americans and their Vietnamese allies in the field were combat-hardened, regular units of the North Vietnamese People’s Army and highly motivated Viet Cong cadre, a force totaling more than 25,000 men. General Nyugen Giap had reckoned the timing perfectly and achieved strategic surprise. Lt. General Fred C. Weyland, commanding II Field Force, quickly gained control and knew what to do. He turned to his deputy, Maj. Gen. Keith Ware, and ordered him to assemble a task force headquarters and take operational control of all U.S. units in the Capital Military District. Weyland could not have found a better man to defend Saigon.

Major General Keith Lincoln Ware (1915-1968) was a smart, experienced, highly decorated, and well-respected combat officer. He began his military career as a 28-year old draftee graduating from Infantry OCS in 1943. Assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, he participated in four combat invasions and numerous battles and skirmishes in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. No infantry regiment spent more time in combat. While in command of 1st Battalion on 26 December 1944 and attacking a fortified hill near Sigolsheim, France, he was forced to pause because of heavy casualties. Seeing that his men needed some inspiration, he advanced alone 150 yards beyond the most forward elements of the battalion, and personally reconnoitered the enemy positions, deliberately drawing fire to force the enemy to reveal their locations. He then led a dozen men against those positions, knocking out numerous guns in close combat. Half of his men, including Ware, were casualties, but he refused medical attention until the hill was taken and secure. For this action he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His postwar career filled in gaps in education, higher command responsibility, and other line and staff skills, of an increasingly global army.

Ware also had a unique appreciation for the complicated interplay between events on the battlefield and the cultural climate shaping the politics on the home front. His insight into this increasingly important element of the American way of making war had been informed and deepened during the two years (1964-1966) he served in the Pentagon as the Army’s director of Public Affairs Office (PAO), where he stressed excellence in journalism. Perhaps better than anyone else at II Field Force HQ in Saigon, or even MACV, he knew that perceptions would be just as important as battlefield developments over the next weeks in shaping the “official” and lasting media reality. Less than 8 hours after the first gunfire crackled through the Cholon district, Task Force WARE was operational.
Getting organized was the easy part. At first, there were few combat units available, and those close by were poorly positioned for a defensive mission. At the beginning of the battle, only a single U.S. infantry battalion and a dozen howitzers were operating nearby. For political reasons, MACV boss General William Westmoreland, had kept major American units outside Saigon and the other large cities during the TET holiday.
Making a virtue of necessity, Ware’s initial plan utilized Vietnamese government forces to conduct the main operations in Saigon, with the Americans playing a very close and hand-on supporting role in the suburbs. The early fighting was intense, and bloody, mostly house-to-house battles reminiscent of the WWII campaigns in which Ware had earned his reputation. By February 18, Saigon was considered secure and Task Force WARE was disbanded. It was a silent victory; American popular opinion increasingly viewed TET as a defeat, even though the enemy was totally shattered from a military point of view.

After the Battle of Saigon, Keith Ware took command of the renowned 1st “Big Red One” Infantry Division. By mid September 1968, the division was conducting large-scale reconnaissance in force missions in northern Binh Long Province. On September 13, 1968, one of his brigades reported heavy contact with a regular NVA regiment, and during the operation, Ware’s helicopter was downed by enemy ground fire. He was killed along with all 9 passengers, including “King,” a German shepherd and gift from the division’s recon outfit. A celebrated warrior and a potential leader of a post-Vietnam army that would have benefited by his diverse experience and insights into media, Keith Ware was the highest ranking Army officer and one of two division commanders among the eight generals killed in action during the Vietnam War. Keith Ware's name endures - more than most great heroes - because of the work he did in Public Relations and through the prestigious Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Awards given each year to the best Army journalists.