Sunday, July 22, 2012

World War II Veterans Honored for Their Part in Operation Dragoon

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2012 – A group of World War II veterans received recognized yesterday in a ceremony held here for their gallantry during a 1944 combat operation in southern France.

Operation Dragoon lasted from Aug. 15 until Sept. 14, 1944. It was the second largest amphibious invasion of World War II, with over 1,000 ships delivering three divisions of troops to the beaches of France. Additionally, an airborne division parachuted into the country to help secure beach heads along with Greek, Polish and Dutch forces, according to retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Timothy Stoy, historian for the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The Society of the 3rd Infantry Division hosted the ceremony honoring veterans who fought during the operation. French Army Col. Brice Houdet, military attaché from the French Embassy, presented the French Legion of Honor during the ceremony to retired U.S. soldiers John Singlaub, Paul Donlon, Darryl Egner, Elias Hernandez, Michael Halik and the son of Stanley Siemrzuch.

Before presenting the French awards, Houdet thanked the group of veterans on behalf of the people of France.

“I would like to salute all of the American allied veterans who took part in that momentous operation 68 years ago,” he said. “We are deeply honored to have some of you with us today.”

“I will have the distinct honor to present six of these highly deserving former service members with the Legion of Honor, France’s highest national honor and distinction, for their outstanding services during World War II,” Houdet said.

The six award recipients were all accompanied by members of the Military District of Washington’s Sgt. Audie L. Murphy Club, representing the connection to Murphy and the 3rd Infantry Division in which he served.

During the ceremony, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson, currently the command sergeant major of the 3rd Infantry Division, narrated a Missing in Action presentation, and explained the items on a table displayed to honor fallen soldiers.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Randy E. Manner, Joint Staff director for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Operation Dragoon may not be as well known as some other World War II operations, but it should be remembered for its strategic importance.

“Sometimes, the voice of history does not speak as loudly about some events such as Operation Dragoon,” Manner said.

“So that’s our job today … to be that voice and to speak loudly about those great successes all those many years ago,” he said. “Those gathered here … know the strategic value of Operation Dragoon.”

Manner, whose father served under Singlaub, a retired Army major general, noted Operation Dragoon was critical because it opened a much-needed supply line into France for the allies to “continue to smash the Nazis.”

“History records that over 90,000 soldiers and over 11,000 vehicles were on the beach, on the ground, within days,” he said. “The bottom line is the operation significantly contributed to the shortening of the war in Europe, which meant, of course, the shortening and the lessening of the number of lives that were lost and the number of the families that were affected.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, director of operations, readiness and mobilization for the Department of the Army, thanked all of the veterans present for their sacrifice and “tremendous” service to the country.

“Although not as well known as Operation Overlord, Operation Dragoon was a highlight of the second World War for many in our military,” he said. “[It was] one of the most successful combined joint operations in the European theater.

“Today, we take fighting as a joint team, alongside our sister services, for granted, just as we’ve come to count on our multi-national allies to be there in operations around the world today,” Vandal said. “But on Aug. 15, 1944, in the early days of the liberation of Europe, such a level of cooperation was far from commonplace.”

Vandal called the allied forces a “vanguard” of history who forged a path “for all of us to follow.”

“Some historians have mistakenly called Operation Dragoon the ‘forgotten D-Day,’ particularly in comparison to the larger and more famous invasions of Normandy,” he said. “In fact, some have even gone so far as to imply that the operation was easy – merely a cakewalk.

“Sgt. Audie Murphy, from the 3rd Infantry Division, might disagree with this characterization,” Vandal said. “Given that he earned a Distinguished Service Cross during Operation Dragoon, I think it speaks for itself [and what troops] did.”

Vandal noted allied forces of Operation Dragoon advanced more than 500 miles in less than a month and took more than 100,000 Germans prisoner.

“Overlooked by history or not, Operation Dragoon was a pivotal moment in the history of France, a fact well understood by all of you veterans sitting here today,” he said.

Vandal, a former member of 3rd Infantry Division himself, expressed his appreciate for all World War II veterans.

“All of our veterans are a national treasure, and we are all fortunate to be in their presence,” he said. “They have left a legacy for our Army and our nation to follow.”

Colorado Shooting Claims Lives of Sailor, Airman

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Yesterday’s mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has claimed the lives of two U.S. service members, according to military officials.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, 27, of Crystal Lake, Ill., and Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress died from injuries sustained in the incident, officials said.

One other sailor was treated for injuries and released at the scene, according to a U.S. Navy news release issued today. Both sailors were from a unit that belongs to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet, located at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo.

Childress, who also worked at Buckley, died at the scene of the attacks, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Miller said today.

"I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer --he was an outstanding shipmate," Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer's commanding officer, stated in the Navy release. "A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John's family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy."

Larimer joined the Navy on June 16, 2011, and was a cryptologic technician third class, and had been stationed in Aurora since October 2011, the release said.

Suspected gunman James Holmes allegedly killed at least 12 people and wounded 59 others early July 20 during the midnight premier of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, a suburb of Denver.

In his weekly video message to the nation today, President Barack Obama asked citizens this weekend to take “some time for prayer and reflection -- for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of the less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities on a daily basis.”

“Let us keep all these Americans in our prayers,” Obama added. “And to the people of Aurora, may the Lord bring you comfort and healing in the hard days to come.”

Carter: U.S., Japan Both ‘Thinking Big’ on Strategy

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told reporters here today that as the United States rebalances its defense strategy toward the Asia-Pacific, “our central and anchoring” ally, Japan, also is beginning a strategic shift.

The deputy secretary, who arrived here July 20 as part of a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour, has met with Japanese government leaders including Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe. Carter said those meetings left him feeling Japan’s government leaders are expanding their strategic thinking “both functionally and geographically.”

The deputy secretary spoke here during a press briefing with a number of regional media representatives. He said U.S. leaders welcome Japan’s growing strategic interests, and will “work with the government of Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to realize that vision.”

“We’re both, in a sense, thinking big and thinking strategically at the same time,” he added. “That has great potential.”

Carter noted his visit to Asia-Pacific nations, which will also include stops in Thailand, India and South Korea, follows similar trips by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Those visits, Carter noted, focused on articulating the new strategy, which the president announced in January. His own presence here, he added, is aimed at getting the gears turning.

“They sent me here because my job as the chief management officer of the Department of Defense is to implement that vision,” the deputy secretary said. “I came to this region to meet with our friends and partners and allies -- [and] to meet with and assess our own forces throughout the region -- with an eye to carrying out that turning of the strategic corner.”

Carter said while growth is slowing in the United States’ defense budget, the necessary resources are available to fund the new Asia-Pacific focus.

“All of the capacity that has been tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 10 years is capacity that we can focus now on the Asia-Pacific region, and that’s a tremendous amount of capability,” he said.

Within the existing defense budget, Carter added, “We are shifting the weight of our innovation and investment from counterinsurgency-type warfare to the kinds of capabilities that are most relevant to the Asia-Pacific theater.”

He noted putting the strategy in place is “just a matter of making it happen, and deciding which specific things to do.”

Defense leaders are determined to make those decisions in consultation with U.S. friends and allies, the deputy secretary said.

Carter said Japan is America’s central regional ally and has been for many decades.

“Naturally I come here first, to Tokyo,” he said.

The U.S. and Japan, he added, have “tremendous momentum in many, many areas: joint planning, technology sharing, [and] joint exercises and training.”

Carter traveled to Japan from Guam. He noted that Guam, an island U.S. territory, offers important training opportunities for both U.S. and Japanese forces.

“In both of our countries, it becomes more and more difficult to do the kind of training that requires access to wide areas of territory,” he said. “And that is possible in Guam, so that’s a great opportunity for both of us.”

Carter added that Guam is also important to both nations as a consequence of the “2+2” agreement U.S. and Japanese defense and diplomatic leaders signed in April.

Under that agreement, nearly 5,000 U.S. Marines currently stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa will transfer to Guam, while the United States will return to Japan much of the land in Okinawa those forces now use.

“The 2+2 agreement with respect to the movement of Marines to Guam was a great milestone,” Carter said. “From my point of view I’m very optimistic that there’s momentum on both sides to implement the agreement. I think that’s the way forward.”

The U.S. and Japan have long debated how to relocate many of the Marines on Guam, Carter said, noting the issue was settled “by the 2+2 agreement and I think that is a very good thing.”

Carter added that Guam represents more than just a new site for the rotational deployment of Marines.

“There’s a large Air Force base, there’s a large Navy base; Japanese forces have been to each and exercised from each, and those are important capabilities irrespective of the Marine Corps issue,” he said.

Carter has also taken part on discussions with the new commander of U.S. Forces Japan, Air Force Lt. Gen. Salvatore A. Angelella, who took command July 20. The deputy secretary told reporters the general “will be a great partner for the government of Japan.”

In every way, the deputy secretary said, there is a lot of forward progress in the U.S.-Japanese alliance.

“It’s a great time to be here, [and a] great time of new purpose and new horizons,” Carter said.