Share This Article

Former Army Captain Receives Medal of Honor

President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor, America’s highest valor award, to former U.S. Army Captain William D. Swenson at a White House ceremony October 15, 2013. Swenson, who left the Army in 2011, received the medal for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the 2009 Battle of Ganjgal in Kunar province, Afghanistan. He is the second person to be awarded the Medal of Honor for that engagement (Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer received it in 2011) and the sixth living recipient (and first living Army officer) to receive it for actions occurring after the Vietnam War.

On September 8, 2009, Swenson was an embedded adviser to the Afghan National Border Police, Task Force Phoenix, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, in support of 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Around sunrise that day, a column of Afghan soldiers and their American advisers were winding their way up a narrow trail toward the village of Ganjgal to meet with Afghan elders. Just as they reached the village, they were ambushed by more than 60 well-armed and well-positioned enemy fighters.

Insurgents surrounded three of the Marines and a Navy corpsman as rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machinegun fire pounded the Americans from three sides. Swenson called in fire support, but his initial requests were denied because he and his team were too close to the village.

Upon learning that Sergeant 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook was injured, Swenson risked his life to come to his aid. “Will breaks across 50 meters of open space, bullets biting all around,” said Obama at the ceremony. “Lying on his back, he presses a bandage to Kenneth’s wounds with one hand and calls for a Medevac with the other, trying to keep his buddy calm.” Swenson continued fighting the enemy and put his life in danger once again to get Westbrook to the Medevac.

Swenson then drove an unarmored vehicle straight into the kill zone to rescue the injured Afghan soldiers. He went back into the path of enemy fire once more when he and a Humvee crew recovered the four fallen service members. “Will and the others carry them out, one by one,” said Obama. “They bring their fallen brothers home.”

The service members killed were Marine Gunnery Sergeant Edwin Johnson, Marine 1st Lieutenant Michael Johnson, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Aaron Kenefick, and Navy Corpsman Petty Officer 3d Class James Layton. Nine Afghan National Security Forces personnel died as well. Although Westbrook survived the battle thanks to Swenson’s heroic actions, he died a month later from complications and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal in April 2013.

Swenson said the honor of his medal is for all who served that day and for the families of those who were killed in the battle. “The value of an award is truly what we as a nation put into it, what we value it as,” he said. “This award is earned with a team, a team of our finest Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners standing side by side.”

– From a press release by Army News Service.

Marine EOD Team Leader Receives Silver Star

Staff Sergeant Daniel W. Ridgeway, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team leader with 2d EOD Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2d Marine Logistics Group, became the 41st Marine to be awarded the Silver Star medal for combat in Afghanistan. He received America’s third-highest valor award in a ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C., for his heroism in combat in 2011 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

According to the award citation, Ridgeway crawled on his hands and knees to clear a 40- meter path to reach a fellow Marine struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). He treated the injured comrade and then turned him over to a corpsman for continued care. Ridgeway then began clearing a 100-by-100-meter landing zone so the wounded man could be evacuated. After the evacuation, the unit came under fire, and Ridgeway cleared more paths for his team and disarmed five additional IEDs.

“What [Ridgeway] did for the Marine Corps and his fellow Marine was absolutely selfless,” said Major General Michael G. Dana, the assistant deputy commandant for logistics at Headquarters Marine Corps, who was commanding general of 2d Marine Logistics Group (Forward) during Ridgeway’s deployment. “His actions reflect the best that EOD brings to the fight.”

Ridgeway said, “I can’t put into words how much this ceremony means to me as well as my family.” He fought back tears as he gave thanks to his mentor, Gunnery Sergeant Ralph “E.J.” Pate, an EOD technician who was killed in action in 2011. He said of Pate, “He gave me the training and tools I needed to disarm IEDs as if it were easy.”

– From a story by Lance Corporal Shawn Valosin, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

U.S. Military Loses an Old Friend

The United States military lost an old friend and staunch supporter when former Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) passed away October 28, 2013, at age 81. First elected U.S. representative in 1976, Skelton, a native of Lexington, Mo., served in Congress 34 years, which included a term as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Skelton was passionate about history and America’s armed forces, and he was particularly noted as a champion of professional military education. He considered the study of military history to be one of the bedrocks of military education, a theme he often emphasized during his frequent visits to military installations and training centers, such as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he was a popular guest speaker.

Skelton was a presidential appointee to the American Battle Monuments Commission, which has responsibility for U.S. military cemeteries overseas. He also was chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission that plans the events and activities for the 100th anniversary of the 1914-18 war.

In 2012, the United States Military Academy presented Skelton with the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award in recognition of his record of outstanding service to the nation. Indeed, the award is a fitting tribute to a dedicated public servant whose life exemplified West Point’s motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Rest in peace, old friend.

PT-305 Restoration Project

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is in the midst of a multiyear project to restore PT-305, a  U.S. Navy patrol-torpedo boat that served in the Mediterranean Theater in 1943-45. During its combat service, the PT boat participated in the invasions of Elba (June 1944) and southern France (Operation Dragoon, August 1944), and it sank German and Italian enemy vessels.

PT-305 was manufactured in 1943 by Higgins Industries in New Orleans, the company best known for making the World War II amphibious landing craft that proved so vital to Allied victory in the war. About 30 volunteers are meticulously restoring PT-305 to its wartime condition (everything except weapons will be fully operational), and when completed it will be Coast Guard certified for passenger cruises.

For more information about PT-305’s history and the ongoing restoration, and for the opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation to support this project and the National World War II Museum, visit

– Submitted by Gerald Swick, Weider History Group Senior Online Editor.

Civil War Union Officer’s Presentation-Grade Sword

On May 23-24, 1865, as the Grand Armies of the Republic passed in review from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue, Civil War Union Army 1st Lieutenant Oscar D. McMillan was in obscure Hedgesville, W.V., 85 miles northwest of the events taking place in the nation’s capital. Amid the monotony of camp life, he wrote to his sister, imagining the Grand Review spectacle: “I suppose it was a magnificent sight, there is something so exhilarating in the thought of marching home as conquerors after four years of war and strife.”

McMillan’s men in Company C, 1st Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Cavalry, began mustering out the very next day, but not before giving McMillan a token of their appreciation. Days earlier, they had presented him with a sash, belt and a magnificent engraved and inscribed sword. Later donated by the McMillan family to the U.S. Army as one of several items associated with Oscar McMillan, the sword today is part of the Army’s core collection held at Fort Belvoir, Va.

McMillan’s heavily ornamented sword resembles the Model 1850 Staff and Field Officer’s Sword. Its hilt has a gilded brass knuckle-bow with floral designs and the ciphers “U.S.” Its silver-plated brass grip features a standing figure of liberty wielding a sword and shield. The quillon forms into a handsome American eagle’s head. The pommel, shaped as a Phrygian helmet, is decorated with floral sprays and an American eagle with upswept wings, clutching an escutcheon. The pommel rim is surrounded by small ruby-red stones.

The sword’s German blade is etched and gilt-washed on both sides. The ricasso is marked “W./CLAUBERG/ SOLINGEN.” Although Victorian era in date, the blade etchings retain patriotic emblems of the earlier Federal period, such as a circle of stars, floral panoplies, and the American eagle atop an escutcheon superimposed on an anchor. There are also two flags, a bugle, two drums and a shield. The reverse of the blade features a panel with the motto “Always Ready” and “U.S.” in large letters.

The silver-plated scabbard is fitted with heavy furnishings depicting floral designs and stands of arms. The drag features a standing uniformed Union soldier. The reverse sides are delicately engraved with floral designs. The scabbard throat, or upper band, bears the inscription: “Presented to /1st LIEUT. OSCAR D. McMILLAN/BY/the members of/Comp’y. C/Cole’s Md. Cavalry/As a token of/esteem and/respect.”

– Submitted by Colonel (Ret.) Robert Dalessandro and Dieter Stenger, Curator, U.S. Army Center of Military History.

For information about the National Museum of the U.S. Army, slated to open in 2019, visit

The Eisenhower Foundation

The Eisenhower Foundation states that its mission is to “honor and champion the relevance today of the life and leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower through compelling programs and events that celebrate his legacy.” This non-profit organization supports the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kan.

On June 6, 2014 – the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion “Ike” led – the foundation will launch a project to fund the largest expansion of the library and museum in its half-century history. Readers are encouraged to make a tax-deductible donation to this worthy cause at

Arlington National Cemetery’s 150th Anniversary

One of the most enduring and revered legacies of the American Civil War turns 150 years old this May. Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of American military personnel who served from the Revolutionary War to today’s 21stcentury conflicts, was established in 1864 as a burial site for Union Army soldiers. Arlington Cemetery is located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., on the grounds of the former Arlington House estate. At the start of the Civil War, the estate was owned by Mary Anna Custis Lee (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington), who lived there with her husband, Robert E. Lee. It was occupied by Union soldiers in May 1861.

The cemetery’s 150th anniversary events begin May 13, 2014, with a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Union Army Private William Henry Christman of Pennsylvania, the first military burial at Arlington. Other events, including guided tours, continue throughout May and June and conclude with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on June 15, the day in 1864 that Arlington was officially established as a national cemetery by Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs.

To learn more about the cemetery’s history and the 150th anniversary events, visit

National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial

2014 marks the first year of the centennial of World War I (1914-18), making the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., a “must-visit” destination this year. It is America’s only museum dedicated to sharing the stories of the Great War through the eyes of those who lived it. Interactive displays, films and eyewitness testimonies guide visitors through one of the largest collections of World War I artifacts in the world.

Dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926, the Liberty Memorial was designated the National World War I Museum by Congress in 2004. A multimillion-dollar renovation was completed in 2006, resulting in a 32,000-square-foot facility that contains state-of-the-art exhibits, multi-purpose conference rooms/classrooms, and a research center/library (over 60,000 archival documents and 6,000 books), museum store, and café. Also in 2006, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark.

To learn more about the museum or to purchase a tax-deductible membership, visit