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Marine Scout-Sniper Awarded Navy Cross

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Joshua L. Moore received the Navy Cross, America’s second-highest valor award, from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a ceremony held November 1, 2013, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The award was in recognition of Moore’s extraordinary heroism while he was serving as a scout with a scout-sniper platoon, 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On March 14, 2011, while in a hide-site northeast of Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, the shooter-observer teams with Moore’s section were compromised when they were discovered by insurgents. The men were forced to return to a nearby compound they had previously occupied. However, after only a few hours at the compound, the section came under attack.

“Two grenades were thrown over the north wall, and both of them hit me in the back and rolled away,” said Moore. “Fortunately they landed next to each other, and I picked the first one up and threw it out.” He noticed that the second grenade was corroded and knew it wouldn’t explode.

When Moore’s unit came under heavy machine-gun fire that caused several Marine casualties, Moore disregarded his own safety and left the compound to aid the wounded and provide security.

“I looked up, and they were carrying Sergeant [Justin L.] Tygart,” Moore recalled. “At this point we were taking fire, so I had to crawl out of the building and loop round to the north to provide security while they were treating the guys inside the compound.”

After the arrival of the quick reaction force and another sniper section, the Marines successfully suppressed the enemy forces, evacuated the wounded and returned to the patrol base.

“It’s an honor to receive an award like the Navy Cross. But to be honest, I was just doing my job,” Moore explained. “Honestly, I was scared out of my mind, but I knew we had to do everything possible to get everybody home.”

– From a story by Marine Corporal Mel Johnson.

Posthumous Silver Star and Polish Army Medal

Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis, a member of 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was killed while defending Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ghazni in Afghanistan, August 28, 2013. As a result of Ollis’ heroic actions, he was awarded two posthumous medals: the Silver Star, America’s third-highest valor award; and the Polish Army Gold Medal, which honors foreign civilian and military personnel for service to Poland’s armed forces.

The attack, which also killed a Polish soldier and wounded several coalition members, began with the detonation of a vehicle-borne explosive device, followed by 10 insurgents wearing suicide vests breaching the FOB’s perimeter. Additionally, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and small arms fire rained down on the base’s defenders from three directions.

Ollis checked on his men and then headed directly toward the sound of gunfire, joining up with a Polish officer and a Special Forces team. By then, eight of the 10 insurgents had been killed. Shortly thereafter, another attacker was killed, but the last one suddenly emerged from behind some nearby containers.

Ollis moved toward the insurgent and stepped in front of the Polish officer, thereby blocking him from the attacker. When the insurgent’s suicide vest detonated, Ollis was killed. His selfless act, however, had shielded the Polish officer, who later credited Ollis with saving his life.

Lieutenant General Mark A. Milley, commander of International Security Assistance Force, Joint Forces Command, praised Ollis as a great Soldier. He said the battle that day was a “tough fight,” but that the defenders of the base did “extraordinarily well.” He added, “Unfortunately, we lost a great American there from 10th Mountain Division in that attack.”

– From a story by Lisa A. Ferdinando.

Mikhail Kalashnikov (1919-2013)

Russian general and world- renowned small arms designer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov died December 23, 2013, in Izhevsk, Russia, at age 94.

During a long career as a weapons designer, Kalashnikov created over 150 models of automatic rifles and machine guns, but his most famous was the Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 (AK-47) assault rifle. An estimated 100 million AK-47s have been produced, including those manufactured in the USSR/Russia and numerous foreign countries, as well as clandestinely made counterfeit copies. Rugged, reliable and inexpensive to manufacture, the AK-47 was the first of the “AK” series of assault rifles that included the AK-74, AKM and a number of later rifle and machine-gun variants.

Kalashnikov was a Red Army tanker early in World War II, but he was wounded at the Battle of Bryansk in October 1941. During his long hospitalization, he began considering how to design a weapon without the numerous shortcomings his fellow soldiers were experiencing with Soviet small arms in combat against the Germans. After his release from the hospital, he began developing submachinegun designs, which culminated with him winning an assault rifle design competition with his AK-47 prototype in 1946. In 2007, Kalashnikov remarked, “Blame the Nazi Germans for making me a gun designer. … I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery.”

Over the past six decades, Kalashnikov’s ubiquitous assault rifle has been used in conflicts around the world. Today, it continues to be the weapon of choice for insurgents and terrorists. In reference to that fact, in 2009 Kalashnikov stated, “I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists.”

“Wereth 11” Recognition

Two U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania, Jim Gerlach and Chaka Fattah, have introduced a resolution to recognize the service and sacrifice of 11 U.S. Army African-American Soldiers who were captured, tortured and executed by German Waffen SS troops near Wereth, Belgium, December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

The resolution also calls on the Senate Armed Services Committee to revise a 1949 subcommittee report that documented a dozen massacres by Waffen SS troops during the battle but did not include any reference to the “Wereth 11” murders. At least 400 U.S. Soldiers and Belgian civilians were killed by members of a 1st SS Panzer Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” battle group commanded by SS Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Peiper. The most notorious atrocity committed by this unit was the Malmedy Massacre, in which 80 members of Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, 7th Armored Division, were captured and murdered at Baugnez Crossroads, Belgium, on the same day as the Wereth 11 killings.

The Wereth 11 Soldiers were all members of 333d Field Artillery Battalion, which was firing in support of U.S. 106th Infantry Division defending the vital Ardennes road junction at St. Vith, Belgium. When the overpowering German offensive forced the battalion to withdraw, C Battery and Service Battery were ordered to remain behind to continue supporting the infantrymen. German attackers overran the units, but 11 of the battalion’s artillerymen made their way to the hamlet of Wereth. Although a Belgian farmer named Mathias Langer initially sheltered the African-American Soldiers, a Nazi sympathizer tipped off Waffen SS troops to their presence. The men were marched to a nearby pasture, where they were brutally tortured and executed. American troops discovered their mutilated remains two months later.

The Wereth 11 Soldiers killed were Curtis Adams of South Carolina, Mager Bradley of Mississippi, George Davis Jr. of Alabama, Thomas Forte of Mississippi, Robert Green of Georgia, James Leatherwood of Mississippi, Nathaniel Moss of Texas, George Moten of Texas, William Pritchett of Alabama, James Stewart of West Virginia, and Due Turner of Arkansas.

Edward Reep’s Bombing of the Abbey

February 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Italy’s historic Monte Cassino Abbey, often mourned as one of the most significant cultural losses of World War II. Army Artist Edward Reep, who had a reputation for seeking out the action and painting on-site at the front, recorded the event in this frenzied and spontaneous watercolor painting.

The Abbey of Monte Cassino was founded in 529 by St. Benedict. Due to its prominent position, the abbey was of strategic importance throughout history and had been destroyed and rebuilt on several previous occasions. Though many of its treasures had been removed to the Vatican for safekeeping in the months preceding the bombing, the abbey itself was an important historical and sacred site.

Although the abbey was on the Gustav Line, the main line of German resistance, both the Germans and the Allies had pledged not to attack it or use it as a military position. The Allies, however, claiming that the Germans were occupying the building as an observation post, bombed the abbey February 15, 1944. German troops subsequently used its ruins as a defensive position during the next few months.

Reep, recalling his experience, wrote, “It occurred to me at the time that battles are often fought in relatively good weather, for it was a lovely morning when I looked skyward to discover wave after wave of our Flying Fortresses, Marauders, and Mitchell bombers passing overhead.” When the bombs began falling near Reep, he ran for cover and then prepared to paint. He later wrote, “I set up my gear and painted an alla prima watercolor that would have warmed Van Gogh’s heart. In art parlance, ‘alla prima’ means at one time or at one sitting, but I prefer my own definition: that which starts with emotion and ends with emotion.”

Reep’s portrayal of the bombing is indeed a deeply emotional work of art. His use of dark, bold colors for the sky and the landscape contrasts dramatically with the billowing white smoke and the orange fire below. The painting is conspicuously free of people and depicts no bombers in the sky, highlighting instead the destruction of the abbey itself.

Reep explained, “As a soldier-artist, sitting on earth trembling with each great explosion, I never gave a thought to the propriety of the bombing. My concern lay totally with the documentation of the historic event. … My brushstrokes were crude, brusque, tortured. No reworking of this painting was necessary; the frenzied statement would be finished concurrently with the action, and besides, the area was filling with clouds of dust and smoke to make vision impossible. The abbey was now in shambles. Retrospectively, I think of myself as some sort of a nut to have been able to function under those conditions.”

Reep, who was one of the Army’s last surviving World War II combat artists, passed away February 27, 2013, at age 94. His World War II art is part of the Army Art Collection preserved at the Army’s Museum Support Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

– Submitted by Colonel (Ret.) Robert Dalessandro and Sarah Forgey, Art 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

Civil War Trust’s Gettysburg Address Website The Civil War Trust, the United States’ largest non- profit battlefield preservation organization, has launched a website entitled “Behind the Scenes: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address” that provides a fresh perspective on Abraham Lincoln’s famed November 19, 1863, speech during the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa.

Visitors to gettysburg are transported back in time to Lincoln’s November 18 arrival in Gettysburg. The website accomplishes this through the use of audio presentations, videos featuring historian Tim Smith, and more than 60 photographs related to the Gettysburg Address.

Civil War Trust president and ACG advisory board member James Lighthizer said, “At the Trust, we strive to conceive, create and distribute educational offerings that continue to up the ante. This new website will enable people to remember, honor and experience the Gettysburg Address in a manner never before presented, by focusing not only on its history, but also encouraging visitors to do what Lincoln did, see what he saw, and touch what he touched in Gettysburg.”

For more information on the Civil War Trust or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit

Korean War Veterans Memorial Virtual Tour and E-Resources

The Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee has unveiled the Korean War Veterans Memorial Virtual Walking Tour and other e-resources that now make it possible for anyone around the globe to experience the larger-than-life statues of military service members at the Washington, D.C., memorial. This is the first war memorial to be made available electronically to the general public.

In addition to the virtual tour, the website features a Korean War “wiki” where veterans of the 1950-53 war, their families and others can visit to share stories, leave messages of thanks, and remember those who have passed. It also offers an e-encyclopedia that allows people to research topics such as medical advances, the first use of jet fighters in combat, the integration of the military during the war, and combat actions like the Chosin Reservoir battle. Additionally, the website presents video oral histories of veterans discussing their experiences during the war.

These features and many more can be accessed via computer, smartphone or other mobile device by logging on to


Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Armchair General.