Originally, in the United States, each branch of the service had their own day to celebrate their service, but on August 31, 1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Days. There was a good reason for it. The combination coincided with the unification of the three branches of the service under one agency…the Department of Defense. Man countries have an Armed Forces Day, and they are all done a little differently. In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May, which is near the end of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May, or the fourth Saturday if the month begins on a Sunday, such as in 2016. Following the creation of Armed Forces Day in 1949, the holiday was first observed on May 20, 1950.
In his speech proclaiming the day as Armed Forces Day, on February 27, 1950, President Truman stated, “Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, toward the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.” Of course, there is more to planning a holiday that a day and a speech. The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows. The longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade in the United States is held in Bremerton, Washington.
There were a few glitches, however. The unique training schedules of the National Guard and Reserve units make the specific Saturday celebration difficult for these branches, so they have adapted to celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in the month of May. Every nation needs to celebrate the military forces. Where would we be without a strong military. As President Truman said, “It is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.”
Each year, Armed Forces Day theme is different, because of course, each year more and more has changed. The very first theme was “Teamed for Defense.” Over the years, other themes have included Appreciation of a Nation; Arsenal of Freedom and Democracy; Dedication and Devotion; Deter if Possible, Fight if Necessary; Freedom; Freedom Through Unity; Guardians of Peace; Lasting Peace; Liberty; and Patriotism. In Washington DC, 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans marched past the president and his party. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day “under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types.” Today, Armed Forces Day is celebrated in American communities and on military bases throughout the world with parades, picnics, shopping discounts, festivals, and parties. On May 19, 2017, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the Armed Forces Day holiday, marking the 70th anniversary since the creation of the Department of Defense.
It happened during the Korean War. The First Marine Division was in the middle of heavy fighting in the area of Chosin Mountain Reservoir, and the temperatures were subfreezing. The marines had been fighting long enough to have run out of 60mm mortar ammo. That was not going to make for a successful battle, so the marines called for the 60mm mortar ammo, which had the code name “Tootsie Rolls.” The unfortunate mistake was that the radio operator, didn’t have the code sheets. The radio operator didn’t know what to do, since the request sounded so urgent, so he called in the order.
Now, just imagine…you are a marine in the middle of a battle, in freezing weather, our of ammo, and headquarters drops in pallet after pallet of Tootsie Rolls!! Well, who can resist Tootsie Rolls…right. So while it wasn’t ammunition, the pallets weren’t the ammunition he really needed, Tootsie Rolls did supply the calories the men needed. They weren’t exactly nutritious, they did give the men energy, which was needed at the time. It is also possible that the Tootsie Rolls helped to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures. They also learned they could use warmed Tootsie Rolls to plug bullet holes, sealing them as they refroze. Interesting idea.
The fighting had been going on for over two weeks. The 15,000 man division suffered 3,000 killed in action, 6,000 wounded and thousands of severe frostbite cases. The battle was a serious matter, but they accomplished their goal and destroyed several Chinese divisions in the process. Many credited their very survival to Tootsie Rolls. Surviving Marines called themselves “The Chosin Few.”
Still, the radio operator had made a serious error, and they couldn’t just let that big an error slide. I can picture it now. The jokes that the poor operator had to face. In fact they probably came up with a Tootsie Roll nickname for him, or maybe they went a different route. He might have been designated a hero for saving them with all those Tootsie Rolls…especially if they sent ammo when the error was brought to light. So, while you might not have known it, Tootsie Rolls hold significance with the Marine Corps. I guess now you know what. Some have even called them the “Tootsie Roll Marines.”
My grandnephew, Ethan Hadlock is a sweet boy. He is always ready to hand out the hugs to all the people he cares about. Ethan is the oldest of my sister, Allyn and her husband, Chris Hadlock’s grandchildren, and the only boy, so he is pretty protective of his little girl cousins, Adelaide Sawdon and McKenzie Moore, and his sister, Aurora Hadlock. It’s what being the boy in the family is all about. Ethan has a soft heart and it shows in everything he does. Ethan turned 9 years old today. I have a really hard time thinking that he could possibly be 9 years old already. He is a good student and works really hard in his classes. He is a really great reader, and he has been known to practice his reading on his little sister, so as he practiced, and she got to hear the story. She is learning to read too now, so I don’t suppose he has to read to her much these days. Ethan is such a kind boy that he won the Kindness Award at his school.
Ethan has lofty goals for a boy in the 3rd grade. He has decided that he wants to be a Marine, so he can kill bad guys. I never would have expected the Marines, but his desire to fight crime and terrorism is not surprising, because Ethan’s grandpa, Chris Hadlock is a retired Casper Police Department Lieutenant, and his uncle, Jason Sawdon is a Wyoming Highway Patrol Officer. Both of them are decorated, and I know that Ethan is very proud of them. After his time in the Marines, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ethan become a cop in some branch of law enforcement. Sometimes this kind of thing runs in families, and it almost like it is in their blood.
Of course, Ethan doesn’t spend all his time working toward becoming a Marine. He does have to spend some time being a kid. Ethan, like many kids, likes video games, and his favorite is Minecraft. For those, like me, who had no idea what the game is all about, it is a game about digging (mine) and building (craft). Basically you build buildings, so similar to construction. Maybe Ethan will become an architect. I think he would be good at that too. Ethan is really a kid with a wide variety of interests. I suppose that comes from being such a good student. He has taken the time to broaden his horizons, so to speak.
Ethan has a great sense of humor, and loves to pick on his Great Aunt Caryn, by flipping my long hair on top of my head from time to time, and then pretending that it wasn’t him. When I can’t catch him at it, he just laughs and laughs. I’m quite sure that he uses his teasing prowess on his aunts, uncles, and grandparents too, if I know him. In all, Ethan is probably a normal 9 year old, but in many ways I think he is pretty exceptional. Today is Ethan’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Ethan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Sometimes, the best plans can have the most disastrous results, and when you find out that it was all unnecessary…it can be almost too much to bear. World War II was a difficult war. It had so many fronts and so many nations were involved. One division might invade an area with the plan of becoming a support unit for another division, who was going to be attacking another area. Such was the case on September 14, 1944, when the United States 1st Marine Division landed on the island of Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands in the Pacific, as part of a larger operation to provide support for General Douglas MacArthur, who was preparing to invade the Philippines. The Palaus Islands are a part of the Caroline Islands. It had been ordered that they be taken from Germany and given to Japan as one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War I. Now, it was thought that they were needed to help with this latest invasion.
There were those who felt that this invasion was not necessary, and was in fact, dangerous. The operation was called Operation Stalemate. The problem was that the United States military was unfamiliar with the islands. That made them sitting ducks. Admiral William Halsey argued against Operation Stalemate, which included the Army invasion of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies. He believed that MacArthur would meet minimal resistance in the Philippines, making this operation unnecessary, especially given the risks involved. Going into a jungle without knowing where the enemy might be hiding is dangerous. The term, “know thine enemy” comes to mind. The Japanese were sneaky, and that would prove to be a big problem.
The Japanese defenders of the island were buried quite deep in the jungle, and the target intelligence given the Americans was faulty. When the division landed, the Marines met little immediate resistance, which I’m sure gave them a sense of confidence that would very soon be destroyed. The lack of resistance was a ploy. Shortly after the Marines landed, Japanese machine guns opened fire, knocking out more than two dozen landing craft. Japanese tanks and troops followed, as the startled 1st and 5th Marine regiments fought for their lives. Jungle caves produced even more Japanese soldiers. Within one week of the invasion, the Marines lost 4,000 men. By the time it was all over, that number would surpass 9,000. The Japanese lost more than 13,000 men. Flamethrowers and bombs finally subdued the island for the Americans, but in the end, it was pointless. MacArthur invaded the Philippines without need of Army or Marine protection from either Peleliu or Morotai.
My nephew, Steve Spethman, who married my niece, Jenny Masterson, is a man who has done many things, and changed in many ways. I have known Steve since he was twelve years old, but not well. At that time he seemed like any other twelve year old boy, a little too careless, and far to sure that they are bulletproof. Some boys go on to become average guys, who are fortunate enough to grow to adulthood, in spite of themselves, but Steve really went on to become exceptional. Steve grew up with the knowledge that his family had served in the military and also with a dad who liked guns. So it was natural to expect that he would also like guns. I suppose that would really be an understatement in Steve’s case, because he loves guns. Steve and Jenny are both very much into guns, and have taught their boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac to use them safely too. I know that their daughter, Aleesia will also learn to shoot when she is old enough. What I find particularly interesting is that Steve is also a gun builder and gun repairman. I would have no idea how to go about building or repairing a gun, but for Steve it comes naturally. And he has several guns that he built himself that are very cool guns.
Steve is a patriot in every aspect of the word. He is very loyal to this country, and the values it was founded on. The natural thing for Steve to do after high school was to join the National Guard. Like most military men, Steve doesn’t talk much about his military service. I know that sometimes, doing what you have to do, isn’t always pretty, and often no something the men and women can’t or don’t want to talk about, or even think about ever again, so they bottle it up inside. I don’t know if Steve saw any combat or not, so if not, maybe he just doesn’t think anyone would be interested, but I think we would. Steve loves war history, of any war, but has a special interest in World War II, as do I. He has countless movies and documentaries on the subject of wars, and especially the great battles of wars. I know the weapons of warfare are of great interest to him too.
Steve’s number one priority is God, and following that, his family. He is very different from the boy I met when he was twelve. He is very different from the carefree kid who was quite sure he was bulletproof. Steve may not be bulletproof these days, but he is very protective of his family. And that says it all to me. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My nephew, Steve Spethman, who married my niece, Jenny Masterson Spethman, is probably one of the most helpful people I know. In the almost thirteen years they have been married, Steve has proven himself to be not only a great husband and father, but such a help to our entire family. He is not afraid of hard work or heavy lifting, and we have counted on him many times in those years. Steve’s strength has been there for us from helping with my mom, Collene Spencer, to building decks and such, to simply reaching that thing we needed that was out of our reach. Steve could always be counted on. He never acted like it was a bother or a burden to help out either. He simply stepped in where needed, and that made all the difference. My mom said more than once just how safe she felt when Steve was helping her, and that is saying something, because when you don’t feel safe to stand or walk, it is very important to have someone there who is able to help.
Steve’s military service was in the Marines, and that left him with a great interest in the different wars. I think his favorite one might be the same as mine…World War II. He loves all things military, from planes to medals, but World War II is of particular interest. As my sisters and I have been going through our parents’ things, we found the military uniforms dad had and the medals he earned. Finding them and knowing what they were for are two different things, however. Steve researched what they were for. That gave us a whole new insight into all that our dad did in the war. Just looking at medals, or even looking at the discharge papers, doesn’t really tell you what really took place with each one. Of course, to really understand, we will each have to research the events of that war in which our dad took part, but Steve has given us a place to begin. I love talking with Steve about military things, because he has a unique perspective on it all. Having never been in the service, I would really have no idea about it all, other than the research I have done and the conversations I have been fortunate enough to have with military personnel or retired military personnel over the years.
Of course, Steve’s top priority is his family. His wife, Jenny, who is my niece is the love of his life. He has five wonderful children, Xander, Zachary, Isaac, Laila (who lives in Heaven), and Aleesia. Steve loves his wife and kids more than life itself. Steve is a great dad. He loves doing things with his kids. He has taught his boys to shoot, and to be safe with a gun, and plans to go hunting with eldest son, Xander this year. It will be a great adventure for them. It is always a wonderful thing when you see someone who is willing to give their all for someone else. With so many people these days in selfish mode, it is almost unusual to see someone in selfless mode. Our world has become one of “what can you do for me” people. Steve is not like that. He is a “what can I do for you person” and he always has been. How very refreshing that is. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!