It's easy to look past the human experience of military history when looking at big moves on a map or summarizing a two month battle in one sentence. For me, diving into the individual nature of military history is where we can best understand just what these warriors experienced.
That's the goal of War Stories; to document and better understand our military history through the lens of individual actions.
Hope you enjoy and please let me know if there is a story or individual you would like to see covered, would be happy to take it on.
CPT Leonard Schroeder (F/2-8IN, 4th ID) Utah Beach, D-Day 06JUN1944
06JUN1944: Commanding F Company, 2-8 Infantry of the 4th Infantry Division, CPT Leonard Shroeder had long been preparing for the eventual assault on fortress Europe. His battalion was tasked with leading the first wave onto Utah Beach, one of five key beaches of Operation Overlord.
Making their way across the English Channel, Shroeder and his men climbed down into their assault craft in the dark morning hours of June 6th. As the naval and air bombardment finished, Shroeder's craft made a beeline for shore and at 6:28 a.m., two minutes ahead of schedule, his craft was the first to disembark on Utah Beach.
Dropped with over 100 yards of water to wade through before dry land, Shroeder held his weapons high and charged ahead, moving as quickly as possible under enemy fire. By the time he reached the sand, Schroeder was the first Allied Soldier to come ashore on D-Day.
Leading from the front all morning, Shroeder was shot twice in the left arm but he didn't realize it until much later when he nearly passed out from blood loss. He was evacuated for treatment and would survive the war.
Shroeder went on to serve in the Army for 30 years, retiring in 1971 at the rank of Colonel.
PVT John Steele (505th PIR, 82nd ABN DIV) D-Day 06JUN1944
06JUN1944: Jumping with the 505th PIR of the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day, PVT John Steele found himself coming down near the middle of St. Mere-Eglise. As a nearby fire burned, his fellow paratroopers were cut down helplessly as he neared the ground. Working to avoid landing in the fire, his chute became tangled on the church steeple in town
Steele dropped his knife when trying to cut himself down and entered a waiting game, would the Americans or Germans find him first? A few hours later, two German soldiers found Steele, cut him down and took him prisoner. After a few days in captivity he escaped and made his way back to American lines where he was evacuated for treatment of wounds sustained on D-Day.
Steele would rejoin his unit, jump into Holland during Operation Market Garden and fight with his brothers through the end of the war.
In a wonderful tribute to the Allied forces, if you visit St. Mere-Eglise today, you will find a parachute with a mannequin paratrooper hanging from the church, just as Steele did the morning of June 6th, 1944.
CPT Frank Lillyman (Pathfinder, 101st Airborne Division) D-Day, 06JUN1944
06JUN1944: CPT Frank Lillyman boarded his aircraft in late on the night of June 5th, 1944. In a few short hours, he would be the first American Soldier to land in France, kicking off Operation Overlord.
Lillyman commanded the Pathfinder Company of the 101st Airborne Division. His daunting task was to lead a team that would land nearly 30 minutes before the main assault and mark the drop zones for the inbound pilots. Entering enemy airspace, Lillyman's plane dropped low and at only 450 feet elevation, he and his men exited the craft into the dark Normandy sky.
Landing at 12:15 on the morning of June 6th, Lillyman and his men got right to work. Recognizing they were dropped nearly a mile from their intended target, they improvised. Finding a suitable location, he and his pathfinders went about marking the DZ in the little time that they had. A nearby church steeple caught his eye as a great location for their Eureka homing beacon. After breaking the incredible news to the priest that he had been liberated, Lillyman's team set up the beacon and began their wait.
The team then learned of an enemy 20mm antiaircraft gun near their landing zone that could devastate the incoming paratroopers. Lillyman moved to the farm where a Frenchman pointed inside to the enemy location. After eliminating the soldier, the sound of American aircraft could be heard in the distance.
Lillyman and his pathfinders turned on their lights to guide the aircraft in and at 12:57 the first wave landed, the invasion of Normandy was underway.
CPT Frank Lillyman would be called upon later that day to again mark landing zones for the much needed glider troops and their supplies. During these landings, Lillyman was wounded and sent back to England, ending his D-Day.
Lillyman would work his way back to the front lines and survived the war. He stayed in the Army retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1968 and passed away in 1971.
SFC Christopher Speer (1st SFOD-D) 27JUL2002, Khost, Afghanistan
27JUL2002: Serving as a medic with the Army's 1st SFOD-D in Afghanistan, SFC Christopher Speer was forward deployed as the hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership continued. Just days prior to this mission, Speer walked into a minefield to rescue two wounded Afghan children. After applying tourniquets, he hailed a military vehicle and got them to a hospital, saving both of their lives.
Roughly a week later, Speer and his team were called to investigate a compound of interest. The Americans were dressed in traditional Afghan garb to better blend with the population and decrease their odds of being detected. As they neared the building, their interpreters went ahead to sort of 'call out' to those inside, hopefully securing a surrender. Instead, the enemy opened fire and cut down the two interpreters.
As they returned fire, a US Soldier ran forward to pull the two wounded interpreters to safety. As grenades landed all around, Speer and his men poured down fire into the compound. Over the next 45 minutes, they coordinated attacks from Apache's, A-10s and eventually ended the engagement with two 500-pound bombs from an F-18.
Speer and team moved forward to conduct a battle damage assessment and collect any available intelligence. As they entered the bombed out compound a lone enemy survivor appeared and threw a grenade. The detonation sent shrapnel across the room and severely wounded Speer in the head. The medics got to work on both Speer and the attacker.
Sent to Bagram and eventually Germany for treatment, SFC Christopher Speer would die of his wounds on 06AUG2002 at the age of 28.
TSgt John Chapman (24th Special Tactics Squadron) 04MAR2002 Battle of Takur Ghar
04MAR2002: Planning to insert on a mountaintop in support of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, TSgt John Chapman's aircraft was hit by enemy fire. Buckling from the explosion, PO1 Neil Roberts was thrown from the aircraft, landing near al-Qaeda positions while the Chinook was forced to land four miles away.
Coordinating their pick up and reinsertion to the top of Takur Ghar, TSgt Chapman volunteered for the mission to rescue their stranded comrade. As soon as they landed on the mountaintop, the entire seven man team came under heavy enemy fire. Without regard for his own safety, T/Sgt Chapman charged forward, with Senior Chief Britt Slabinski close behind, and cleared the nearest bunker killing two enemy fighters in the process. Now with a little breathing room for their SEAL team, Slabinski and Chapman began their assault towards the second bunker. At this point, TSgt Chapman was shot twice and presumed dead by his teammates. As enemy fire intensified, Slabinski made the call to begin movement back down the hillside to a more tenable position.
Approximately 30 minutes after his team moved down the mountaintop, Chapman regained consciousness and began his one man stand against at least twenty al-Qaeda fighters. For nearly an hour, Chapman engaged the enemy positions, fending off multiple charges and engaging in hand to hand combat. With his SEAL team still sustaining casualties and heavy enemy fire, Chapman stayed out front providing cover as best he could.
Suffering from multiple wounds, Chapman's final act was to stand and suppress the enemy positions as reinforcements were nearly shot down and landed mere meters behind his position. TSgt Chapman's sacrifice and continued determination allowed for the survival of his SEAL team as well as countless Rangers that landed with the QRF. Without him bearing the brunt of the enemy attack, American casualties likely would have been substantially worse that day.
For his actions Technical Sergeant John Chapman would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first in the war in Afghanistan.
MSG Anthony Pryor (5th SFG) 23-24JAN2002
23-24JAN2001: As American special operations forces continued their search for al-Qaeda and bin Laden in Afghanistan, one target after another was hit. Having already conducted their fair share of missions, MSG Anthony Pryor and his fellow Soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces were tasked clearing a site in Oruzgon, just outside of Kandahar.
As MSG Pryor and his men approached one of the two target compounds they received enemy fire. Quickly moving through the gunfire to cover, MSG Pryor and his men began clearing rooms, quickly eliminating enemy threats at every turn. As Pryor and a fellow Soldier started to enter a room, an enemy fighter ran out, pulling the attention of Pryor's partner. Now in the room himself, Pryor saw three enemy fighters firing out windows to his men outside.
Working methodically, Pryor engaged the three men before a fourth was on his back. The enemy broke his night vision goggles off, dislocated his shoulder, and was clawing at his eyes. Without hesitation, Pryor grabbed the man and threw him to the ground, disabling him quickly in hand to hand combat. As the enemy fighter continued to resist, Pryor pulled his sidearm and eliminated the threat.
MSG Pryor recovered his equipment scattered in the fight and returned to his men to continue the mission at hand. The raid resulted in 16 enemy fighters killed, 27 captured and a trove of valuable intelligence. For his actions in single-handedly eliminating four enemy fighters at close range, MSG Anthony Pryor was awarded the Silver Star.
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Awesome podcast good descriptive details keep it up this should get more popular for sure
Great background content and love the small history lesson in each episode!
I stumbled across the podcast recently. It is wonderful. I have enjoyed and been inspired by every episode