From Gary Sinise

“Back in the 80’s I saw first-hand the struggles our Vietnam veterans, some on my wife’s side of our family, were going through when returning from war to a nation that was divided and it stuck with me,” Sinise said. “After the war in Vietnam our veterans did not get the welcome back or the help they so desperately needed following their service.
“I have met too many veterans from the Vietnam war who are fighting those demons still today, and the lack of support they received upon returning home only amplified this pain. When we began deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq I felt there was a role for me to play in trying to ensure that today’s veteran would have the support and appreciation they deserved before, during and after the battle. Since the attacks on September 11th, 2001, almost 3 million Americans have been deployed to war zones across the globe, and this has taken a tremendous toll on our nation’s heroes in terms of both visible and invisible wounds. Nearly 1 out of every 3 of those deployed are dealing with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. An estimated 30% of our nation’s first responders are also experiencing symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress.” – Gary Sinise

All gave some, some gave all never judge a book by it’s cover.

MACV-SOG’S John Kedenburg posthumously receives the Medal of Honor.

On June 14, 1968 Recon Team Nevada was running for it’s life. The team had just had a violent firefight with NVA forces near highway 110 and had a estimated 500 man battalion on their tail.

The team is eventually encircled but due to the leadership of John Kendenburg, the team managed to shoot their way out of the trap. The team resumed their getaway with the NVA hot on their heels. Anytime the SOG men stopped to catch their breath and check their status the enemy caught up and another fierce firefight would ensue. Seeing that this couldn’t continue, Kedenburgh sent his men on ahead of him to an area to be extracted via rope.

As his men went on ahead , Kedenburg fought ” a gallant rear guard action against the pursing enemy” like a one man army. He put up such a aggressive fight that he was able to break contact and join up with the men at the pick up where he learned one of the indigenous team members was missing. Finding a hole in the canopy of the jungle he radioed for the helicopters to drop McGuire rigs for men since landing was not possible and time was running out to find a landing zone.

“A Huey dropped ropes, and lifted away four men. A second Huey dropped ropes. and Kedenburg and his last three men climbed into the four McGuire rigs. Then the NVA troops broke though supporting aerial fire just as RT Nevada’s missing Yard arrived, drawn by the sound of the helicopter.”

Without even thinking about it, Kedenburg unsnapped himself and gave his spot on the McGuire rig to the newly arrived team member and stood guard as he climbed in. “The young Green Beret turned alone to face the horde of onrushing enemy soldiers.”

Witnesses above in the helicopters said they saw Kedenburg kill six NVA soldiers before being hit multiple times and collapsing. The last airstrike went in right across and on top of the fallen Kedenburg.

For his actions John Kedenburg posthumously received the Medal of Honor. His friends said that he was so selfless anyone who knew him would say that his actions were exactly like something he would do.
When John James Kedenberg was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG for short), the air of secrecy was still heavy around the military’s dealings with certain Communist forces in Vietnam. What this means is the teams that were sent on these classified strike missions to uproot Communist control were kept small, and had largely operated on their own. [The covert nature of MACV-SOG also withheld men like Robert Howard from receiving the Medal of Honor]

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New Story:
Kedegnburg was serving with Recon Team Nevada in 1967 when his commander Dan Wagner was killed in action. Having somehow recovered his fallen commander’s body from the battlefield, Kedenburg earned himself the now-vacant leadership role of the Recon Team. Stationed somewhere in Laos, RT Nevada’s mission was to conduct counter-guerrilla operations within territory held by the North Vietnamese army and to impede the Communist movement into South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As was often the case on these sorts of Special Forces missions, the teams were made up of indigenous tribesmen led by US Special Forces advisers. Deep within enemy territory, 6 months into his role of leadership on RT Nevada, Kedenburg’s “shield arm” was put to the ultimate test.

Kedenburg and his men found themselves against near-impossible odds. Infiltrating a particularly hot enemy locale, they were attacked and encircled by a battalion-size force of North Vietnamese soldiers. Kedenberg quickly made the call for a Spare 39 – immediate extraction. Forward air control relayed back to Kedenburg the location of a nearby collection of bomb craters about 600-900 meters above their elevation – the teams extraction zone. Realizing their situation, outnumbered 50-1 and enclosed on all sides, Kedenburg knew there was only one way out (and it wasn’t in a Herbert Pililaau-style fight to the death). Intense firefight ensued as Kedenburg ordered his men to break to the extraction point, himself holding their rear-guard to give them the protection of his cover fire. Success in war does not come without cost, as one of the South Vietnamese team members had been lost from the sight of the team and presumed dead. Kedenburg and his men, having broken free from the enclosure of overwhelming enemy pressure, found their way to their extraction point intact.

Kedenburg knew one thing to be true – there wasn’t much time. The Team Leader set his men into a defensive perimeter around the craters. The plan was to airlift the team out to safety, the area was too hot for the helicopters to touch down. RT Leader John Kedenburg did what he could to secure the zone for extraction, calling in airstrikes from Tactical Air Support to allow the helicopters time to enter the LZ and airlift them to safety. He knew there would be time enough for a one and only attempt at their rescue. The first chopper came in and airlifted the first of their men to safety without any problems. Kedenburg and the three remaining South Vietnamese soldiers awaited their turn, continuing to stave off the ensuing NVA battalion with all they could. The second extraction unit arrived, the last soldiers on the ground saddled themselves within the slings and prepared for liftoff – that was when the Gods of War saw fit to test the integrity of Kedenberg’s warrior spirit.

Emerging from the bush like Sgt. Elias Gordon in the movie Platoon, out came the Vietnamese team member Kedenerg and his men had presumed dead. Unlike Willem Dafoe’s character in the fictional anti-war film, this man was real (and sometimes reality is more unbelievable than any fiction). He had a real life, he had a real chance to board that helicopter, and he had a real warrior guarding his back. Kedenburg, filled with valor (and likely adrenaline), did what you’re probably hoping he would have done. He untethered himself from the sling of the airlift and gave the last remaining line to safety up to his still-living team member. With his men secure, the Team Leader ordered the pilots to take off. Kedenburg stayed behind in that crater, his feet firmly planted in the ground – poised to bear his shield one last time.

As though in some sort of symbolic crescendo, the final airstrike of Kedenburg’s orders had been directed right onto his position. John Kedenburg, in his final moments, was seen killing 6 enemies before eventually falling – leaving his last impression on the North Vietnamese Army before resigning from the fight. His body was later recovered by another team. He’d apparently attempted to treat his wounds – morphine syringes and an attempted tourniquet accompanied his resting place. He’d also done his best to burn his Signal Operating Instructions and his CAC Code (used to encrypt and decrypt messages.) Kedenburg knew his duty, not just to his men but also his country, and these remains act as testament to the man’s commitment to his country.

Story by Wyatt Q. Public

Story of the little Giant Killer.

This 4-foot 11 inch Giant Killer needed a congressional waiver to join the Marines.
Marine Corps Allen “Mouse” D. Owen died September 9, 1981 in a skydiving accident near North Pole, AK. At 4’11” he had the distinction of being the smallest U.S. Marine and U.S.F.S. Smokejumper on record. He served three tours in Viet Nam before starting his smokejumping career.
The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

New Story:
Among those honored by the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum is Allen Owen, known by his fellow parachute firefighters as Mouse.

Owen was 4 feet 11 inches tall, and weighed about 112 pounds. He sought Congressional support to become a U.S. Marine and another intervention to become a smokejumper. He served three tours in Vietnam before becoming a smokejumper.

Owen couldn’t walk as fast as his taller companions, but when he carried his 160-pound pack, it was said he weakened the others by making them laugh so hard they had to slow down. The Mouse was a wisecracker and a constant talker. Kids loved him. When he helped find a lost Boy Scout troop, he requested a cargo drop of hot dogs, ice cream and marshmallows. That led to an annual training jump into a local Bible camp with ice cream. At annual Fourth of July parties, he dressed as Superman and parachuted down with goodies.

Owen was an excellent firefighter and parachutist. According to fellow smokejumper Troop Edmonds, “Everyone who worked with him was inspired.”

After Edmonds and Owen became smokejumpers in Alaska, Mouse died in a skydiving accident on Sept. 9, 1981.
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Greg Boyington USMC Medal of Honor.

Greg “Pappy” Boyington, USMC Medal of Honor

“He was a hard-drinking, fighting man who was a menace to his commanders during the peacetime military but a tremendous combat pilot during the time of war.”

Greg Boyington was a Marine aviator during the Second World War fighting in both the Marine Corps and as a member of the legendary Flying Tigers, the American Group (AVG). Boyington was credited with shooting down 26 enemy planes and was the recipient of the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. He was shot down in 1944 and spent nearly two years as a POW. A television series very loosely based on him, “Baa Baa Black Sheep” ran for two seasons in the late 1970s.

Boyington was born, Gregory Hallenbeck in December 1912 in Idaho. He always assumed his stepfather was his actual father but later learned that his real father, Charles Boyington, had been divorced from his mother while Boyington was still an infant. After high school, he enrolled at the University of Washington, where he was enrolled in Army ROTC. After graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1934, he served for a short time as a member of the Army Reserve as a 2LT in the Coast Artillery.

He transferred to the Marine Corps and was accepted into their Cadet Aviation Program. He became a Naval Aviator in March of 1937 and became a Second Lieutenant in the active Marines on July 2, 1937. He served at both San Diego and at Pensacola as an instructor pilot, reaching First Lieutenant in 1940.

World War II Service: Boyington resigned his commission in July 1941, to join what became known as the American Volunteer Group, AVG, the Flying Tigers. He was a flight leader with the AVG and was credited with 2 air victories with another 2.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground. Boyington in his memoirs claimed, however, that he had six air victories. He described each in detail, but they were never officially substantiated.

Boyington frequently butted heads with the leader of the AVG Claire Chennault and after the United States’ entry into the war when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he had his chance. Boyington broke his contract with the AVG and returned to the U.S. on his own in April 1942.

He returned to the Marine Corps and was given a promotion to Major as the Corps was in need of experienced aviators and he was one of the very few with combat experience.

He was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 122 on Guadalcanal as the Executive Officer and later became the Commander of Marine Fighter Squadron 112 before taking over the command of Marine Fighter Squadron 214, the Black Sheep Squadron in September 1943.

It was here that Boyington achieved his most success as a combat pilot. His pilots nicknamed him Gramps which became Pappy because of his age. He was 31 and a decade older than the men who served under him. But he was no kindly grandpa in the skies above the Russell Islands-New Georgia and Bougainville-New Britain-New Ireland areas.

Flying in the Vought F4U Corsair, the Marine pilots loved the aircraft and for the first time, the US had a plane that was superior to the Japanese Zero. The Corsair was faster and could dive and climb faster than their Japanese counterparts. The aircraft was extremely rugged and could sustain a lot of damage and with six M2 .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the wings, they had an enormous firepower advantage over their enemy. Corsairs shot down 2140 Japanese aircraft during the war against a loss of just 189. The kill rate was an outstanding 11:1.

Boyington’s squadron regularly mixed it up with the Japanese and he was piling up the kills in the air. In one 32 day period, he shot down 14 Japanese aircraft. In October of 1943, Boyington and his Black Sheep circled the Japanese airfield at Bouganville with 24F4Us. The Japanese had 60 fighters there and the Americans were daring them to take the bait. When the Japanese came after them, the Americans chopped them up, downing 20 Japanese aircraft without the loss of one American. The balance in the air war in the Pacific had gone firmly to the American side. In just 84 days, Boyington’s squadron had shot down or damaged 197 aircraft and had sunk troop transports supply ships while destroying some ground installations.

On another mission to Bougainville, the Japanese tried a ruse and radioed for his position in English. Boyington didn’t buy it but radioed the Japanese their exact position but 5000 feet lower. When the Zeros arrived, the Corsairs blew a dozen out of the sky.

On January 3, 1944, Boyington would shoot down his 26th plane, tying the World War I record of the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker, although Boyington claimed he had 28. But it was on this mission where he was shot down. The Americans scrambled 48 fighters over Rabaul, including Boyington’s flight of four from the Black Sheep Squadron. There they tangled with about 80 Japanese fighters, Boyington was shot down and his wingman was killed.

He was picked up by a Japanese submarine and transported to Rabaul where he was brutally interrogated before moving to Truk and finally to a notorious Japanese POW camp at Ofuna. There the guards’ treatment was brutal for any infraction, real or imagined. One of his fellow prisoners there was Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner and the inspiration for the film “Unbroken” from 2014.

Upon being repatriated from the POW camp, Boyington learned he was to be awarded the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman. He went on a Victory Bond Tour but his problems with alcohol would surface and trouble him for most of his remaining life. The Marine Corps retired Boyington in 1947 for medical reasons.

After the war, he bounced between jobs and marriages and while in AA in 1958 wrote his autobiography “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and he resurfaced as a war hero. In the late 1970s, Hollywood created the television show very loosely based on Boyington’s squadron. He was portrayed by Robert Conrad. But his men became incensed at the portrayal of themselves as drunken, misfits.

Boyington died quietly in his sleep of cancer on January 11, 1988, and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. He was buried next to Joe Louis. One of his fellow pilots remarked that Pappy wouldn’t have far to go find a fight.

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Story by Steve Balestrieri SOFREP

SSG Laszlo Rabel Medal of Honor Recipient.

SSG Laszlo Rabel Medal of Honor Recipient:
Staff Sergeant Laszlo Rabel was born in Budapest in 1939 and escaped from Hungary after participating in the failed 1956 revolution against Soviet-backed Hungarian Communist forces. Rabel lost several family members and friends in the uprising and he eventually made it across the border into Austria and found refuge in the United States.
Rabel settled in Minnesota and enlisted in the Army in 1966 at the age of 27. Staff Sergeant Rabel was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Staff Sergeant Lazlo Rabel, United States Army, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as leader of Team Delta, 74th Infantry Detachment (Long Range Patrol), 173d Airborne Brigade, in Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam on 13 November 1968.
At 1000 hours on this date, Team Delta was in a defensive perimeter conducting reconnaissance of enemy trail networks when a member of the team detected enemy movement to the front.
As Sergeant Rabel and a comrade prepared to clear the area, he heard an incoming grenade as it landed in the midst of the team’s perimeter. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Rabel threw himself on the grenade and, covering it with his body, received the complete impact of the immediate explosion.
Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his own safety and profound concern for his fellow soldiers, Sergeant Rabel averted the loss of life and injury to the other members of Team Delta.
By his conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his own life in the highest traditions of the military service, Staff Sergeant Rabel has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
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D+1 along the Normandy Coast.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole
Photo restored and colorized by Johnny Sirlande
For an amphibious assault to succeed it is vital that the landing force quickly secure the beachhead to land additional forces and enough ground beyond to resist counterattacks.
On June 7, 1944 (D+1) along the Normandy coast, there was growing concern that the Americans were well behind in this essential goal. One of the basic needs for the American forces was to unify the Utah and Omaha beachheads. To do this, the Americans needed to seize the small French town of Carentan. And it was on June 8 (D+3) that General Omar Bradley ordered the 101st Airborne Division to secure this strategic location.
The Americans were not the only ones to realize the great importance of holding Carentan. With captured plans in their possession, German General Marcks of the 84th German Army Corps ordered Colonel Friedrich von der Heydte and his 6th Parachute Infantry Regiment to hold this town to the last man. Von der Heydte’s paratroopers were some of the toughest men in the German lines. Augmented by artillery, including at least one lethal 88mm anti-tank gun, the Germans dug in and awaited the Americans.
The Carentan Causeway – Purple Heart Lane

The task of attacking and securing Carentan was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Cole, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Cole, a Texan and 1939 West Point graduate, had roughly 700 of his tired and haggard paratroopers readied for the advance. After determining that there were no other viable approach paths, Cole realized that the Carentan Causeway (Highway N-13) – a raised and exposed road surrounded by flooded marshland – was the only way to reach the town. Even worse the men of the 3rd battalion would need to cross over 4 narrow bridges – one of which had been dropped into the Douve River by the Germans – all while being within easy range of German snipers, machine guns, and artillery.
Late on the afternoon of June 10, Cole ordered elements of his command down the causeway towards the objective. As his men made their way over the rickety boards placed over the fallen bridge span at Bridge Two and through a narrow iron gate at Bridge Four, the men came under withering small arms fire from the town and surrounding landscape. Casualties quickly mounted as the survivors sought whatever cover they could find. With the advance at a standstill, Cole moved down the causeway shouting at them to get up and return fire on the enemy positions. As he walked along the exposed causeway what he was confronted by the many dead and wounded. Company I, which started the day with 85 men was down to 23 effectives. An attack by a German Stuka dive bomber only made things worse. During the evening, Cole surveyed the situation. To stay in the current location would leave his men horribly exposed. To retreat would be just as bad. Cole realized that his best option – a grim one – was to order a frontal attack at dawn on the German positions just off the causeway to his front.
The Bayonet Charge

Having sent the weakened Company I to the rear, Cole brought up three companies (H, G, and headquarters) – 265 men in total – for the morning assault. Ordering the men to fix bayonets and load fresh clips, Cole blew his whistle at 6:15am on June 11 and surged forward towards the German positions in farmhouses and behind hedgerows to their front right. Moving quickly behind a smokescreen laid by American artillery, Cole looked back to find only 20 men following behind him. Had his men failed him at this critical moment? Rather than fear, it was quickly determined that many of his men had just not heard the morning orders. With his second in command, Major John Stopka passing the word, the paratroopers got to their feet and joined their leader.
Cole, leading from the front, jumped a hedge and landed in a water-filled ditch. Crawling free he worked to direct artillery fire and urged his men forward. At one point, Cole could be seen firing his pistol and shouting, “I don’t know what I’m shooting at, but I gotta keep on….We’re about to learn ‘em a lesson!” Those that had made it across the fields and hedgerows engaged the Germans in a bloody, close-quarter battle that ultimately overwhelmed von der Heydte’s crack troops and drove the survivors back.
Disorganized by the assault, Cole’s men, with the help of American artillery, were able to hold back two determined counterattacks by the Germans. With enemy fire now slackening late in the afternoon, Cole sent a runner back to hurry on reinforcements. The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment crossed the bridges that night to relieve Cole’s worn out unit. That regiment, along with the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, would take the town the next morning. Thanks to Cole’s attack and his battalion’s sacrifice, the strategic town of Carentan was in American hands. Cole’s men had paid a terrible price for their bravery. Of the 700 men in the 3rd Battalion, just 132 of the “Screaming Eagles” were left standing.
Robert Cole and the Medal of Honor

Robert Cole’s brave actions at Carentan led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor on October 4, 1944. Unfortunately, Cole was not able to receive this honor in person. On September 18, 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Cole was shot and killed by a German sniper near the town of Best during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. Cole’s widow and two-year old son accepted the Medal of Honor at a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston.
Cole is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten.
Medal of Honor Citation

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty on 11 June 1944, in France. Lt. Col. Cole was personally leading his battalion in forcing the last 4 bridges on the road to Carentan when his entire unit was suddenly pinned to the ground by intense and withering enemy rifle, machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire placed upon them from well-prepared and heavily fortified positions within 150 yards of the foremost elements. After the devastating and unceasing enemy fire had for over 1 hour prevented any move and inflicted numerous casualties, Lt. Col. Cole, observing this almost hopeless situation, courageously issued orders to assault the enemy positions with fixed bayonets. With utter disregard for his own safety and completely ignoring the enemy fire, he rose to his feet in front of his battalion and with drawn pistol shouted to his men to follow him in the assault. Catching up a fallen man’s rifle and bayonet, he charged on and led the remnants of his battalion across the bullet-swept open ground and into the enemy position. His heroic and valiant action in so inspiring his men resulted in the complete establishment of our bridgehead across the Douve River. The cool fearlessness, personal bravery, and outstanding leadership displayed by Lieutenant Colonel Cole reflect great credit upon himself and are worthy of the highest praise in the military service.
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It’s the small things that count.

This is not one of my stories. but it touched my heart and made me think. That through all that is going on and where we will be in a short time the small things mean a lot.

I went out to the barn yesterday morning to feed the horses and pray, like I do every morning. As I made the horses’ food buckets, I noticed my little Audrey was missing. Audrey is my oldest and littlest chicken, and she has survived owls, possums, floods, a hurricane, a bobcat, and my five-year-old daughter. After looking for a long while, I figured she had finally gone the way so many other chickens have gone on our farm and that made me very sad because I loved Audrey.

The world is burning and people are suffering and there is all kinds of apocalyptic things happening around the globe, but when I would go into my barn to feed my horses and see Audrey, she made my heart happy. Because Audrey knows nothing of the wickedness and brokenness of the world. She only knows the barn and the chicken yard and that she likes to eat food that falls from the horses’ mouths. And there is something about that that gives me peace. There is something about Audrey’s obliviousness to all the brokenness of the world and her simple joy of being a chicken in a barn that gives me hope that there are still pure things, good things, and innocent things left in this world.

A little while later, as I sat on the hay loft steps and tried to focus on praying about riots and evil and abuse and brain tumors and lost souls, I blurted out, “I really loved that chicken!” and I began to sob. Through tears and snot, I told God that I was sad and that my heart was hurting and that I know losing Audrey didn’t seem important in light of all the other things happening in the world, but she really made me happy. In the midst of all the darkness and despair of this world, Audrey, the little barn chicken, was a random ray of sunshine.

A while later, after I finished my prayer time, I was walking out of the barn and it was like someone gently took my face in their hands and turned it to the left and drew my gaze downward to a dirty corner between the tractor and the door, and there sat Audrey. And the Holy Spirit reminded me, “I am concerned about all the things in your heart, none are too small.” In the days ahead, as the world seems like it is falling apart and there are so many big things to pray about, remember little Audrey. Remember that God is moved by our heartfelt cries to Him, that He is a God who responds to our cries, a God Who cares about our cries. Even if those cries are about a seemingly insignificant barn chicken. It is not necessarily the significance of our cries, it is simply that we cry out to Him and He hears us.

(Ps 40:1,2) I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He lifted me up from the pit of despair, out of the miry clay; He set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm.

(Ps 34:15) The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are inclined to their cry.

(Luke 18:7,8) Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He continue to defer their help? I tell you, He will promptly carry out justice on their behalf. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?

For Those that Need a History Lesson.

Finally, they had won.

After more than six years of warfare, the War for Independence was ending – and it was an American victory. So many times the cause of American freedom had seemed lost.

So much hardship had been borne by these Continental troops, and so often General George Washington had kept them in the war equipped with little more than determination. Now, aligned before them was the fearsome British army that had been sent to conquer the South – the army that had won so many victories in the Carolinas and had inflicted so much suffering on American civilians.

Now these troops in red uniforms – composing perhaps (previously) the finest army in the world – were laying down their arms in surrender. And standing victorious before them were America’s citizen soldiers – “contemptible, cowardly dogs,” a British commander had once erroneously and ironically called them.

Led by General Washington and strengthened by a French army under General Comte de Rochambeau, these Continental troops had trapped General Charles Cornwallis and his British army with their backs to the water at Yorktown, Virginia. Washington had led a forced march from New York to the Virginia coast, and had taken the British by surprise. A French fleet had defeated the British navy at the nearby battle of the Capes – ending all hope of rescue for Cornwallis. The British had been battered into submission at Yorktown by a five-day artillery bombardment and repeated attacks by the Americans and the French. Finally, Cornwallis admitted defeat, and surrendered his army to the Americans he had so underestimated – but he could not bear to do it in person.

He officially claimed to be ill, and sent a substitute, General Charles O’Hara, to perform the humiliating task. O’Hara offered the surrender sword to General Rochambeau, who recognized the intended insult, and pointed him toward General Washington. The General refused as well, and directed the British substitute to a subordinate, General Benjamin Lincoln.

And so it ended. Other British troops were in the field – a huge army in New York – but the surrender at Yorktown was humiliation enough, and King George III agreed to give up the American colonies he had once vowed to subdue.

As Cornwallis’ defeated army marched to the surrender, a British band played a contemporary tune entitled “The World Turned Upside Down.”
[Listen here –

It was more appropriate than even they realized: American independence would launch a freedom movement that would topple tyrants for generations to come and would inspire oppressed peoples throughout the world to a “new birth of freedom.”

Mort Künstler’s Comments

In the fall of 2005, the U.S. Army War College’s Class of 2006 Gift Committee asked me if I would be interested in a commission to paint the surrender at Yorktown. To be able to accurately paint an event of such enormous importance was a wonderful opportunity. I’ve had an interest in this subject for a long time. Back in the 1970s, I did two small paintings on the surrender, and since I always wanted to do a major painting on the subject, I accepted the commission. I contacted Diane Depew at the National Park Service in Yorktown and John Giblin of the Army War College to help with the details.

The World Turned Upside Down places the Continental troops on the left with their artillery in the foreground. This is the way the scene would have looked to a British soldier standing in the road, waiting to march between the line of American troops, and French troops seen in the right background. It’s a different perspective from earlier artworks of the topic – and one that I think gives us a fresh view of this pivotal historical event.

The commander of Washington’s French allies, General Rochambeau sits astride his horse on the extreme right, with the flags of his Soissonnais Regiment fluttering above him. To his left, Washington’s aide, General Benjamin Lincoln – mounted on his grey charger – accepts the surrender from British General Charles O’Hara. General George Washington, is seen mounted to the left of his personal headquarters flag, the blue banner with the white stars. The flag with the unusual arrangement of red, white and blue stripes seen immediately to the right of Washington’s flag is a well-documented early American flag of the period.

The helmeted troops on General Washington’s right are the elite Life Guard, who served as the general’s personal guard. After the surrender ceremony, the British had to march a mile and a half to finally lay down their arms at what became known as “Surrender Field” – now a national historic site.

Although the Yorktown region had been drenched with torrential rains two nights earlier – as indicated by the puddle in the foreground – the day of the surrender was described as a beautiful, clear day with lots of white, puffy clouds. The puddle is also used as a design element, to act as a pointer that guides the viewer to the painting’s center of interest – General O’Hara offering the sword of surrender to General Lincoln.

I really enjoyed painting The World Turned Upside Down – it was a nice departure from the usual Civil War subjects I have been doing and I hope it proves to be a long-lasting reminder of our hard-won American freedom.