Men of Valor

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This special section of the GK website pays homage to the American spirit and the American soldier - those who have risked their lives performing courageous acts of valor so that we may live free today. Please come back and visit often as we will periodically update this page with compelling tales of heroism that make us all proud to be Americans.
Japanese Surrender Concludes World War II

(September, 2015) On September 2, 1945, more than 250 Allied warships lay in anchor in Tokyo Bay as the most horrific war the world had ever seen came to its formal conclusion. At about 9 a.m. Tokyo time, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu of the Japanese Armed Forces signed the formal Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri before a large gathering of Allied military leaders led by United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. Japanese aides were in tears as the signatures were made, while the entire free world let out a collective sigh of relief, knowing once and for all that Democracy had prevailed, the world was free again from tyranny, and lives could once more resume. In sum, tens of millions of soldiers and civilians lost their lives over the course of the years-long conflict, including some half a million U.S. soldiers fighting to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. Watch here, in this archival footage, as representatives of the Empire of Japan sign the historic Instrument of Surrender. Today, the USS Missouri is a museum ship anchored in Pearl Harbor, where the conflict with Japan began in 1941.


Japanese Sign Instrument of Surrender

Where Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue
(July, 2015) It was February 19, 1945. On the tiny, Japanese island of Iwo Jima, just 760 miles south-southeast of Tokyo, 22,000 Japanese troops strategically buried in the volcanic ash that was the Iwo Jima terrain awaited as a convoy of 880 U.S. ships delivered to the island 110,000 Marines ready to take on the enemy.

The Battle of Iwo Jima – the success of which for U.S. forces was considered at the time vital to conquering the Empire of Japan - had begun.

The five-week-long battle comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the war in the Pacific during World War II.  In 36 days of combat there were 25,851 U.S. casualties – of these, 6,825 perished. Virtually all 22,000 Japanese died. Despite encountering difficult going early in the invasion on the volcanic ash beaches and suffering heavy losses from strategically concealed, machine-gun fortified Japanese bunkers, the Americans had cut the island in two by the end of the first day. On Day 2, the Marines attacked Mount Suribachi, and the world-famous photo of five Marines and one Navy Corpsman raising the American flag atop the mountain was taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal on February 23.

Less than six months later, the war was over.

Today, Iwo Jima is considered one of the most iconic battles in world war history. Numerous books, movies and monuments have immortalized the battle and those who fought in it. Of the nearly 7,000 Americans killed, some 100 were from Connecticut; the names of these Nutmeg State heroes are forever remembered at the National Iwo Jima Memorial off Ella Grasso Boulevard on the Newington/New Britain line.

For more information on the Battle of Iwo Jima, visit
www.iwojima.com. For information on the Connecticut memorial, the only such memorial built by actual survivors of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the only Iwo Jima memorial to incorporate sand and rocks from the island, visit https://www.facebook.com/IwoJimaMemorialHistoricalFoundation
The Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes
(August, 2013) In honor of Connie Nappier, Jr., the former Tuskegee Airman and New Britain resident being honored for his service to our country at GK 2013, we tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Before the "Tuskegee Experiment" as it was called, no African American had been a U.S. military pilot. In 1917, African-American men had tried to become aerial observers, but were rejected. The racially motivated rejections of World War I African-American recruits sparked more than two decades of advocacy by African Americans who wished to enlist and train as military aviators. In 1939, Congress appropriated funds to train African-American pilots, and the "Tuskegee Airmen" became the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They are credited with having flown more than 1,300 combat missions, nearly 200 bomber escort missions, and having destroyed or damaged more than 400 enemy aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military. In 1998, President Clinton approved establishment of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, and in 2007 the Tuskegee Airmen - including Connie Nappier,  Jr. - were honored with Congressional Gold Medals, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen was immortalized by Hollywood in the 2012 film, Red Tails.
George Washington: America's Original Veteran
(July, 2013) July 4, 2013 marks America's 237th birthday, and who better for the GK to salute during this time of patriotic celebration than America's "original" veteran (and man of valor), George Washington, the founder of our country. Were it not for Washington and his troops, we wouldn't be here today honoring America and enjoying our freedoms.

It was Washington who forced the British out of Boston in 1776 in the name of freedom; it was Washington who crossed the Delaware in the dead of winter to win a decisive battle, restoring momentum to the Patriots; and it was Washington who, as President, understood the value of service and sacrifice during war and properly elevated national respect for the American veteran.

As a service to the GK's loyal followers and supporters, we invite you to
read about Washington and his service to our country and to learn more about the Purple Heart Medal (originally established by Washington himself and which is emblazoned with a bust of the nation's first president). Once you are fully up to speed on your history, you'll be properly equipped to celebrate the 4th American style by taking in a fireworks display - click here for information on New Britain's Great American Boom on Thursday, July 4, and click here for a listing of other area fireworks displays. Happy Birthday, America!  
2013: 71 Years Later, Doolittle Raiders' Last Call 
(April, 2013) In April, 1942, 80 brave men under the command of legendary Lt. Col. James Doolittle waged a surprise, daring and infinitely dangerous air raid on Japan and its capital city of Tokyo, embarrassing the Japanese military, lifting American spirits in the wake of Pearl Harbor and sending an unmistakeable message to Japan about American ingenuity, resourcefulness and resolve.

Three men died after bailing out of their aircraft; eight were captured by the Japanese, with three of those executed by firing squad six months later and one dying of malnutrition; the remaining four were tortured and placed in solitary confinement until their release in 1945. The raid would go down as one of the most heroic military missions in American history, would be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster ("30 Seconds Over Tokyo") starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, and would make legends of the humble men who took part.

The surviving members have held annual reunions yearly since the end of World War II; in April, three of the final four survivors got together for the last time in Florida.
Check out this wondeful CBS News story about the Last Reunion of the Doolittle Raiders, click here to learn more about these true American heroes, and click here to read about the stirring annual silver goblet ritual these heroes have engaged in at each reunion - which took place for the final time this year.