Valor Friday

| June 24, 2022

Some operations are so important that they’re kept classified for decades. The men and women who participated in them are forbidden to talk about them to anyone, even their own families. Such is the trade of being a clandestine warrior. Not all of these positions are for the secret squirrel super spy-types. We discussed the missions of USS Parche for instance. She received nine Presidential Unit Citations and 10 Navy Unit Commendations, becoming the most decorated ship in US Navy history and one of the most decorated units in American military history. Most of her operations remain classified and the ship was decommissioned nearly 20 years ago.

Today’s article will cover a few missions that were kept secret not for national security purposes, but to either protect the involved party (as in a royal personage going to war) or because the person’s participation itself was illegal.

Ernest Hemingway, American Red Cross volunteer in uniform, 1918

First, legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway had already seen war. He’d tried to enlist in the US Army upon his country’s entry to the First World War, but was denied due to poor eyesight. Instead, he answered the International Red Cross call for volunteer ambulance drivers.

Hemingway went to the Italian Front and served for two months before being wounded at the front by enemy mortar fire. Despite his wounds, he attended to the wounded soldiers first. He received the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor for it. His wounds were severe enough he spent months convalescing.

Hemingway returned home and became a novelist and war correspondent. He wrote such classics of American literature as The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929). He covered inter-war conflicts like the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish Civil War. The latter would serve as a prelude for World War II, with many of the inter-war period technological advances (such as high speed monoplane aircraft) being employed in battle for the first time. His experiences in Spain would lead him to write For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

During the Second World War, Hemingway would again work as a war correspondent and be very near the front lines. He was in Europe from May 1944 until the following March, just two months before Victory in Europe Day. This timeframe would be the most pivotal on the western front as it included the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, the breakout from the beachhead at Normandy, and the push across Europe and into Germany.

On D-Day itself, Hemingway was, with several other correspondents, given a front row seat to the invasion. He accompanied the troops right to the beaches of Normandy with a large bandage on his head due to a recent car accident. He later wrote in Collier’s that he saw “the first, second, third, fourth and fifth waves of [landing troops] lay where they had fallen, looking like so many heavily laden bundles on the flat pebbly stretch between the sea and first cover”.

In late July, as Allied troops pressed out of Normandy, Hemingway attached himself to Colonel Charles Lanham (who would later retire as a major General). Lanham commanded the 22nd Infantry Regiment. Lanham would be the first American officer to lead a break in the Siegfried Line in mid-September 1944, earning a Distinguished Service Cross in the process.

While with the 22nd Infantry, Hemingway organized a group of French Maquis resistance fighters in the area of Rambouillet in Northern France. As the group’s leader, Hemingway led them in operations, playing the role of the band’s captain. This was in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions as he was a civilian non-combatant assigned with the US Army. He was brought up on formal charges for his secret work as a Marquissard, but allegedly beat the charges by claiming he only gave advice. Hemingway and Lanham became good friends, with the latter inspiring a character in a later Hemingway novel.

Hemingway used his status as a celebrity and press credentials to witness some of the most pivotal moments in the war. He was present during the Liberation of Paris, saw the fighting at the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, and drove himself to Luxembourg to report on the Battle of The Bulge.

For his services to the War Department during World War II, 1947 Hemingway received a Bronze Star Medal. He was cited for being “under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions”, with the commendation that “through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat”.

Post-war he spent most of his time in Cuba, where he’d lived pre-war. He wrote Across the River and Into the Trees (1950), Old Man and the Sea (1952), and several other works which were released posthumously. In 1961 at only 61 years of age, Hemingway killed himself with his favorite shotgun. His mental health had rapidly declined in his final years, and he was diagnosed with a iron-related disorder that can affect physical and mental health. His father had also had mental health problems and both his brother and sister had also killed themselves.

Then-Lieutenant Charles Lindbergh, USAACR, 1925

Charles Lindbergh is another man who undertook secret World War II missions. Lindbergh is famously most remembered for having made the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight in 1927. Lindbergh made that flight as a civilian, but he was a US Army Air Corps Reserve captain, where he was a military aviator.

Lindbergh was, in honor of his historic achievement, promoted to colonel in the Air Corps Reserve, awarded the first Distinguished Flying Cross, and by a special act of Congress was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award for military valor. While common in the Navy to make peacetime or non-combat Medal of Honor awards, the Army only ever made two such awards. Lindbergh was the second and final non-combat Medal of Honor recipient.

Lindbergh also received a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civil award of the US Congress. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, and Lindbergh are the only people to have received both the Medal of Honor and a Congressional Gold Medal.

Lindbergh’s international fame, only heightened by the very public abduction and murder of his infant son. There was also accusations of Nazi-sympathizing.

Lindbergh had been received in Berlin in 1938 by chief of the Luftwaffe Field Marshal Herman Göring and German aviation designers Ernst Heinkel and Willy Messerschmitt. Göring had awarded Lindbergh the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle. Lindbergh’s acceptance of the honor was controversial, though the medal was a somewhat common award to visiting foreign dignitaries.

Lindbergh’s later testimony to Congress in 1941 against the Lend-Lease program and lobbying for a neutrality pact with Germany didn’t help anything.

LIndbergh’s standing as an aviation celebrity did afford him significant access to the latest of Nazi air advances. He saw Germany’s first helicopter, the latest Junkers Ju-88 bomber, and the Luftwaffe’s preeminent front-line fighter, the legendary Messerschimdt Bf-109. He returned with significant intelligence on Germany’s capabilities, which he reported on immediately to Air Corps authorities.

In 1939, Lindbergh accepted a return to active duty at the behest of General Hap Arnold, chief of the Air Corps. His duties included evaluating new aircraft designs, recruiting appearances, and scouting for new base locations. He was assigned a Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter for his personal use.

In 1941, as he was very vocally speaking out against entry of the US into the war, Lindbergh resigned his commission. After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, he attempted to return to active duty. Despite his significant notoriety, President Roosevelt refused to reinstate his commission.

During World War II, Lindbergh did serve for several companies as a military aircraft consultant. He was instrumental in getting Ford’s famous Willow Run factory churning out Consolodated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. In 1943 he was working for United Aircraft in the Chance-Vought Division when he persuaded them to send him to the Pacific Theater to evaluate aircraft combat performance.

Arriving in the South Pacific, he first demonstrated to the Marine aviators that their Vought F4U Corsair fighters could safely take off with double their rated bomb load.

On 21 May 1944 he flew his first combat mission. As with Hemingway on the other side of the world, Lindbergh’s active participation in combat wasn’t supposed to happen. The mission was a strafing run on Rabaul, New Britain in New Guinea flying the Corsair.

He flew with another Marine unit as part of the Bougainville Campaign. He then flew with the Army Air Forces. On 28 July, while flying a P-38 Lightning, he shot down a Japanese observation plane. He ultimately flew 50 combat missions. The secret was let out in a media report later that year.

Among one of the things Lindbergh did was develop engine leaning techniques for the P-38. This allowed the already long-range fighter to fly even further. The pilots he flew with from both services defended Lindbergh’s patriotism and bravery.

Post-war Lindbergh would again be commissioned into the service, this time with the Air Force Reserve as a Brigadier General. He would help select the location of the Air Force Academy. He died in 1974.

Prince Harry in uniform as a British Army captain, 2017

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex of the British Royal Family similarly served overseas during war. His assignment to Afghanistan in 2012 was one of the highest state secrets of the British Army at the time.

From the moment of his birth, Harry was third in the line of succession for the British throne, behind his older brother and his father. He was, with his brother, raised in the limelight. The divorce of his parents, Charles and Diana, and the untimely death of the latter meant the young man was very well known throughout the world.

When he went into the military service in 2005, as all of the British royal men have done for some time, he was mostly assured to not see any active service in either of the two wars ongoing in Iraq or Afghanistan. Similarly, his brother Prince William would also be denied such service when he entered the military in 2006.

Harry Wales, as he was known, was commissioned as a cornet (second lieutenant) in the Household Cavalry regiment the Blues and Royals in 2006 after graduating Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

It was shortly after that announced that the Blues and Royals would be deploying. Significant public debate arose about whether Harry should be allowed to accompany them. First he would be a pretty appealing target for the Taliban should they kill, or worse, capture him. Second, his presence might endanger his fellow soldiers, as enemy forces would be specifically targeting his unit.

Despite the risks, Harry said he would leave the Army if he were ordered to remain in safety while his comrades went to the front. The Defense Secretary agreed. In 2007, it was initially announced that Harry would be deploying with his men to Iraq. The Chief of the British Army vetoed the idea, leaving Harry to remain behind.

In June of that year, Harry was publicly posted to train with Canadian troops in preparation for a Coalition deployment to Afghanistan. In February of 2008 it was revealed by the German newspaper Bild that Harry had secretly been deployed for the last ten weeks.

Harry had been clandestinely sent and was serving in combat as a forward air controller in Helmland Province. He was the first Royal to see combat service since his uncle Prince Andrew had deployed with the Royal Navy during the Falklands War (at the time he was also third in the line of succession). He was immediately pulled out of the country out of concern for his and his comrades’ safety after the publicity.

Harry then followed his father, brother, and uncle in learning how to fly military helicopters. He was trained to fly Apache attack helicopters. Again, it was announced that he would be facing a deployment to Afghanistant. The announcement in June 2011 didn’t come true for more than a year.

On 7 September 2012, Harry, now a captain, arrived at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps. He was going to serve a four month deployment as a co-pilot/gunner in an Apache. Just three days later the Taliban had made a direct threat on him.

A Taliban spokesperson told the media, “We are using all our strength to get rid of him, either by killing or kidnapping.” He added, “We have informed our commanders in Helmand to do whatever they can to eliminate him.”

Harry was removed to a “safe” location after a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion claimed the lives of two US Marines just 11 days after arriving. He finished his 20 week deployment, seeing combat action, as a gunner aboard Apaches.

Harry left the Queen’s military in 2015 as a captain. Since then he married an American actress, has had two children, moved to Canada and then the US, given up all of his royal duties, and in a highly publicized interview with Oprah he and his wife shat all over the Royal Family.

Category: Afghanistan, Air Force, Army, Historical, Valor, We Remember

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I was going to mention my own experience but then
remembered I was sworn to secrecy.

Interesting info on Lindbergh.


Once a seekrit squirrull, ALWAYS a seekrit squirrull. Unless, of course, you’re in a bar, inherwbez chat room, VFW/AL Hall, or Fakebook Page.

Cool write up, Mason. Thanks! Always liked the P-38…plane and can opener. Die cast P-38 plane in my War Tools Display. My FIRST issue P-38 can opener still on my dog tag chain.


Also always liked the P-38 plane (had models of them hanging from my ceiling in my bedroom as a boy), still have the P-38 can opener on my key ring, and the Walther P-38 Dad took from a German Artillery ossifer.
Just something about a P-38.

Old tanker

One other item about Lucky Lindy. He was instrumental in quashing the tendency of P38 pilots to lose control in single engine operation. He demonstrated single engine flight and maneuvers as well as returning to base and landing safely. Up until that point the P38 had a reputation as a pilot killer in single engine operation. His techniques save a bunch of US pilots.


He would have loved the TBM. Heard one go overhead the other
day and looked at it on ADS-B exchange.


Huh; I thought it was the Drudge Report that spilled the beans on the prince’s deployment.


Cool CSAR patch there Harry


A better shot



Once again, thank you so much for sharing these very interesting stories..!

For some reason, this person came to our mind after we read your outstanding article.

Hopefully, we are not the only folks who are aware of him and his legend:

Rest In Peace. Salute. Never Forget.