Reflections from the Watermelon Patch #1 “Airborne Heritage”


Reflections from the Watermelon Patch #1
Gideon D. Asche

As Warriors, we assume the lineage of those who went before us. Every Ranger knows the command –“Rangers, Lead the way!” – And the measure of the man who spoke it;  every Cav. Pilot knows the sound “Garry Owen” and gets the urge to either dance or drink to its call.

Every Jet Jock remembers the man who beat the Banshee that lives at 661.5-Knots; every dog face grunt has mud on his boots that came from Valley Forge and  every 13 buttoned Squid or Devil Dog Marine can trace their history to that fine July day in 1777  when  John Paul Jones first hoisted the Stars and Stripes above the United States Warship “Ranger” at Portsmouth.


But how many of you Special Operations guys knew that Ben Franklin is in your lineage?  Not just as a Founding Father but specifically by coming up with the concept of airborne operations.

Any military historian can tell you  Fallschirmjäger were the first airborne troops, but in reality Ole’ Ben Franklin beat them to the punch with the idea by 150 years.

“Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two men each, could not cost more than five ships of the line; and where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defense as that 10,000 men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?” – Ben Franklin – 1794. In a letter to Jan Ingenhausz dated Jan 16 1784

Thaddeus-Lowe-balloon-1862-3000-3x2gty-56a489495f9b58b7d0d77036Mr. Franklin had it right, and the highly mobile specialized individual fighting unit is now the most fundamental component of Special Operations.

July is a perfect month to begin a historical series from our lineage, possibly even expose you to a few tidbits that you did not know.

After all it was July that saw the birth the Our Republic, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and on July 3rd, 1775 George Washington rode out in front of American troops gathered at Cambridge Common, drew his sword, and formally accepted command of the Continental Army – the American Military was born.

This is our lineage, our heritage, our family tree, it is surely worth remembering and worthy of retelling.  Some of it might surprise you and some will make you want to stand at attention out of respect but above all I hope it adds another layer of pride in the oath we live.

In addition to Independence Day, July includes the day on which more US presidents died than any other and the day on which there were more Medals of Honor earned than any other in history. On a personal note, it is also the month my mother got her first Gold Star in 1966.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, both died on the 50thanniversary of the Signing of the Declaration. Just five years later, also on Independence Day, James Monroe, the 5th US president, died bringing the presidential body count for Independence Day to Three. – All of which were signatories to the Declaration of Independence.


The Rough Riders made their glorious charge up San Juan Hill in July, but did you know they did it without their horses, they fought shoulder to shoulder with Black Soldiers. There were  40 Medals of Honor earned that 1st day of July 1898?

Almost 8,000 Americans advanced on San Juan Hill, Spanish gunfire shredding their ranks. US casualties were already in the hundreds when the order was given “the heights must be taken at all hazards.”   The Rough Riders along with the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments were the first up Kettle Hill.  San Juan Hill fell to them shortly thereafter.

July saw the largest battle in North American history when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg for three days in July, 1863. Over 51,000 American Soldiers fell in those three days – Almost as many as during the entire Viet Nam war.

Notable July events:

1774 – July 12th, Citizens of Carlisle, Penn., passed a declaration of independence – the first birth pangs of our Republic were felt that day.

1795 – James Swan paid off the $2,024,899 US national debt. This was the last time the US was debt free.

1862 – July 4th, Congress passed an act stating that: ”…the spirit ration in the Navy of the United States shall forever cease and  …no distilled spiritous liquors shall be admitted on board vessels of war, except as medical stores…“   In WW1 “Torpedo Juice” was invented and the US Navy has never been quite the same.

1863 – July 7th, The 1st US military draft was implemented.  It allowed exemptions for anyone who could pay the sum of $300.

hall1943 – July 2nd, Lieutenant Charles B. Hall of Brazil, Indiana became the first Tuskegee Airman to score a confirmed kill.

1944 – July 6th, Lieutenant Jackie Robinson of the U.S. Army, while riding a civilian bus from Camp Hood, Texas, refused to give up his seat to a white man. Robinson was court-martialed Jackie-Robinson-at-Fort-Hood.jpgfor disobeying the order of a “White” civilian to move to the back of the bus. He was acquitted.

1945 – The heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis delivered Uranium-235, to the American base on Tinian – The final component needed to arm the Atomic bombs.  Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea At 0014hrs July 30, 1945, she sank in 12 minutes.  Her mission was so secret, there was no distress call sent. 1,196 US Sailors went in to the water – 316 were rescued four days later. Over 60% of the dead fell victim to a three-day shark feeding frenzy.

1947 – July 3rd, The Roswell Daily Record reported the military captured a flying saucer. It became known as the Roswell Incident.

1950 – July 3rd, Lieutenant (JG) Leonard H. Plog, flying an F9F Panther jet fighter, engaged and destroyed a Yak-9P.  This was the first U.S. Navy aerial victory of the Korean War.

July Birthdays:

Chaplains Corps is founded by a resolution of the Continental Congress -1775

The US Army established the World’s 1st air force in July, 1907.

The U.S. Army Air Corps was created by Congress  July, 1926

The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing was commissioned at Quantico –1941

The 10 Mountain Division came into being on July 13, 1943, at Camp Hale, Colorado as the 10th Light Division (Alpine).

An Intelligence and Security Branch was established by the Army – July 1, 1962.

The US Army Intelligence and Security Branch was redesignated as Military Intelligence –July 1, 1967 – A windfall for comedians all over the world.

The July Watermelon Award.

In July of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure authorizing a “Medal of Honor” to be awarded in the name of Congress.  It was to become our Nation’s highest award for bravery in the face of an enemy.

The men who earned this award should be remembered so each month I will pick a unique individual who had the watermelons and Honor required to earn this award and share his story. By my count, the month of July has produced 593 Medals of Honor including President Teddy Roosevelt and 592 others.

Even in light of their combined bravery there is one Soldier amongst them who stands out. One soldier who was unique in almost every way:

rubinCorporal Tibor Rubin – Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

While his Regiment was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was ordered to hold his position and keep access to the Taegu-Pusan Road, used by his withdrawing unit, open.  He had responsibility for his entire regiment’s Six.

Overwhelming numbers of North Korean soldiers assaulted the hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He dispatched a staggering number of enemy soldiers to their maker and held his position – ALONE,  for better than 24 hours. Tibor Rubin single-handedly slowed the enemy advance and allowed the 8th Cavalry Regiment to withdraw successfully.

Rubin’s  commanding officer admitted, after the war, that they never expected Rubin to survive. They just hoped he could slow the Reds down a little.  When he turned up alive and rejoined the unit his CO made the decision to recommend Cpl Rubin for the Medal.

Before the recommendation could be written up and submitted – On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked the remnants of the 1st Cav. in a massive nighttime assault.  Rubin manned a .30-caliber machine gun at the southern perimeter. The entire gun crew was wounded or dead. Rubin saw the unmanned weapon and took up a firing position on the .30-cal and was able to continue to fight until his ammunition was exhausted.  Ruben fixed bayonet and stood his ground.

The majority of I Company was able to extract under the protection of Rubin’s covering fire before Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese.  The Communist, realizing he was a Hungarian citizen and one bad SOB, offered to repatriate Rubin to Budapest as a show of solidarity to the MKP (Magyar Kommunista Párt). Rubin refused the special treatment.

As if covering his unit’s retreat alone – TWICE,  effectively saving hundreds of American lives – But TWICE, wasn’t enough.  Corporal Tibor Rubin immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades.


This wasn’t Rubin’s first rodeo; the rest of his unit was unaware that as a boy in Hungary Tibor Rubin had been sent to KZ-Mauthausen.  Liberated by US soldiers in 1945,  Rubin would later tell of what it was like to be a teenager in the KZ and see a company of US Soldiers advance on the camp, kill the SS guards and come to their rescue.

He decided that day he would become an American Soldier, there was no greater calling in his mind.

He already knew what it was going to take to survive being a prisoner and Tibor Rubin was intent on saving as many of his comrades as he could.  Each night Rubin would sneak out of the barracks breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens. Rubin knew he risked certain torture or death if caught.

Rubin not only scrounged food for the starving Soldiers, he knew that without desperately needed medical care the sick and wounded would never survive. In this third act of Valor, Rubin’s selfless efforts directly attributed to saving as many as forty of his fellow prisoners.

The last line of Cpl. Rubin’s MOH citation reads:

“Corporal Rubin’s gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.”

Corporal Tibor Rubin had Watermelons.

Next month –  “The Great War” begins – and  “…the Army’s most intriguing new gadget…a tiny truck which can do practically everything.” Along with more historical gems worthy of your file of useless information.



If you want to know more try these resources. 

 Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations – 1966 Robert Debs Heinl, jr. Col. USMC Ret.
US Naval  Institute Press, Annapolis MD 21401-  Library of congress Catalog No 66-22342

American Military History volume 1 – The United States Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775–1917 Second Edition, Richard W. Stewart General Editor, Center of Military History, US Army, Washington, D.C., 2009

The Continental Army. – Wright, Robert K.,-pub. 1983 . U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington. D.C. 20402

Washington’s Army – Erna Risch -pub. 1981, Center of Military History – US Army, Washington, D.C.., 1981

 Combat Actions In Korea – Russell A. Gugeler –Pub.1987, Center Of Military History, US Army, Washington, D.C.



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