Category: One Hell of a Good Fight
The good news is that most of the big ammunition companies now offer several different lines of ammunition that are specifically designed for hunting thick-skinned, dangerous game. In particular, Nosler manufactures its Safari Ammunition line specifically for those hunters.
Before going into detail on Nosler Safari Ammunition, I’d like to provide a little bit of background on the sort of bullet performance hunters pursuing thick-skinned dangerous game (cape buffalo in particular) really need while they’re afield.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating here: cape buffalo are really, really big and really, really tough. As a point of reference, a big bull can weigh twice as much as a mature bull elk.
Buffalo have thick hides, dense muscles, and heavy bones that are known for defeating lightly constructed bullets. Since buffalo are often encountered at close range and in thick cover, the margin for error is very small and more than a few hunters have lost their lives (or spent time in a hospital) as a result of poor bullet performance.
With this in mind, heavy for caliber, controlled-expansion bullets are essential for hunting buffalo. In short, you want a bullet that will reliably expand to a certain point in order to cause lots of tissue damage, but not expand so much that it won’t reliably penetrate deep enough to reach the vitals.
At the same time, most professional hunters recommend chambering a good quality expanding bullet for the first shot and loading non-expanding bullets for all subsequent shots. This is because the first shot will most likely be taken at a broadside or slightly quartering angle.
Since those shooting angles minimize the distance a bullet must penetrate to reach the vitals, expanding bullets are better choices because they make a larger wound channel, cause more damage to the internal organs of the buffalo, and are less likely to exit and unintentionally wound another buffalo in the herd than non-expanding bullets.
However, follow-up shots will most likely be taken at less desirable angles and expanding bullets do not typically penetrate quite as well as non-expanding bullets of the same caliber and weight. For this reason, non-expanding bullets are better choices for follow-up shots because they can be relied upon for the necessary amount of penetration to reach the vitals from non-ideal angles.
So, most dangerous game hunters need a mix of good quality controlled-expansion bullets and non-expanding solids that shoot to the same point of impact. Fortunately, product lines like Barnes’ VOR-TX Safari, Federal Premium’s Safari Cape-Shok, Hornady’s Dangerous Game Series, and Nosler’s Safari Ammunition are all designed to provide that sort of performance.
Nosler worked in partnership with Norma Precision to manufacture its Safari Ammunition. This ammo pairs their legendary Partition Bullet with Nosler Safari Solid bullets of the same weight that also shoot to the same point of impact.
On one hand, the Partition delivers rapid and violent, yet controlled expansion that is deadly on all manner of game from impala and whitetail deer all the way up to moose and eland. It’s also a good choice for initial shots on buffalo.
On the other hand, the Nosler Solid bullets are tough, flat-nosed, homogenous projectiles that can be relied upon for deep, straight-line penetration through thick muscles and heavy bones of even the largest creatures. These projectiles are wonderful choices for follow-up shots on buffalo as well as for shots on smaller game like steenbok and duiker to minimize damage to the hides.
Nosler Safari Grade ammunition is currently available in the following cartridges and bullet weights: 9.3x62mm Mauser (286gr), .375 Flanged (300gr), .375 H&H Magnum (300gr), .404 Jeffery (400gr), .416 Remington Magnum (400gr), .416 Rigby (400gr), .450 Rigby (500gr), .458 Winchester Magnum (500gr), .458 Lott (500gr), .470 Nitro Express (500gr), .500 Nitro Express (570gr), 500/416 Nitro Express (400gr), 500 Jeffery (570gr), and .505 Gibbs (525gr).
So, if you’re looking for the right ammo to take on safari with dangerous game on the menu, then you should really consider using Nosler Safari Ammunition. This is some versatile rifle ammunition that you can depend on when the chips are down.
Doris “Dorie” Miller was supposed to have been a girl. Born October 12, 1919, to sharecroppers Connery and Henrietta Miller, he got the name Doris when the midwife assisting with his delivery became somehow convinced he would be female. Doris was the third of four sons accustomed to hard work on the family farm. Miller’s grandparents had been slaves.
Doris dropped out of school in the eighth grade and completed a correspondence course in taxidermy. Few ridiculed him over the effeminate nature of his name, however. By his 17th birthday, Doris was 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighed more than 200 pounds.
Miller enlisted in the US Navy in 1939. At this point in history, there were few billets open to African-American sailors. As a result, Doris trained as a mess attendant and was assigned to the USS Pyro, an aptly named ammunition ship.
In January of 1940, Miller transferred to the battlewagon USS West Virginia. There he found that he had a gift for boxing, a wildly popular sport among Navy personnel at the time. In short order, Miller had earned the coveted position of heavyweight champion of the ship, a vessel whose complement typically ran some 1,300 men.
Nobody is really sure where the name Dorie originated. Some claimed it was a typographical error made by some nameless clerk who simply could not believe that a 200-pound musclebound black man might actually be called Doris. Others asserted it was a nickname bequeathed by loyal shipmates following his boxing exploits.
One Fateful Sunday…
On Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, Dorie Miller arose at 0600 to serve breakfast mess and begin collecting laundry. Two hours later his day was interrupted when Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata, a Kate torpedo bomber pilot launched from the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, released the first of seven torpedoes to eventually strike the West Virginia.
West Virginia’s steel hull armor varied between 8 and 13.5 inches. One torpedo failed to explode. However, six is still a whole lot of torpedoes.
Miller’s battle station was an antiaircraft magazine amidships. He reported there only to find that it had been destroyed in a torpedo strike. Now looking for trouble, Dorie subsequently headed to “Times Square,” the confluence between fore-and-aft and starboard-to-port passageways. Lieutenant Commander Doir Johnson snatched up Miller and took him to the bridge to help move the injured Captain.
Captain Mervyn Bennion had been essentially eviscerated by shrapnel while running the fight from the bridge. Captain Bennion was a Mormon from Salt Lake City who had graduated third in his 1910 class at Annapolis. Bennion used one arm to hold his entrails in place while he directed the fight against the attacking Japanese.
Dorie Miller and others attempted to evacuate Captain Bennion to a position of safety amidst the attack. Despite the pleading of his men, Bennion remained at his post and ultimately bled out. Captain Bennion was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Under constant attack by Japanese dive bombers, torpedo planes, and fighters, the situation on the West Virginia’s bridge was dire. There were two unmanned Browning M2 .50-caliber machineguns mounted on the aft aspect of the bridge structure. Lieutenant Frederic White grabbed Miller along with Ensign Victor Delano and moved to these two guns amidst sleeting fire from the attacking Japanese planes.
Miller had never before seen a .50-caliber machinegun up close, so the two young Navy officers gave him a quick block of instruction under fire. They had expected Miller to feed ammunition, but he was manning the starboard gun and firing at the Japanese before they could intervene. Dorie Miller ran his gun until they had expended all available ammo.
By now the West Virginia had been struck by seven torpedoes and two armor-piercing bombs. Fast action on the part of damage control parties counter-flooded the ship such that she sank to the harbor bottom on an even keel. This maneuver saved countless lives.
His gun rendered useless by a lack of ammo, Dorie Miller then turned his attention to rescuing injured sailors. He helped move the wounded through the oily water to the quarterdeck and safety. Eventually, the crew abandoned the ship. Miller was among the last three to leave.
Dorie Miller’s Gun
The M2 .50-caliber machinegun was born on the blood-soaked battlefields of WW1. General John “Blackjack” Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe and was alarmed over the introduction of armored aircraft like the German Junkers J.1 to the modern battlespace. Airplanes of this sort combined with observation balloons operating beyond conventional rifle range necessitated a new Infantry weapon. Pershing compiled the criteria for the new gun himself.
The weapon needed to be of at least .50-caliber and fire a 670-grain bullet at a minimum of 2,700 feet per second. The French 11mm was used as inspiration but was found to be too slow. Winchester designed the new cartridge, while the legendary John Moses Browning crafted the gun to fire it.
The end result was the .50BMG 12.7x99mm, itself essentially a scaled-up version of the standard .30-06 service round. After a bit of tweaking, this cartridge offered about the same performance as that fired by the German T Gewehr 1918 antitank rifle but in a rimless configuration. The rimless design made it much easier to cycle in an autoloading mechanism compared to previous rimmed designs.
Browning’s M1921 heavy machinegun was a water-cooled beast of a thing that weighed 121 pounds and fed solely from the left. However, the recoil-operated action was a legitimate stroke of genius. Browning died in 1926 but purportedly delivered the prototype on November 11, 1918, the day of the armistice.
After the great man’s death, other engineers tweaked his design into the world’s seminal heavy machinegun. Using a single common receiver the gun could be configured into seven disparate weapons, each of which could feed from either the left or the right by reversing a few parts. Series production began in 1933.
The air-cooled version was titled the M2 HB (Heavy Barrel) and tipped the scales at a more manageable 84 pounds. The M2HB sported a cyclic rate of around 500 rounds per minute. This gun sat atop most everything that rolled or crawled during WW2 and unleashed holy hades against the German and Japanese forces who faced it.
The AN/M2 was a “Light Barrel” aircraft version that weighed 60 pounds and cycled at a blistering 1,250 rpm. “AN” stands for “Army/Navy.” This gun armed just about every American combat aircraft of the war. Updated versions soldier on in aircraft mounts today.
There have been several concerted efforts to improve upon the design. However, the M2 sits minimally unchanged atop JTLV and MRAP vehicles currently serving downrange today. Trust me, running one of these puppies off of a military vehicle is the textbook definition of tactical overmatch.
I had always assumed that Dorie Miller’s gun was the water-cooled variant. However, a narrative I found concerning the Pearl Harbor defense of the USS Nevada, a sister ship to the West Virginia, described the bridge guns as air-cooled M2 HB’s. The Nevada burned through some 65,000 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition during the attack. One first-hand anecdote described changing out barrels when tracers began to veer off precipitously after protracted firing.
The Rest of the Story
Two weeks after the attack Miller was transferred to the USS Indianapolis. The recommendation that made it to President Roosevelt’s desk was that the Distinguished Service Cross be awarded to an “Unnamed Black Sailor.” Miller was eventually positively identified and there resulted Congressional efforts to have Miller awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1942 America, this would have been an earth-shaking event.
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox ultimately recommended against the award and instead suggested the Navy Cross, then the third-highest commendation for valor in Naval service. Admiral Chester Nimitz decorated Doris Miller aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in May of 1942. Three months later Congress revised the ranking of medals for valor, placing the Navy Cross just below the Medal of Honor.
While white sailors were awarded officer’s commissions for similar valorous actions, Dorie Miller was promoted to Mess Attendant First Class in June of 1942. He continued his service aboard the Indianapolis before eventually being recalled to the states to help sell war bonds. His stocky visage ultimately graced a recruiting poster.
In 1943 Cook First Class Dorie Miller was assigned to the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay. During the Battle of Makin in June of that year the Liscome Bay caught a torpedo to the stern fired by the Japanese submarine I-175. The bomb magazine subsequently detonated, sinking the ship in 23 minutes. All but 272 of the 900-man ship’s complement were lost. Dorie Miller was among the dead.
In 1973 the US Navy launched the Destroyer Escort, USS Miller. The Gerald Ford-class supercarrier CVN-81 to be commissioned in 2030 will be named the USS Doris Miller. This will be the first aircraft carrier in American history named for an enlisted sailor.
What makes a person successful in life? It’s not being born into money. The road to hell is paved with rich spoiled kids bereft of initiative or ambition. It isn’t intelligence, either. A genius lacking in common sense will frequently not advance much past, “You want fries with that?” Someone markedly smarter than I am once opined that the best predictor of success in life is the capacity to control one’s emotions.
To use a Star Trek analogy, you want to be more like Mr. Spock than Captain Kirk. Kirk has his place, to be sure. Were it not for Kirk the Kobiashi Maru simulation would yet still be unbested at Starfleet Academy. However, it is the cerebral Vulcan you really want by your side in a proper fight.
Generally speaking, the kinds of folks who stop traffic on the interstate so they can vent their road rage on random drivers are not typically neurosurgeons, billionaires, or captains of industry. If you’re the sort who does stuff like that, then I hate it for you. I just call it like I see it.
In years past there was a formal process by which the more hotheaded among us could vent their frustrations. Dueling as a method for gaining satisfaction or defending one’s honor against perceived affront is as old as mankind. The gory practice was first outlawed by the Fourth Council of Lateran convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull Vineam domini Sabaoth of April 12, 1215. Since then society has strived to suppress dueling with varying degrees of success.
Though executed first with swords and later with pistols, the point of the duel was not necessarily to kill an opponent per se, but rather to satisfy an affront. On many occasions, the participants would intentionally fire wide so that honor could be regained with no harm to one’s person. On September 19, 1827, however, there was a duel staged on a sandbar in the Mississippi River near present-day Vidalia, Louisiana, that did not have such a tidy outcome.
Wealthy and influential, the Cuny and Wells families were interrelated by blood and a notoriously contentious mob. Central Louisiana was growing during this period, and business and personal interests would inevitably collide. New families would move into the area and find out the hard way that the Wells and Cuny clans could be tough folks with whom to deal.
The details have been lost to history. Allegations of vote-rigging in a local sheriff’s election, bank loans both defaulted and denied, competing business interests, and the honor of an unnamed woman have all been suggested. The end result had already seen multiple duels, uncounted fistfights, and at least one spontaneous exchange of gunfire. The stage was set for a simply epic showdown.
Samuel L. Wells III and Dr. Thomas H. Maddox were the primary players on this fateful day. They were attended, as was the custom, by seconds who helped manage weapons. These intimate supporters also ensured that the exchange remained fair and civilized, within the reasonable limits of the pursuit’s gory nature. The broad sandbar in the river was selected as a location because dueling was manifestly illegal. It was assumed that hosting the event on a sandbar in the river between Louisiana and Mississippi might insulate the players to a degree from the attention of local law enforcement.
On the fateful day, the Wells troupe arrived by boat from the Louisiana side. The Maddox crew forded over from nearby Natchez, Mississippi. There were seventeen men known to be present along with an unknown number of slaves. Included in the group were two nearby plantation owners, a local guide, and a pair of neutral physicians. Several Army officers ranging in rank from Major to General were in attendance as was Jim Bowie, the father of the eponymous Bowie knife. On this particular day, Bowie had one of his big mean knives on his person.
The actual duel was a big nothing-burger. There were codified rules governing the prosecution of such an affair that included fairly lengthy periods between exchanges of fire. Both Wells and Maddox fired two rounds apiece to no effect, undoubtedly by design. The primary participants, by now relieved not to have had their brains blown out, approached each other and effectively resolved their disagreement with a handshake. No harm, no foul.
Once the duel formally concluded the two participants, their seconds, and the two physicians, a total of six men, prepared to celebrate the event’s happy resolution. However, some members of the extended Wells mob weren’t quite ready to let things go. The specific details of what happened next are drawn from multiple conflicting accounts.
The Real Fight
Colonel Robert Crain was Tom Maddox’s second and carried the two dueling pistols, by now reloaded. General Cuny, a friend of Sam Wells who had previously gotten sideways with Crain, purportedly said, “Colonel Crain, this is a good time to settle our difficulty.” Crain then fired at Cuny, missed, and struck Jim Bowie in the hip, knocking him to the ground. Cuny and Crain then unloaded on each other with verve. Crain caught a round to the arm, while the belligerent General was shot through the chest and died on the spot. At that point, all decorum was lost.
Jim Bowie, a man’s man if ever there was one, drew his massive knife and charged Colonel Crain. Crain turned and broke his now empty pistol over Bowie’s head, dropping the big man to his knees again. Major Norris Wright, a Maddox acolyte, drew his pistol, fired at Bowie, and missed. Wright then produced a sword cane and attempted to run Bowie through. Wright’s thin blade deflected off of Bowie’s sternum and just left him mad.
Bowie then took a firm hold on Wright’s shirt and yanked him down onto the point of his big knife. The disemboweled Wright bled out in short order. Bowie was subsequently both shot and stabbed again by other members of Team Maddox.
Carey and Alfred Blanchard, both of the Maddox tribe, then fired at the apparently indestructible Jim Bowie, striking him in the arm. Bowie responded by cutting off a major part of Alfred Blanchard’s forearm with his epic knife. Carey fired at Bowie again and missed. Then both of the Blanchard boys ran away screaming like little girls. In the process, Jefferson Wells shot Alfred Blanchard through what was left of his arm.
The entire exchange took about ninety seconds. Sam Cuny and Norris Wright were killed outright. Alfred Blanchard and the apparently unkillable Jim Bowie were grievously injured. One of the unfortunate unarmed attending physicians caught a round in his thigh and another in his finger.
Depending upon what you read, Bowie was shot either two or three times and received between four and seven separate stab wounds. Colonel Crain, the man who shot him in the first place, helped the injured Bowie off of the field. Bowie supposedly said, “Colonel Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you ought to have shot me.”
The true origins of the Bowie knife are shrouded in controversy. The primary knife Bowie carried to his death was crafted by an Arkansas knife maker named James Black. Black created his knives behind a heavy leather curtain so as to protect his proprietary technique.
The design was described thusly at the time, “The back perfectly straight in the first instance, but greatly rounded at the end on the edge side; the upper edge at the end, for a length of about two inches, is ground into the small segment of a circle and rendered sharp…The back itself gradually increases in weight of metal as it approaches the hilt, on which a small guard is placed. The Bowie knife, therefore, has a curved, keen point; is double-edged for the space of about two inches of its length, and when in use, falls with the weight of a bill hook.”
The Rest of the Story
Sam Wells III died a month later of an unrelated fever. While it took several months, Jim Bowie eventually recovered. A grand jury was convened in Natchez to ascertain the details of this gory exchange, but they returned no indictments.
The Bowie knife subsequently became an international icon. These distinctive blades were manufactured and sold all around the world, most commonly advertised with the Bowie moniker. Jim Bowie subsequently relocated to Texas where he married a wealthy woman and searched unsuccessfully for a lost silver mine. His new family ultimately fell victim to a cholera epidemic.
Bowie later took a leadership position in the Texas Revolution and achieved notoriety thanks to his remarkable knife and rugged frontier swagger. Jim Bowie ultimately died in 1836 at age 40 defending the Alamo. Grievously ill at the time, the most likely version of events had him propped up in his cot with his back to the wall, cut down by the attacking Mexicans after fighting to the death armed with a pair of pistols and his remarkable knife.
WAS YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION LEAKED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE?
IF SO, PAY ATTENTION TO THIS URGENT ALERT AND UPDATE
REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED? On June 28, 2022, it was reported that California gun owners had been put at risk by the Attorney General’s office after a new “dashboard” disclosed the personal data of CCW holders and applicants for the past ten years, as well as those on the Assault Weapons Registry, plus the entire Dealer Record of Sale database and those on the Gun Violence Restraining Order list.
WHAT STEPS WERE IMMEDIATELY TAKEN? Gun Owners of California as well as other Second Amendment groups immediately got to work informing gun owners of this egregious and illegal release of private data, and began to collect information as to what would be the most effective way to hold the DOJ responsible. Research on how to proceed with a class action lawsuit was set in motion and it was ultimately determined that this path would not stand up in court as the damages from the leak would vary between affected individuals.
WHAT IS THE STATUS NOW? An out-of-state Second Amendment group filed a class action lawsuit last summer, but this was recently dropped, which means that there is no legal action currently being pursued against the DOJ for the release of confidential data.
THESE ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR THOSE WHOSE DATA WAS LEAKED: We know – this is frustrating, but it is important. If you want to protect your right to pursue legal action in the future, it is imperative that you fill out an Administrative Claim Form (link to form below). An Administrative Claim Form puts the state on notice that a claim may be filed.
DOES THIS MEAN I WILL BE OBLIGATED TO PURSUE LEGAL ACTION? NO, it simply preserves your right should you want to pursue it in the future.
WHAT GOC RECOMMENDS: As infuriating as this is, this is the most appropriate legal recourse at this time. We strongly believe every single person whose confidential data was leaked to the internet and beyond should protect their future interests and fill out the form. There is a cost of $25 and there is no binding obligation, but it is important that the State of California hears from all of us. This is a small cost to pay to preserve your rights.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE CLAIM FORM MUST BE FILED BY DECEMBER 27, 2022. It is self-explanatory, is fillable online and includes details where to send it.
For more detailed information and instructions, you can call Gun Owners of California at (916) 984-1400 or click on the following link: https://crpa.org/wp-content/
If you are, however, interested in pursuing an immediate lawsuit against the Department of Justice for this extraordinary violation of privacy, the legal team at Michel and Associates have provided a draft legal complaint HERE.
Remember, the deadline to preserve your right to sue the Department of Justice is December 27, 2022.
Here is the forms for it Grumpy
Michael Thornton was born in 1949 in South Carolina. He graduated from high school in 1966 and immediately enlisted in the US Navy.
In 1968 Thornton was one of sixteen BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) graduates out of a starting class of 129.
Four years later on a bullet-swept beach in North Vietnam, Petty Officer Thornton made John Rambo look like a Sunday School teacher.
The war in Vietnam was winding down, and Michael Thornton was one of only a dozen Navy SEALs remaining in the country. On October 31, 1972, Thornton formed a team along with a SEAL officer named Thomas Norris and three South Vietnamese Special Forces operators.
Their mission was to gather intelligence and capture prisoners for interrogation from the Cua Viet Naval Base north of Quang Tri. Thornton had worked with his three South Vietnamese counterparts before and trusted them as brothers.
The plan was to insert via rubber boat launched from a South Vietnamese junk. At dusk, they launched their small boat and then swam the last mile to reach their objective. In the darkness, they found that they had made a navigation error and landed well within North Vietnam. Advancing inland past numerous enemy positions they simply continued the mission.
Their intelligence gathering complete, the small Naval Special Warfare team encountered a pair of North Vietnamese soldiers patrolling on the beach and attempted to capture them. When this operation went awry one of the NVA troops escaped and ran toward the jungle to alert his comrades. Thornton gave chase and was forced to shoot the man with a handgun, drawing the attention of some fifty NVA regulars located nearby. The result was a simply epic firefight.
Thornton picked up a load of shrapnel in his back from an NVA grenade early on but kept on fighting. The five allied warriors fired and moved constantly to keep the attacking NVA troops confused about the modest size of their small detachment.
Thornton attempted to call in friendly naval gunfire from American destroyers offshore but return fire from NVA shore batteries pushed the warships out of range. Over the next four hours, the five frogmen kept around 150 enemy troops at bay. With the coming dawn, however, things began to look bleak.
The five sailors charged toward the water’s edge with Thornton in the lead and Norris taking up the rear. In the process, the unit commander took a round to the head and was presumed dead. When one of the South Vietnamese operators informed Thornton he ran back through blistering NVA fire to recover the body of his fallen friend. He arrived to find four NVA soldiers gathered around Norris’ inert form and killed them all.
As he lifted the limp man to his shoulders he observed that the whole side of his head seemed to be missing. Norris was, however, still breathing.
Running four hundred yards under fire carrying Norris on his shoulders, Thornton still managed to effectively engage the attacking NVA soldiers by firing his CAR15 assault rifle one-handed.
Tom Norris had previously called naval gunfire in on his position from a nearby heavy cruiser requesting a five-minute delay on the fire mission. When he was struck in the head and immobilized the timeline for the extraction fell apart. The supporting cruiser ultimately fired 104 five-inch high explosive rounds onto the beach.
When Naval gunfire support finally impacted, the two SEALs were blown fully twenty feet into the air. Petty Officer Thornton regained his senses, again hefted his buddy, and charged for the ocean. Once at the water’s edge Thornton found that one of his South Vietnamese comrades had been shot through the buttocks and was unable to swim.
Shoving both the severely wounded Norris and the South Vietnamese soldier into the surf, Thornton dragged them both out into open water. Once out of small arms range, Thornton bandaged Norris’ head wound as best he could. He subsequently trod water, keeping himself and his two injured comrades afloat for another three hours. The supporting vessels had presumed the patrol lost and retreated to safety.
One of the South Vietnamese frogmen was eventually picked up by a friendly junk and reported both Americans killed. In desperation, Thornton fired Norris’ AK47 into the air and got the attention of an American SEAL onboard. Once taken aboard the South Vietnamese junk, the team was transported to the USS Newport News, the heavy cruiser that had recently fired in support of their extraction.
Mike Thornton personally carried his friend Tom Norris into the big warship’s operating room only to be told that the severely injured man was beyond saving. Thornton insisted that the surgeon try his best regardless.
A year later Michael Thornton was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon.
Mike Thornton eventually served as an instructor at the BUD/S course in Coronado. He also did an exchange program with the elite British Special Boat Squadron and became a founding member of SEAL Team Six. Thornton was eventually commissioned and left the Navy as a Lieutenant in 1992.
Tom Norris’ story did not end in the operating room of the Newport News in 1972. He survived his ordeal after a nineteen-hour emergency surgery. Multiple surgical procedures and many months of hospitalization later he was medically discharged from the Navy.
Not satisfied with medical retirement Norris applied for and received a waiver to attend the FBI academy at Quantico, Virginia. He went on to serve twenty years as a special agent in the FBI.
Tom Norris was himself awarded the Medal of Honor for an extraordinary mission to rescue downed American pilots some six months prior to his wounding on that North Vietnamese beach. His exploits were immortalized in the book and movie BAT21. Thornton and Norris were two of only three Navy SEALs to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. Norris’s MOH mission was incredible in its own right and will likely be the focus of our efforts at some point in the future.
Vietnam-era Navy SEALs had great latitude in selecting their personal weapons.
A good friend who served as a SEAL in Vietnam in 1970 carried an M14, a Colt 1911A1, and a Browning pump 12-gauge shotgun stoked with buckshot whenever he went downrange. The shotgun carried a total of nine rounds onboard and was the product of a particularly successful night of poker soon after he arrived in the country. He cut the wooden buttstock down into a pistol grip and slung the gun over his shoulder on a makeshift single point sling.
While the Stoner 63 light machinegun was a SEAL favorite, Michael Thornton carried a COLT CAR15 during his MOH mission.
This compact carbine was a shortened version of the standard M16A1 that armed most of the conventional troops deployed during the war.
Sporting either a 10 or 11.5-inch barrel, a telescoping aluminum stock, and a sound moderator, the 5.56mm CAR15 was popular among aircrews, dog handlers, and Special Forces troops. By the end of the war, there were only about one thousand 30-round magazines available for these weapons in Vietnam. Special operators like Navy SEALs typically got first dibs.
Tom Norris carried a captured AK47 during this mission. Special Forces troops frequently employed enemy weapons on clandestine operations. This practice would minimize the possibility of hostile troops distinguishing them by the sound of their gunfire. The AK47 was a rugged and effective assault rifle that was readily available in the latter stages of the war.
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov developed the gun that would become the AK47 during the waning months of the Second World War. Firing a true intermediate 7.62x39mm cartridge via an unnaturally reliable long-stroke gas-operated system, the AK47 found its way into the hands of communist soldiers and insurgents around the globe. With more than 100 million of these tough guns in service, these weapons will be found anyplace men kill each other for untold generations to come.
Michael Thornton’s superhuman display of courage and stamina eclipses anything depicted in a Hollywood epic. That the man he rescued did himself earn the Medal of Honor on an unrelated mission simply speaks to the caliber of the warriors that served with the US Navy SEALs during the protracted war in Southeast Asia.
While the causes and prosecution of the war in Vietnam are certainly open for debate, none could dispute that Michael Thornton’s actions on that dark Vietnamese beach were the stuff of legend. Mike Thornton was and is a true American hero.