Monday, August 22, 2005
Coalition of the Willing
Whereas, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, has vigorously supported the United States in the disarmament of Iraq;
Whereas, the United Kingdom is a strong and loyal ally to the United States;
Whereas, Prime Minister Tony Blair has committed substantial military forces of the United Kingdom to the current action in Iraq;
The American people extend their heartfelt thanks to Prime Minister Tony Blair for his courage and leadership; and
Extend their deep appreciation to the United Kingdom and the men and women of its armed forces.
As of July 1, 2005, there were 26 non-U.S. military forces participating in the coalition and contributing to the ongoing stability operations throughout Iraq. These countries were: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
SALVADORAN SOLDIERS PRAISED FOR IRAQ ROLE
By Denis D. Gray
NAJAF, Iraq — One of his friends was dead, 12 others lay wounded and the four Soldiers still left standing were surrounded and out of ammunition. So Salvadoran Cpl. Samuel Toloza said a prayer, whipped out his knife and charged the Iraqi gunmen.
In one of the only known instances of hand-to-hand combat in the Iraq conflict, Cpl. Toloza stabbed several attackers swarming around a comrade. The stunned assailants backed away momentarily, just as a relief column came to the unit's rescue.
"We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end," said the 25-year-old corporal, one of 380 Soldiers from El Salvador whose heroism is being cited just as other members of the multinational force in Iraq are facing criticism.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said recently that the Central American unit has "gained a fantastic reputation among the coalition" and expressed hope that the Salvadorans will stay beyond their scheduled departure.
Phil Kosnett, who leads the Coalition Provisional Authority office in this holy Shi'ite city, says he owes his life to Salvadorans who repelled a well-executed insurgent attack on his three-car convoy in March. He has nominated six of them for the U.S. Army's Bronze Star medal.
Argylls fight hand to hand in Iraq
SCOTTISH troops fixed bayonets and fought hand to hand with a Shi’ite militia in southern Iraq in one of their fiercest clashes since the war was declared more than a year ago, it was reported last night.
Soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders mounted what were described as "classic infantry assaults" on firing and mortar positions held by more than 100 fighters loyal to the outlawed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, according to military sources.
At least 20 men from al-Sadr’s army were believed killed in more than three hours of fighting - the highest toll reported in any single incident involving British forces in the past 12 months.
Nine fighters were captured and three British soldiers injured, none seriously.
"It was very bloody and it was difficult to count all their dead," one source was quoted as saying. "There were bodies floating in the river."
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were drawn into the fighting when soldiers in two Land-Rovers were ambushed on Friday afternoon about 15 miles east of the city of Amara. The soldiers escaped, only to be ambushed a second time by a larger group of militia, armed with machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Reinforcements were summoned from the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment at a base nearby. "There was some pretty fierce hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets fixed," the source added. "There were some classic assaults on mortar positions held by the al-Sadr forces."
Official spokesman Major Ian Clooney confirmed the Mehdi army "took a pretty heavy knocking", but refused to specify tactics. "This was certainly an intense engagement," he added.
Victoria Cross for wounded soldier who saved lives of 30 colleagues in one attack and repeated heroics month later
CHIEF NEWS CORRESPONDENT
• 25 year-old Johnson Beharry first living Victoria Cross recipient for 40 years
• Soldier endured personal injuries in effort to aid colleagues on two occasions
• Colleagues had campaigned for his bravery to be recognised
"He pulled the heavy armoured hatch down with one hand, while still controlling his vehicle with the other. However, the overpressure from the explosion of the rocket wrenched the hatch out of his grip, and the flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver’s tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret." - ARMY CITATION
Story in full A BRITISH infantryman who twice displayed extraordinary courage under fire to save his colleagues from ambush in Iraq has become the first living soldier for 40 years to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Private Johnson Beharry, 25, single-handedly saved 30 colleagues in one attack in the violence-wracked town of Al Amarah last May, suffering serious injuries in the process, only to return to action and repeat his heroics a month later.
Pte Beharry, who lives in London, but was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada, needed brain surgery and is still recovering from his injuries, said he was "speechless" when he was told he has received the honour.
"Maybe I was brave, I don’t know. I think anyone else could do the same thing," he said yesterday.
General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, said: "His citation is an extraordinary story of one man’s courage, in the way he risked his life for his colleagues not once, but twice."
The VC is the highest award for bravery under enemy fire for British and Commonwealth troops and today’s award is the first since Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay received posthumous awards following the Falklands War. The last time a VC was bestowed on a living soldier was in 1965.
Pte Beharry is among more than 140 servicemen and women to be honoured in the latest operational honours list for work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Liberia, the Congo and Sierra Leone.
The decision to reward Pte Beharry with the VC will be popular with colleagues who had campaigned for his bravery to be recognised.
The armoured vehicle driver, from 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was at the head of a five-vehicle convoy which came under attack on the outskirts of Al Amarah on the night of 1 May.
His citation read: "Eyewitnesses report that the vehicle was engulfed in a number of violent explosions, which physically rocked the 30-tonne Warrior."
Platoon commanding officer 2nd Lieutenant Richard Deane was left unconscious and presumed dead and the vehicle became engulfed in flames.
Determined to get the casualties to safety and create a path for the other vehicles to follow, Pte Beharry drove on through thick smoke and a mile-long ambush.
"As the smoke in his driver’s tunnel cleared, he was just able to make out the shape of another rocket-propelled grenade in flight heading directly towards him," the citation added.
"He pulled the heavy armoured hatch down with one hand, while still controlling his vehicle with the other. However, the overpressure from the explosion of the rocket wrenched the hatch out of his grip, and the flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver’s tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret."
Pressing on, he had to keep his head outside the hatch to see where he was going while the attack continued.
"While his head remained out of the hatch ... he was directly exposed to much of this fire, and was himself hit by a 7.62mm bullet, which penetrated his helmet and remained lodged on its inner surface," the citation said.
When he reached a secure area, he twice returned to the vehicle under fire to carry the wounded inside a compound. Weeks later, his Warrior was again ambushed and a grenade exploded just six inches away from him. His citation added: "With the blood from his head injury obscuring his vision, Beharry managed to continue to control his vehicle, and forcefully reversed the Warrior out of the ambush."
His wife Lynthia, 23, said she was told at the time her husband had only a 50/50 chance of survival.
FOR VALOUR - AN INSCRIPTION THAT SAYS IT ALL
THE Victoria Cross ranks with the George Cross as the nation’s highest military award.
The first British medal to be created for bravery, the VC was instituted in 1856, with the initial recipients being personnel honoured for their gallantry during the Crimean War.
The bronze cross bears the inscription "For Valour".
It is awarded, "for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
The most recent VCs were awarded for acts that took place on 28 May and 11/12 June 1982. These were awarded posthumously to Lt-Col H Jones and Sgt Ian McKay, of the Parachute Regiment, for their actions on those dates during the Falklands war.
The last VC awarded to a British soldier who survived to receive it went to L-Cpl Rambahadur Limbu, of the 10th Gurkha Rifles, for his action in Sarawak, Borneo, in November 1965 during the Indonesian insurgency.
The first VC was won on 21 June, 1854, by Mate - later Rear Admiral - Charles Lucas RN in the Crimea.
Private Beharry’s honour takes the number of VCs awarded since the Second World War to 12 - six of them posthumously. A total of 1,355 awards have now been made, of which 57 have been won by The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and its forebears.
Each VC is made by the London jeweller Hancocks from the bronze from the cascabels of two Chinese cannon captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol - the cascabel is the large knob at the rear of a cannon which held the ropes used to man-handle the weapon.
The last remaining cascabel is tended by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at Donnington, Shropshire. The cascabel is stored in special vaults and is only removed under exceptional circumstances.
The two cannon, minus the cascabels, are outside the officers’ mess at the Royal Artillery barracks at Woolwich.