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Sonoran Desert Institute

All the Latest News, Reviews and Developments happening with the Sonoran Desert Institute!

Congressional Medal of Honor Given to Living Iraq War Veteran for Very First Time

The only Medal of Honor yet given to a living veteran of the Iraq War has now been awarded.

Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, now age 43, had already received a Silver Star for the actions he took in Fallujah nearly fifteen years ago, but a recent review of valor awards determined him deserving of our nation’s highest honor, according to the Army Times. He was honored June 25.

The battle in which he fought was ferocious, and the citation’s recounting of the events makes that more than evident, but it’s important to understand what sacrifices were made to keep our nation safe and earn this award. Below, we have attached an abridged version of his citation recounting his actions. You can read it in full here. Please read the citation at your own discretion — it does get violent.

The President of the United States of America… takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Staff Sergeant David S. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during the battle for Al Fallujah, Iraq, on 10 November 2004. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s personal bravery and selfless actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, 1st Infantry Division and the United States Army…

Staff Sergeant David S. Bellavia distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during the battle for Al Fallujah, Iraq, on 10 November 2004. On that date Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon was ordered to clear a block of 12 buildings from which Jihadists were firing on American forces.

The first nine buildings were unoccupied, but were found to be filled with enemy rockets, grenade launchers and other kinds of weapons. When Bellavia and four others entered the tenth building, they came under fire from insurgents in the house. Other soldiers came to reinforce the squad and a fierce battle at close quarters ensued. Many American soldiers were injured from the gunfire and flying debris. At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with a M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the Jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street.

Here, it’s important to note that Bellavia actually switched out his M16 for the SAW he carried into this phase of the combat, according to the Army Times, assumedly because he knew he’d need that firepower.

Jihadists on the roof began firing at the squad, forcing them to take cover in a nearby building. Sergeant Bellavia then went back to the street and called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shell the houses. After this was done, he decided to re-enter the building to determine whether the enemy fighters were still active. Seeing a Jihadist loading an RPG launcher, Sergeant Bellavia gunned him down. A second Jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder. A third Jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon. Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man.

Sergeant Bellavia then came under fire from the insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing the man. At that point, a Jihadist hiding in a wardrobe in a bedroom jumped out, firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe. As the man leaped over the bed he tripped and Sergeant Bellavia shot him several times, wounding but not killing him. Another insurgent was yelling from upstairs, and the wounded Jihadist escaped the bedroom and ran upstairs. Sergeant Bellavia pursued, but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs.

The wounded insurgent fired at him but missed. He followed the bloody tracks up the stairs to a room to the left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, sending the wounded Jihadist onto the roof. The insurgent fired his weapon in all directions until he ran out of ammunition. He then started back into the bedroom, which was rapidly filling with smoke.

Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position. The wounded Jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist’s throat. Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade’s rescue, fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire. Without warning, another insurgent dropped from the third story to the second-story roof. Sergeant Bellavia fired at him, hitting him in the back and the legs and causing him to fall off the roof, dead. At this point, five members of 3d Platoon entered the house and took control of the first floor. Before they would finish off the remaining Jihadists, however, they were ordered to move out of the area because close air support had been called in by a nearby unit.

In summation- the man was an unapologetic one-man army.

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Know Your Firearms History: The German PAK 40 [WITH VIDEO]

As Americans, we are lucky to live in the age in which we do.

Sure, we have a mess of problems, but we have made a lot of exciting concepts a reality: everyone gets a vote (if you’re not a felon), violent crime is far less than it has been in recent decades, despite what some would have you believe, and in the field, we have the world’s best and most advanced military safeguarding our freedoms.

We’re also incredibly lucky we don’t have to contend with PAK 40s anymore, as our fathers, grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers had to do.

The PAK 40 is one of those inventions turned out by Germany during the Second World War that showed that not only did the United States need to up its technological game, but they were way late to the party.

For those unfamiliar with this massive firearm, the PAK 40 was an anti-tank artillery piece created by Germany to upgrade their anti-tank arsenal in the face of ever-increasing levels of proficiency in Soviet armor.

File:Pak40 cfb borden 3.JPG

As most of you are already aware, the back half of the 1930s saw a race between the major powers to see who could hold the technological advantage when it came to arms and armor. One of the resulting creations — really a product of general German rearmament — was the PAK 36 — a 3.7 mm, which the Tank Encyclopedia claims to be the first German anti-tank gun.

The piece acquitted itself extremely well during the Spanish Civil War, but was reportedly believed to be in need of upgrading to stay ahead of the ever-cycling armament-armor circle. That upgrade materialized in the form of the PAK 38, a 5 cm gun.

That’s a good bit of firepower. However, as the Tank Encyclopedia¬†notes,¬†“soon after the factories geared up for production, the German military became aware of newer tank designs by the Soviets (thanks in part to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) and therefore ordered an upgunning of the Pak 38.”

That upgunning eventually turned straight into a new gun — the PAK 40.

About here is where I’d normally insert another photo — but I found a video instead. Check it out:

Isn’t that incredible?

“This gun is a beast! As you can see the muzzle blast is incredible. The WWII German PAK (PanzerAbwehrKanone) 40 was developed in early WWII but didn’t see widespread production until about 1941. The gun was often used by allied forces whenever they would over run German positions which shows the effectiveness of the gun,” the YouTube publisher, PossumPopper89, noted in the video’s description.

The extremely effective gun saw use until the end of the war, and had a reputation for being able to put a hole in just about anything fielded against it.

The gun shown wasn’t in the excellent, fighting shape it is in the video above.

Specifically, it didn’t look so… reasonable.

“This gun was resurrected from an art museum where the owner had painted it pink!” PossumPopper89 reported. “It was restored to working order and the federal paperwork required to build and possess this gun was obtained. It is not legal for an ordinary citizen to have a working field piece like this.”

The scourge of thousands of tanks on both fronts — painted pink.


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Know Your Firearms History: M1 Garand Successfully Tested by the U.S. Military

It’s time to talk about the rifle everyone wants and loves — it’s time to talk about the M1 Garand.

Image result for m1 garand

That’s right, folks. Our first look into firearms history is going to target the gun, the myth, and the legend. The M1 Garand was famously called by General George Patton the “greatest battle implement ever devised,” and although its viability on today’s battlefield would likely be debated, there’s no question that in its day it was a force to be reckoned with.

According to the National Parks Service, development of a semi-automatic rifle that would give the United States an edge in combat in her next war — a war that just happened to be the grandest in scale in human history — began very quickly after the first world war.

Springfield Armory’s now-legendary John Garand had developed a rifle that would be adopted as the M1 in 1932. That rifle was finally approved for procurement in 1935 and standardized in the Army in 1936 — although the first production model was finally proof-fired, function-fired, and fired for accuracy on July 21, 1937, according to Olive Drab.

Image result for m1 garand

That rifle would be produced until 1957, and its numbers are staggering.

5.4 million were made over its production run, according to Olive Drab, of which 3.1 million were created by World War II’s end, the National Parks Service noted. The rifle saw use in three American wars — World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In fact, the rifle still manages to turn up in conflicts all around the world today.

Let’s take a look into the gun’s nitty-gritty details:

  • Action: self-loading, gas-action piston
  • Caliber: 30-06 Springfield
  • Operation Feed: 8-round internal clip
  • Overall Length: 43.43 inches
  • Barrel Length: 23.98 inches
  • Weight: 9.63 lbs
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 ft./second
  • Range: 440 yards

It’s worth noting that the above statistics, including the range, are from — other sources, including Range365, put the effective range out to 500 yards, and if you hop onto YouTube you’ll see folks doing some pretty impressive shooting at far beyond 500 yards:

That’s some pretty nice shooting!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can I add one of these gorgeous rifles to my arsenal?”

Well, you’re in luck! As of the time of this reporting, not only does popular website contain multiple Garand listings, but the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) still has a few rifles for sale, some of which are on sale for as low as $650.

If you feel like reviewing your firearm purchase in person, M1 Garands are frequently in the inventory of many used gun shops, and I don’t think I’ve ever once gone to a gun show where there wasn’t at least half a dozen for sale — often at comical markups.

Whether you wish to take one to the range or leave one in the past, there’s no doubt that this iconic rifle not only has contributed to our history, but the victorious outcome of the Second World War and subsequently the safeguarding of the free world.

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