It is never a good idea to get on the bad side of a U.S. Marine and some terrorists learned that especially holds true if the Marine happens to be Cpl. Clifford Wooldridge. American soldiers came under fire from the Taliban and Wooldridge did his best Rambo impersonation and he didn’t need a stunt double.
Wooldridge led one of the first groups to move across open ground to flank the enemy. On his way he shot eight of the Taliban, wounding or killing them all. As he was in position, he heard voices behind a wall and he went to investigate.
He shot and killed two more Taliban and while trying to reload, he saw a machine gun barrel poking out from the other side of the wall. He immediately dropped his weapon and grabbed the gun barrel. He engaged the terrorist in hand to hand combat and then used the enemy’s gun to bludgeon him to death with his own weapon.
Wooldridge, who left the service in 2016, won the Navy Cross for his actions in that 2012 battle. He has a great story and it’s not the only one from the Marines who always seem to be in the wrong place at the right time and still managed to do their jobs and defeat the enemy.
Here are a couple of examples:
Sergeant Major Daniel Joseph Daly
11 November 1873 – 27 April 1937
Sergeant Major Daly, a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion and World War I, received two Medals of Honor for separate acts of heroism, in 1901 and 1915, respectively. A destroyer was named for him and he was also recognized as one of four distinguished Marines on a set of postage stamps. His “Do you want to live forever?” quotation has entered popular culture. According to another Marine on this list (Major General John A. Lejeune), Daly is “the outstanding Marine of all time.”
Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune
10 January 1867 – 20 November 1942
Lieutenant General Lejeune is known as the “greatest of all Leathernecks” and the “Marine’s Marine.” In addition to his American military awards, received for serving in the Spanish-American War and World War I, he has also been awarded the Legion of Honour and the Cross of War from France. Camp Lejeune, North Caroline, where I spent nearly five years of my childhood, is named for him, as is a navy transport ship. He was also honored by the United States Postal Service on a distinguished Marines stamp.
Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell Puller
26 June 1898 – 11 October 1971
Lieutenant General Puller, the most decorated United States Marine in history, and the only Marine to receive five Navy Crosses, served in World War II and the Korean War. A frigate is named for him, he too is honored by the United States Postal Service on a distinguished Marines stamp, and he is portrayed by William Sadler on The Pacific.
Tragically, Puller’s son Lewis Burwell Puller, Jr., a highly decorated Marine as a lieutenant in Vietnam, was severely wounded by a mine explosion, losing both legs and parts of his hands in that conflict – a tragedy that, of course, deeply saddened the elder Puller. The younger Puller later committed suicide, in 1994. Such is the grim reality and cost of modern warfare.
Nevertheless, the Pullers, as with the other nine men on this list, served their country bravely in the face of difficult circumstances and, in many cases, are inspirational figures not just for Americans, but for humanity in general. They have bled so that Americans and our allies may be free, they have entertained us on television and in the Octagon, recounted their experiences in memoirs for future generations of historians, and in even one case helped to pioneer space exploration. Thank you, again, to you, and the millions of men and women who served alongside you.
The Taliban didn’t realize that day that they weren’t just fighting Cpl Wooldridge, they were fighting history, and no man defeats history.